No matter what your sport, activity or fitness goal, optimum performance and results necessarily start from the inside out. Specifically, a healthy and strong immune system is a basic requisite for long-term physical fitness and success.
Here’s a short list of some top Immune boosters you’ll find in any solid plant-based diet:
Plants contain thousands of natural chemicals called phytonutrients. Some give them their vibrant colors, taste, or protect them form germs, fungi and other natural threats. In a somewhat similar approach, phytonutrients can also benefit the human body by helping to prevent disease and fight off free radicals. Some phytonutrients (such as ellagic acid found in certain berries and dark fruits), have also been found to help protect against certain aspects of cancer growth. So a plant-based diet rich in vibrant veggies and fruits is a great way to naturally boost your body’s defenses.
One of the downsides of a meat-based diet is that increased intake of fat, particular animal fat, can inhibit immune response and negatively impact immune health. Conversely, a plant-based diet rich in healthy fats, such as Omega-3 fatty acids, can actually help boost your immune system. Omega-3 fats, typically found in seeds such as flax, sesame and chia, can actually increase activity of a particular type of white blood cells, phagocytes. Not only will you benefit from a diet lower in saturated fats, but you will also give your immune system a solid lift eating a variety of foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids present in a good plant-based diet.
It’s no surprise that vitamins are essential for optimal immune function. However, eating a plant-based diet typically includes foods that naturally contain higher amounts of these vital nutrients. For example, Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) is present in green leafy vegetables and whole grains in abundance. Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) is naturally found in nuts and whole grains. Bananas contain ample amounts of Vitamin B6 and Potassium, and Vitamin C is naturally occurring in citrus fruits such as lemons, oranges, and limes, as well as berries, melons, peas and other vegetables. All of these vitamins have been found to help strengthen the immune system and are a critical part of your body’s disease fighting systems. Abundantly found in most plant-based food sources they are natural immune boosters you can benefit from eating plentifully.
Certain minerals are essentials for proper immune function and cell formation. Seeds and particular nuts are great sources for copper and selenium, and iron is found in good supply in foods such as lentils, beets, and many greens. A healthy plant-based diet is a surefire way to ensure you are getting what minerals you need, often overlooked when non-plant-based foods sources are a regular part of your dietary regimen.
One often overlooked aspect of general body health and immune function is gut health. Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria and flora contained in the digestive system that increase the activity of natural and native disease fighting cells. Maintaining proper levels of healthy digestive bacteria by eating plant-based foods such as soy yogurt, beans/legumes, fresh fruits and raw seeds or nuts is great way to make sure you are getting what you need for your insides.