There are many ways to aid your immune system in fighting infections, like reducing stress and having a regular exercise regimen. However, not many of us know just how important a balanced diet is for successfully fighting off pathogens. Here are some of the most vital vitamins that help fight off infections—and which foods to eat to reap the benefits.
You might have heard that vitamin A is good for preserving eyesight, but are you familiar with its role as an immunity booster? It is crucial in the production and function of leukocytes, or white blood cells, whose purpose is to fight bacteria and other pathogens in your body. Vitamin A also plays a role in maintaining the mucous barriers that prevent pathogens from entering your body.
Foods high in vitamin A include orange and yellow fruits and vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots), dark leafy greens (broccoli and spinach), fish, eggs, and cheese.
Most of us are familiar with the immune-boosting properties of vitamin C. It aids in producing white blood cells and protects them from harmful molecules. It is also a vital part of the skin’s defense system, where it acts as an antioxidant.
Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits, peppers, kale, broccoli, and strawberries.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant. It can help protect from free radicals that cause accelerated aging of the cells in your body. Free radicals occur naturally in the body, but their proportion can be increased by exposure to air pollution, smoking, or UV rays. Vitamin E can help repair damage caused by excess free radicals in the body.
Foods rich in vitamin E include sunflower seeds, nuts, avocados, salmon, and spinach.
Before effective antibiotics, tuberculosis patients were unknowingly treated with vitamin D. It was thought that exposure to sunlight would kill the infection. Turns out, those doctors were onto something. Vitamin D stimulates naturally-occurring antimicrobial peptides that live in the body’s immune cells, including respiratory tract cells, where they fight off infections caused by bacteria or viruses.
The best vitamin D source is sunlight, but it can also be found in fatty fish, mushrooms, and egg yolks.