When it comes to the health of your immune system, most people think of cold and flu prevention. But did you know the immune system also helps to protect you from cancer by recognizing and getting rid of abnormal cells? Follow these helpful tips to keep your immune system as strong as possible in order to live healthier and longer:
1. Eat your protein in order to get plenty of zinc.
Did you know that protein-rich foods are the best sources of zinc? Many turn to zinc lozenges when a cold hits, but taking in adequate zinc on a consistent basis is important for keeping the immune system strong. Protein-rich foods include meat, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, and dairy. Since zinc is found attached to protein in foods, the best way to make sure you get enough zinc is to eat a protein source at all meals and snacks.
Zinc isn’t absorbed as well from plant sources like beans because of the high fiber content. That's why strict vegans may actually need twice as much zinc as that needed by omnivores.
2. Optimize vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D plays an important role in keeping the immune system strong and may help protect against the development of autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Research also suggests that higher blood levels of vitamin D may help prevent breast and colorectal cancer.
There are limited food sources of vitamin D, so luckily we can make vitamin D in our skin with sun exposure. The best food sources of vitamin D are egg yolks and fish. It’s generally a good idea to have your blood vitamin D level tested in order to determine if you need to take a vitamin D supplement, as is often the case, especially during the winter months.
3. Minimize caffeine.
Caffeine may raise levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune system. If you’re a coffee-drinker, try substituting green tea for coffee. Green has less than half as much caffeine as coffee and is rich in antioxidants. Herbal teas are another great choice, as they are naturally caffeine-free.
4. Eat probiotic foods, and consider a probiotic supplement.
Consumption of probiotic foods and supplements with strains of bacteria Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria may help strengthen the immune system by improving the integrity of the digestive tract. They may also increase production of protective antibodies and other immune cells. Probiotic foods include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, and kimchi among. You should consume probiotic supplements and foods daily for best results.
5. Manage your stress.
Like caffeine, stress elevates cortisol levels, which suppresses the immune system, making it harder for your body to fight infection and get rid of cells that have become abnormal. Incorporate yoga, meditation, time with family and friends, an inspiring book, or any other methods that help you to reduce stress and thus support your immune system.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com