Dietary Strategies to Strengthen Immunity

Contributed by: Chloe Ong

A healthy balanced diet plays an important role in our overall health and well-being. In this article, we take a look at how adopting appropriate dietary strategies can go a long way in strengthening our immunity.

When thinking of a healthy, balanced diet, one might wonder: is there such a thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ food? The answer is no, shares Chloe Ong, Senior Dietitian at Parkway Cancer Centre.

According to her, a balanced diet includes adequate carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fiber, and also the different types of vitamins, minerals and trace elements.

“We need to have a healthy, balanced diet in order for our body to perform its necessary functions,” Chloe explained. “Only when we get the basics right, can we reap the ‘additional’ benefits of certain foods, such as vitamins and minerals, pre- and probiotics, and phytonutrients. In other words, it is important for individuals to include a variety of food in our diet.”

How nutrients support our immune system

Nutrients are essential in supporting our body’s necessary functions, which in turn help maintain a functional immune system. According to Chloe, different nutrients have different roles in our body though some may share similar roles:

  • Carbohydrates – these are the main source of energy for our body to perform daily activities
  • Protein – plays important roles in hormone and enzyme production for many of our body’s functions
  • Fat – provides energy and ‘protects’ our vital organs. Some fat soluble vitamins also need fat to be absorbed for our body’s use
  • Fiber – keeps our gut healthy, so that nutrients can be better digested and absorbed

“A healthy balanced nutrition is the most basic tool to boost our immune system, as different nutrients play different roles in our body,” Chloe emphasised.

How to lead a healthy lifestyle

Like diet, there are a multitude of different aspects that need to be considered in order for individuals to lead a healthy lifestyle, and thus achieve a healthy immune system.

“Other than having a healthy, balanced diet, physical activities are equally important as well,” advised Chloe. “Try to get 30–60 minutes of exercise 5 times a week. Otherwise, find opportunities to increase everyday physical activities, such as taking the staircase instead of the lift.

“Stress management is also important for improving our immunity levels.”

It is not always reasonable to expect to keep up a healthy lifestyle routine everyday, particularly when we do not feel energetic, or feel under the weather. For days like that, Chloe recommended light or soupy food that contain some protein (e.g. chicken noodle soup, fish porridge, or egg mayo or tuna sandwich). She also advised to avoid deep fried and spicy food and to stay hydrated.

“Plain water is always the best for hydration,” explained Chloe. “If one wants to include other drinks like honey lemon or barley, that would be fine as well, as long as you keep tabs on the total sugar intake in a day.

“Last but not least, getting adequate rest and sleep on a daily basis can go a long way in helping you manage your overall health.” 

Reaping the Benefits
An overview of nutrients that can support your body’s immunity

Vitamins & Minerals
Essential nutrients for the body

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts, seeds & legume
  • Meat, seafood & poultry

Prebiotics & Probiotics
Good for gut health body

  • Asparagus
  • Wholegrains
  • Yoghurt
  • Kimchi

Fibers & Other Phytonutrients
Supports the immune system body

  • Berries
  • Broccoli
  • Purple cabbage
  • Other natural fruits & vegetables

Anti-inflammatory Agents
Helps with fighting infections body

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
POSTED IN Nutrition
TAGS cancer & exercise, cancer diet & nutrition, healthy food & cooking, healthy lifestyle, stress and cancer