As we travel deeper into cold and flu season in the middle of an already ongoing pandemic, it’s more important than ever to keep our immune systems as strong as possible.
If you plan on making any lifestyle changes to boost your immune system, it’s worth your time to also avoid things that will work against you. Specifically, foods that weaken the immune system. Here are some common examples.
This covers candy, donuts, cupcakes, cookies, and anything else high in sugar and low in nutrition. While these foods won’t hurt you on occasion, eating them on a regular basis can impact your immune system.
Added sugar is the common denominator for what causes these foods to weaken the immune system. Processed sugar triggers inflammation in the body, which interferes with how well the immune system works.
Furthermore, these foods offer little to no nutrition. They contain very little, if any, fiber and no immune-supporting antioxidants.
2. Sugary Drinks
This includes regular pop, sweet tea, lemonade, sweet coffee drinks, and more.
Just like sweets, sugary drinks are basically empty calories and packed with sugar, and the added sugar in these drinks contributes to inflammation.
3. Refined Foods
Under this category, we have white bread, pasta, crackers, and cereals. Many of these are found in the packaged goods aisles at the grocery store. These also include some of those sweets we talked about earlier.
These foods are made with white flour, which has been stripped of many nutrients, including fiber. Because they lack fiber, they raise blood sugar quickly and promote inflammation.
Refined carbohydrates may also interfere with gut health. These foods throw off the balance of bacteria in the gut, which directly impacts immune health.
4. Processed Meats
Bacon, sausage, lunch meat, cured meats, smoked meats, jerky, and more. While we can’t deny how delicious these meats are, they still fall on the list of foods that weaken the immune system.
The main issue with these foods is the compounds produced during processing and cooking at high heat.
These are called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs), and they not only cause inflammation but also cell damage. They disrupt antioxidant activity, as well as gut health.
These meats are also high in saturated fat, which is also linked to inflammation and several chronic health conditions.
5. Fried Foods
Just like processed meats, fried foods are known for containing a lot of AGEs produced from cooking at a high temperature. They’re also high in fat and sugar.
To avoid this group of foods that weaken the immune system, limit fast food, potato chips, and fried meats.
6. Some Artificially Sweetened Foods
Certain artificial sweeteners negatively impact the balance of bacteria in the gut. Over time, this imbalance can weaken your immune response.
To limit your intake of these sweeteners, check for sucralose and saccharin on food labels.
The Dangers of Weakened Immunity
A weak immune system impacts the entire body. Here are some dangers of ignoring immune health.
You’ll get sick more often, and the symptoms might be more severe. A weak immune system leading to more frequent illness isn’t surprising. What you may not think about is how severe your symptoms are.
When your immune system is weak, it can’t fight off infection as quickly when you do get sick. Therefore, your symptoms are worse and last longer.
You’ll have more inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a normal response when infection is present. However, it can be damaging if your body is frequently experiencing an inflammatory response.
Chronic inflammation increases risk for obesity and diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
You might notice negative effects in the gym. Basically, your recovery in the gym is going to be notably slower if your immune system isn’t in good shape.
Think about how your body heals. If your immune system is working more slowly, wounds heal more slowly. The same can happen with how quickly your muscles recover after you workout.
A weak immune system is also linked to low energy, which can really slow your progress down in the gym.
How to keep your immune system healthy
When it comes to keeping your immune system in tip top shape, you can’t ignore good nutrition.
On one hand like we could see above, choosing foods that lack nutrition but are loaded with sugars, additives, and unhealthy fats does some serious damage to the immune system over time.
However, you can avoid this damage and support your immune system with a balanced diet. Basically, you want to avoid the processed stuff and fill your plate with whole foods as much as possible.
The best way to boost your immune system with food is to focus on variety and color. Brightly colored foods give you antioxidants, which protect the cells and boost the immune response.
Other immune-friendly foods include:
- Nuts and seeds - healthy fats, antioxidants
- Lean meats - Zinc, iron, B vitamins
- Yogurt - Probiotics to support gut health
- Garlic - Antibacterial properties
- Turmeric - Anti-inflammatory properties
- Green tea - Antioxidants
If you’re getting sick more often than usual, there’s a good chance you need more sleep.
Your circadian rhythm is a major regulator of your immune system. So, when you don’t get enough quality sleep (quality is key here), your immune system becomes depressed.
The ideal amount of sleep to get every night? Experts say 7 to 8 hours.
Maybe you’ve noticed that you always catch a cold during times of high-stress. It’s no coincidence, as stress doesn’t just wear on your mind. It puts stress on your entire body.
Make stress management a priority and your immune system will thank you. Try exercise, meditation, breathing exercises, or journaling. Getting more sleep can help with stress too.
One of the easiest ways you can support your immune system is by taking a supplement. These products help to fill in nutritional gaps to make sure your cells are consistently getting what they need to keep your body protected against illness.
Choose a supplement that offers a blend of immune-boosting nutrients, without a bunch of additives.
Naked Immunity & Wellness offers key nutrients like vitamin A and C, zinc, and others that work together to boost immunity.
You can cycle it throughout the year (3 months on, 1 month off, etc.), or you can take it for extra immune support when you start feeling like there’s an imbalance in your wellness.
To keep the immune system healthy and strong, you need to add immune-supporting foods to your diet as well as avoid foods that weaken the immune system.
The easiest way to avoid these foods is to steer clear of anything ultra-processed. These foods tend to be high in sugar, salt and other additives that promote inflammation. They’re also low in nutrients that the immune system needs.
A healthy diet, good sleep habits, and stress management are also important to keep your immune system and your body healthy.