An awareness about harmful foods that weaken immune system is as important as the role of nutrition in boosting immunity.
The ingredients in unhealthy food impair the body’s natural ability to fight infections that make us susceptible to diseases.
A strong immune system protects the body like a shield. Whereas a weak immune system makes it lethargic, stressed out and sick.
As we grow older our natural immune system deteriorates. If we are not mindful of the eating habits, we become prone to diabetics, arthritis, gastroenteritis, cardiovascular diseases and blood pressure fluctuations.
Though there are other factors as well that weaken immunity like- Stress, lack of physical activity, lack of sleep, and environmental issues but the most essential is our daily diet.
The harmful ingredients in foods that weaken immune system are:
High sodium content
Sodium is an essential ingredient for the body. But high sodium intake weakens immune system resulting in high blood pressure and stroke.
The foods containing high sodium levels are- Packaged chips, cookies, breads, pretzels, canned soup, pizza, frozen foods, packaged sauces and purees, boxed juice, canned beans vegetables fruits and meat.
Opt for fresh produce for consumption, canned items or boxed juices loose nutrition and you end up consuming high levels of sodium.Limit the use of table salt as well.
High sugar content
Its no secret that high sugar intake is harmful for the body. Too much sugar affects the immune system by hampering the function of bacteria fighting cells.
The liver converts sugar into fat, high sugar content leads to fatty liver resulting in diabetics and heart diseases.
The foods high in sugar content are- Sodas, candy, boxed juice, flavored yogurt, ice-cream, energy drinks, energy bars, ketchup, pasta and pizza sauce, flavored ice teas and flavored milk.
Our body breaks down complex carbohydrates also into sugar. White rice, bread, pasta and potatoes are few carbohydrates that convert into sugar.
While purchasing groceries check out the labeling. Added sugar can be in the form of Agave, molasses, high fructose corn syrup, Dextrin, fruit juice, malt syrup and golden syrup.
Go for whole fruits and vegetables to boost immunity. The sugar in them is easy to digest due to fiber, vitamins and essential minerals.
Healthy carbs are made up of whole grains such as oats, quinoa, brown rice and buckwheat. Beans and legumes provide protein along with carbohydrates that keep you full.
Opt for homemade fresh juices and smoothies.You can consume sugar in moderation from natural sources. Coconut sugar and Jaggery sugar are healthier options than white sugar but in moderation.
Studies indicate refined oil looses all its nutrients due to being over-processed. Food cooked in refined oil(especially fried) destroy cell tissues and cause inflammation.
For good fats such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and other nutrients cold pressed coconut oil, olive oil and ghee are healthier choices.
Foods such as wheat, barley, rye and malt are rich in gluten. Gluten is a thick and hard substance to digest.
It puts a strain on immune system, consistent consumption impairs intestine cells. It causes systematic inflammation which weakens digestive system. Consequentially the body becomes prone to various diseases related to gut and digestion.
Too much alcohol consumption not only weakens the immune system but it wrecks all essential body functions.
It impairs the healing and defense ability of the immune system. Leading to slow recovery, poor wound healing and prone to infections.
Alcohol leads to organ damage. It also causes systematic inflammation that results in chronic gastroenteritis issues.
Tip- Research suggests a beer or wine once a month is not harmful if you are otherwise on a healthy diet and exercise routine. The point is to know when to stop.
Food with additives
Often processed and packaged food is full of additives that preserve them for longer periods. Its not harmful once in a while in moderation. But regular habit of consuming pre-packaged food has damaging effects on immunity.
Harmful additives lower the response time of immune system to clear out anti-bodies and oxidative stress from the body.
Read the ingredient labels and watch out for these additives.
- MSG(Monosodium Glutamate)-Most harmful for immune system
- Sodium Nitrate
- Artificial colors
- Carrageenan(mostly found in dairy products)
- Artificial sweeteners
- Sodium benzoate
- Artificial flavors
- BHA and BHT
- Potassium Nitrate and Nitrite
Other considerations in diet-Too much caffeine from coffee or sodas is detrimental for immunity. Switch to 1-2 cups of green tea or herbal teas and fruit infused water.
No doubt fruits and vegetables are healthful, but opt for seasonal organic produce. As out of season greens are mostly pesticide laden.
Sodas, packaged, canned, frozen and boxed food is mostly unhealthy. Try to cook from scratch whenever you can to keep nutritional content intact.
Tips for boosting immunity
- Consume 2-3 servings of fresh fruits and greens in a day. Add whole grains like oats and beans in your diet.
- Say no to smoking and limit alcohol consumption.
- Avoid junk food, packed and processed food.
- Do not let stress burden you(it also weakens immunity). Meditate or do more of the activities that rejuvenate you.
- Workout daily for a minimum of 30 minutes. Be it yoga, aerobics, Pilates, dancing or brisk walk.
In conclusion-You live in your body, take care of it and keep it healthy. Avoid stress, chemicals and foods that weaken immune system.
Related posts-List of superfoods and 20 healthy smoothie recipes