3 Foods That Undermine Your Immune System
Here's what to avoid to boost your body's ability to stave off illness and inflammation, according to a registered dietitian.
Lifestyle and eating behaviors have a significant impact on how well your immune system can protect you from illness and how quickly you recover. In addition to sleep, exercise, and stress reduction, the nutrient content of the foods you eat can make a big difference in how well prepared you are to fight illness. “A regular eating pattern of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, nuts, and seeds will keep your immune system running smoothly to protect you when you need it most,” says Margie Saidel, MPH, RD, LDN, the vice president of nutrition and sustainability at Chartwells K-12. “Simply stated, poor eating habits can make you sick.”
Of course, there are a number of foods and beverages that have a very low nutrient value, and an overindulgence in them has been closely linked to obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. According to Saidel, these same foods can compromise your immune system and its ability to keep you healthy. Here are the top three she says to be mindful of to keep your immune system kicking.
“Sugar sweetened carbonated beverages deliver nothing but empty calories from sugar,” explains Saidel. In addition to contributing to obesity and related chronic diseases that are associated with a suppressed immune system, excess sugar consumption can also increase inflammation and compromise one’s ability to fight illness.
Add a weakened immune system to the long list of reasons to avoid excessive alcohol consumption. “Overindulgence can lead to a decline in your body’s ability to fight illness and can also make you susceptible to pneumonia and other lung conditions, slower wound healing, and slow recovery from illness,” Saidel says.
All of us have, at one time or another, been under the gun to produce a meal in very short order. In said sticky situation, it’s tempting to turn to a frozen meal solution or a pre-packaged kid’s lunch meal when there’s no time to cook. “Although these are convenient choices, most options will do little to protect your family from illness. The sodium, sugar, saturated fat, and refined carbohydrate content is high with little in the way of nutrients and fiber,” Saidel explains. It's not rocket science—whole unprocessed foods will boost immunity.