By Lindsey Montgomery
The immune system is a complex network of systems that helps us fight off infections and remain healthy. As it helps us, we have to do our part to help it stay strong and healthy as well. This involves many things and not all of these are in our control. However, we can control some things, like minimizing stress, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and eating healthy.
Healthy eating plays a key role in supporting our immune system. When it comes to immunity, our food choices have a big impact. Research shows that 70-80% of the immune system is in the gastrointestinal tract. This is why what we eat has a direct impact on our immune system. Despite what popular diet fads tell you, there is not one specific “superfood” or nutrient that should be solely relied on for building immunity.
Rather a balanced diet with plenty of variety, color, plant-based foods, whole grains and adequate protein is recommended.
Fiber is also important because, when broken down in our gastrointestinal tract, the immune cells there use it for energy. Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Choosing plant-based foods that provide a good variety of color and fiber ensures that we are getting plenty of vitamins and minerals, which are important for new cell growth and maintaining cellular function.
This may feel like a lot to digest (dietitian pun intended), but the message is simple: Eat the rainbow of color with a focus on plant-based foods. Include a wide variety of foods. Choose fresh foods often, but include foods that are prepared in different ways too. If you would like more information about nutrition and immune health, please reach out to Moffitt’s Nutrition Therapy Department or speak to a member of your health care team.
Proper nutrition is an important part of cancer prevention, treatment, recovery and survival. Before making changes to your diet, please consult your health care team or Moffitt’s Nutrition Therapy Department. For more information about nutrition, please visit our Nutrition page or call 813-745-3609.