While there are no direct, science-based links between diet and exercise and boosting your immune system, it doesn’t mean that lifestyle and what we eat doesn’t have an effect on our immune system. In fact, following general, good-health guidelines is the single best step we can take to naturally keep our immune system working properly, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Why is having a healthy immune system important? Having a healthy immune system allows your body to deal with viruses and bacteria that can put your health at risk. By having a healthy immune system, your body will be able to cope with illnesses that could be aggravated by conditions such as age, pre-existing diseases, or an unhealthy lifestyle. The good news is that if you stay hydrated, engage in moderate physical activity, get enough rest, manage stress, and eat a balanced diet, you can boost your immune system.
This is even more important during a pandemic. Although there are no magic pills to improve your defenses, there are a series of recommendations that you can follow to strengthen them naturally. Among them, there are some related to diet and lifestyle that influence your immune response.
Some research shows that having healthy levels of vitamin D can help keep your immune system healthy and can protect you against respiratory diseases in general.
Milk: The Food That Nourishes Your Defenses
Cow’s milk is a good source of Vitamin D, in addition to its 12 other nutrients that are also important for other parts of our health. In fact, from the first years of life, milk is part of a diet that is key to obtaining all the necessary defenses for optimal development.
For the first time, the new 2020-2025 edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans included recommendations for infants and young children. Specifically, they recommend introducing dairy products at 6 months of age and supplementing Vitamin D for infants.
In addition to Vitamin D, each serving of milk or dairy has 13 essential nutrients important to our health including several nutrients that are linked to better functioning of the immune system, including:
➜ Vitamin A – Important for the proper functioning of the immune system and to maintain healthy skin and eyes.
➜ Vitamin B-12 – Helps the production of red blood cells, strengthens the central nervous system and helps food to be converted into energy.
➜ Potassium – Regulates blood pressure and keeps the heart and muscles in good condition.
➜ Protein – Necessary for the proper functioning of the immune system and helps maintain and repair various tissues.
➜ Selenium and Zinc – Strengthen the defenses and keep the body’s cells in good condition.
In fact, these nutrients and vitamins that dairy products offer have been recommended by Harvard University School of Medicine to strengthen the immune system. Similarly, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) encourages consuming fermented foods such as yogurt to promote the growth of “good bacteria” in the gut, and thus promote a healthy gut and immune system.
Diet alone won’t strengthen your immune system, as other factors like having high stress, not sleeping enough, smoking, living a sedentary lifestyle play an important role. However, consuming foods like milk that are high in Vitamin D and other immune supporting nutrients and fermented foods like yogurt and kefir, can make a difference.