10 Things You Should Be Doing to Boost Your Immunity
1. Mind the Fat
High-fat diets can make your immune system “less functional and more sluggish,” says Simin Nikbin Meydani, Ph.D., the associate director of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, at Tufts University, in Boston. In fact, a Tufts study compared the effects on immune function of a typical Western diet (containing 38 percent fat) to those of a cholesterol-lowering diet (28 percent fat) and discovered that the lower-fat diet enhanced the functioning of T lymphocytes (or T cells), which help ward off infections. Aim to get 25 to 30 percent of your total daily calories from fat, with most of those coming from monounsaturated fats (found in olive oil, avocados, and peanut butter) and polyunsaturated fats (think sunflower and corn oils, salmon, and walnuts). Limit saturated fats (such as those in whole milk, butter, and high-fat meats) and trans fats (which are listed on labels as partially hydrogenated oils).
2. Eat Plenty of Protein
The amino acids in protein are the building blocks of the cells in your immune system, and they help create protective white blood cells and antibodies. “These cells then block invading pathogens,” says Meydani. Women should consume approximately 50 grams of protein a day (about 60 to 75 grams a day during pregnancy) or get at least 10 to 15 percent of their daily calories from protein. Choose lean protein, such as fish, skinless poultry, eggs, beans, low-fat cuts of beef, or soy products.
Find more tips to boost your immune system so you can stay healthy throughout cold and flu season.