Our bodies are constantly exposed to harmful microbes such as viruses and bacteria. The immune system keeps us safe from such disease-causing microorganisms – it’s the body’s defense against foreign bodies. Its functionality is influenced by a host of factors, including diet. Physicians and dietitians agree that a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables can keep our bodies energized, fit, and more resistant to diseases.
The immune system is an intricate network in our bodies that works to protect us against harmful pathogens. Human beings possess two types of immunity: innate and adaptive.
Innate immunity is considered the first-line defense from harmful microbes that try to gain entry into the body. Such immunity is achieved through protective barriers like the skin, mucus, stomach acid, and immune system cells that attack foreign invaders entering the body.
Adaptive or acquired immunity is not present at birth. It is learned. When a foreign microorganism enters the body, immune cells specific to that harmful substance multiply and attack it. Acquired immune responses are specific to the particular pathogen that induces them.
There’s no single food or nutrient that can be counted on to keep you well. Instead, a balanced diet full of different colors of vegetables and fruits, and healthy practices such as exercise, and adequate sleep lead to a healthy immune system.
A diet with fresh organic foods, or as Dr. Bill Releford puts it, “eating the way God intended”, has more nutritional benefit than processed foods. A study found that increased fruit and vegetable intake improves the Pneumovax II vaccination antibody response in older people. Eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables won’t guarantee you won’t entirely fall ill. However, it gives the body the much-needed boost to fight the sickness.
Fruits and Vegetables are renowned for their high nutrient density, distinctive smell, and shapes. The colors of vegetables help in classifying their role in the body. Green leafy vegetables are rich in Vitamin A and B-complex vitamins which are good for the circulatory system.
Most people turn to vitamin C whenever they have a cold. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps neutralize or reverse cellular damage caused by free radicals in the body. It’s thought to increase the production of white blood cells, reduce inflammation, and keep the skin healthy by boosting collagen production. It’s no wonder most skincare products add Vitamin C as an ingredient.
Since your body doesn’t produce or store vitamin C, you need to take it daily. It is easy to meet the daily vitamin C needs by eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Oranges, papaya, peaches, and tangerines that have orange colors and fruits such as grapefruits, lemons, limes are high in Vitamin C. Vegetables like spinach, kale, bell peppers, papaya, and strawberries are also good vitamin C sources.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin also known as tocopherol. Like vitamin C, vitamin E is a great immune booster. It supports the immune system by assisting with t-cell production that is vital for effective immune response. Vitamin E deficiency is rare but if untreated one may exhibit symptoms such as muscle weakness, nerve and muscle damage.
Vitamin E can be found in many fruits and vegetables. One good source is broccoli, considered one of the healthiest vegetables as it’s supercharged with vitamins A, C, and E as well as fiber. Other fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin E include avocado, kiwi, mango, asparagus, spinach, green beans, and dark color fruits such as blue and blackberries.
Vitamin A does not only boost vision, but also immunity. It stimulates the production of white blood cells and regulates cell growth and division. There are two forms of vitamin A in the human diet. Preformed vitamin A from animal products, and provitamin A carotenoids which occur naturally in plant foods. Carotenoids are what gives flowers their color as well as some yellow, orange, and red colors of fruits.
Vitamin A can be found in orange colors of fruits and vegetables such as oranges, carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and pumpkin. Tomatoes, red bell pepper, mango, and leafy green vegetables are also packed with this vitamin.
Iron is considered a fundamental element for the normal development of the immune system. Lack of iron causes iron-deficiency anemia, which affects close to 5 million Americans annually. Iron is a major component of hemoglobin, a blood protein that carries blood from the lungs to other body parts. This makes it important for normal cell production and function.
Iron can be found in both animal and plant foods. Leafy greens such as Broccoli, lentils, spinach, and kale are excellent sources of iron.
Fruits and vegetables have a lot more to offer the immune system than just vitamins and minerals. Oils, acids, phytonutrients, and antioxidants, which are responsible for the colors of fruits and vegetables, also play a key role in promoting immunity. These compounds are used by the body to combat inflammation and infections and support detoxification.