What foods are best for boosting one's immune system?

Your question is a good one. I get asked that question just about every day from my oncology patients. Because they are given drugs that many time deplete the immune system, they often want to know what foods will help improve their immune system and keep them as healthy as possible. A healthy diet can absolutely help strengthen one’s immune system and help reduce the chance of illness (especially during cold and flu season). Let me begin by saying that while diet may help boost ones immunity, a diet that is filled with processed foods can actually deplete the immune system. I recommend that my patients limit foods with a lot of added sugar (candy, fruit punch, soda, cookies, etc) and limit foods that are very high in salt and fat (potato chips, processed snack crackers, doughnuts). People that eat a lot of greasy fast food burgers, salted fries, and giant sugary sodas will definitely be at higher risk for getting sick this winter season. The best way to boost your immune system is to eat a well-balanced and colorful diet. First be sure to include healthy forms of protein in your daily diet. Choose a variety of beans, nuts, whole grains (quinoa, barley, faro), and eggs. Now be sure to choose foods rich in vitamin A. This vitamin has an important role in keeping the tissues in your respiratory system, mouth, and gastrointestinal system healthy. Foods rich in vitamin A include: red bell pepper, spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes and kale. Another vitamin that can help keep you healthy is vitamin E. It works as an antioxidant and can help neutralize free radicals in your body. Foods high in vitamin E are: sunflower seeds, almonds, fortified cereal, and almonds. Vitamin C is another important vitamin for your immune system and there are plenty of foods rich in it like oranges, peppers, tomatoes, and grapefruit. Finally, try to remember to follow safe food handling techniques. Wash your hands thoroughly and often and be sure to cook food to proper temperatures and store the food safely in the refrigerator.

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