Your immune system is a complex network of organs, tissues and cells that work together to protect you against infection and illness. Poor diet can cause imbalances of the immune system, making it less able to protect you from viruses, bacteria and disease. According to Harvard University Medical Center, certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies have been shown to weaken immune responses in animals.
For a healthy immune system, eat a balanced diet containing a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins and whole grains. Janice Hermann, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension nutrition education specialist, advises that for optimum health, consume adequate amounts of food from all the food groups. Limit your intake of refined, highly-processed foods and try to eat food in its freshest, most whole form. Choose foods that contain the immune-supportive vitamins and minerals zinc, selenium, iron, vitamins A, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and vitamin E. Include beef, turkey, poultry, tuna, red snapper, shrimp, lobster, beans, whole grains, oysters, crab, eggs, nuts, seeds and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in your daily meal regimen. Try to plan your meals around a protein, such as meat or fish, and have one or two vegetable or fruit sides dishes. Sprinkle nuts or seeds on top.
Consider buying a juicer to prepare healthy fruit and vegetable juice. Drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juice is a convenient way to obtain concentrated amounts of immune-protective nutrients.
Limit your intake of sugar and other sweeteners. Sugar interferes with white blood cells' ability to fight bacteria and impairs healthy immune function.
Add garlic to your daily meal regimen for its infection-fighting capabilities. Garlic helps promote a healthy immune system and kills viruses, bacteria and fungi. Eating garlic regularly may lower your risk of contracting certain cancers.
Eat one cup of yogurt each day for its immune-strengthening benefits. Yogurt contains live cultures that stimulate the immune system and increase the activity of white blood cells. According to the University of Michigan Health System, yogurt has been shown to reduce the incidence of certain immune-related diseases, such as allergies, infections of the intestines and stomach, and cancer.
Take herbs to boost your immune function. Certain herbs have a strengthening effect on the immune system by nourishing bone-marrow and stimulating it to produce more immune reserves. The most beneficial herbs for a healthy immune system include goldenseal, astragalus, ligustrum, echinacea, codonopsis, reishi and shitake. Herbs can be taken as dried supplements, teas or tinctures.