5 Foods to Add to Your Diet for a Stronger Immunity

a woman acting as the immune system, kicking a pathogen
Contributed by: Abshar Faheem

The immune system is a complicated network of cells and proteins that fight against the pathogens such as bacteria and viruses that invade the body causing infection or disease. A good immune system is essential for survival and a healthy lifestyle. 

The immune system is composed of cells, organs, tissues, and proteins that collectively carry out biological processes to combat pathogens or foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. 

When a person comes into contact with pathogens through contaminated food, air, and water, the immune system activates an immune response. The immune system instantly delivers antibodies that combat the antigens (associated with the covering of pathogens and arouse an immune response in the body) on the pathogens and destroy them. 

Without the immune system, our body is exposed to attack from antigens attached to the pathogens. Complications occur when the immune system does not perform properly, leading to medical issues, some of which can be more intense than others. We have two different types of immunity or immune systems: innate and adaptive. Adaptive is further divided into two subgroups: active and passive. 

Innate immunity

Innate immunity is the natural immunity or generic immunity that detects pathogens in every human being. It is a non-specific security mechanism that comes into action instantly or within hours of an antigen’s presence in the body. Innate immunity consists of both external and internal defenses.

The external defense mechanisms are physical barriers such as immune system cells, skin, and chemicals in the body that combat antigens attached to foreign invaders once the body gets exposed to them. The immune system gets activated through the chemical properties of the antigens who arouse immune response. The internal defense mechanisms detect the pathogens once they have entered the body. Two of the primary internal defense mechanisms include inflammation and fever.

Adaptive immunity

Adaptive immunity system or acquired immunity refers to the second line of defense that protects from a specific pathogen. The adaptive immune response is more complicated than the innate. First, it processes and identifies the antigens. Once the antigen has been identified, the adaptive immune system builds an army of immune cells particularly designed to combat the antigen. It also memorizes the pathogens and deploys adequate defensive response if the same pathogen strikes again. Adaptive immunity is further categorized into two subgroups active and passive immunity.

  • Active immunity: Active immunity is the most common type of adaptive immunity that occurs in response to a disease triggering the immune system to produce antibodies to counter the illness.. When the immune system comes in contact with a specific disease, it instantly recognizes the pathogens and produces antibodies or immune cells called T and B cells to fight it. Active immunity is a long-lasting type of immunity that protects us throughout life.

 

  • Passive immunity: Passive immunity is the result of acquiring antibodies from someone else rather than acquiring them from your own immune system. An infant baby can acquire passive immunity through the placenta but it is a temporary type of immunity because it does not help the infant’s immune system to recognize pathogens in the future.  Passive immunity provides instant protection from pathogens while active immunity takes time to develop and protects us from foreign invaders. It lasts only for a few weeks but active immunity is long-lasting.

Now, you are all caught up with the what and how of immunity. It’s time to take a look at some of the daily food items that can help boost your immune system.

  • Yogurt: Yogurt is a source of lactobacillus bacteria that combats microorganisms and strengthens immunity. The lactobacillus bacteria shield the intestinal tract against digestive disorders. Yogurt also consists of other bacteria known as probiotics that strengthen the immune system and prevent bowel disorders. Yogurt enhances the protection of immune-related disorders such as cancer.

 

  • Lean meat: Lean meat and skinless chicken contain a variety of nutrients such as iron, zinc,, Vitamins, and iodine that enhances the capacity of the immune system to defend against various types of illnesses. It also boosts the production of T-cells and white blood cells. For example, if you have chicken soup during times of flu, it will help you to remain protected and infection-free.

 

  • Broccoli: Phytochemicals are types of chemicals present in broccoli that boost the immune system. Broccoli contains Vitamin C that strengthens the immune system, detoxifies the body, and eliminates free radicals that might otherwise lead to arthritis and wrinkles. Broccoli also has high water content and is low in calories, thereby helping you in keeping a close eye in your calorie intake. Broccoli has enough potential to kill cancerous cells and reduces the risk of certain cancers such as colon, stomach, and lung cancer. There is a compound in broccoli called isothiocyanates, that reduces inflammation in the body. If you get chronic inflammation then it changes your DNA and enhances the risk of cancer.

 

  • Ginger: Ginger tea is popular among Indian families as this tea type contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that boost the immune system. If you get chronic inflammation, your immune system can be harmed and malfunction. A good amount of ginger consumption and antioxidant-rich foods in your diet can combat inflammation and keep your immune system safe and healthy. Additionally, ginger consists of antibacterial and antiviral properties that can boost the immune response.

 

  • Garlic: Garlic is used as an antifungal, antibacterial, and antiseptic agent that resists microorganisms, like a germ. Garlic consists of a compound called alliin that helps the immune system in fighting off germs. When garlic is crushed, the alliin converts into allicin, an ingredient in garlic that provides immune-boosting properties and boosts the disease-fighting response when the immune system encounters certain types of pathogens that cause flu or cold.

The bottom line

A healthy immune system is essential to living a healthy and disease-free life. Having a diet rich in immunity-boosting foods may protect you from various types of cancers and other illnesses such as arthritis. Keep your diet full of Vitamins, minerals, iron, zinc, and other nutrients to remain protected and safe during the flu.

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