For many people, the scariest thing about winter approaching isn’t the thought of ditching those snowshoes and defying increasingly bitter weather: it’s the return of cold and flu season. While washing your hands well, avoiding crowds, and staying away from anyone you know may be sick can all help reduce the risk of exposure to something, these measures may not be enough to keep you safe. In fact, many of your eating habits may hamper your immune health, making it difficult for you to fend off those nasty bugs swarming around you.
If you want to protect yourself, read on to discover the eating habits you should avoid for a healthier immune system, according to experts. And for more ways to improve your overall health, check out the 7 best healthy foods to eat right now.
They say variety is the spice of life — and it happens to be one of the best ways to boost your immune system, too. fact, Amanda Soseda, MS, RDN, CLTA lack of variety on your plate can cripple your immune health, he says.
“If you eat the same thing over and over again, it could be a potential downside to your immune health. With 70% of the immune system in your gut, you want to look at your gut to boost your immune system. You want the gut microbiome that has a host of A healthy variety of bacteria means you need to feed those bugs different types of foods.” “The easy way to get diversity is to eat different colored fruits, vegetables, and foods across food groups.”
Related: Science says popular foods that improve gut health
If you deprive the good bacteria in your gut of enough prebiotic fiber, you may be harming your gut health along the way.
“Prebiotics are the fuel for probiotics (the good bacteria in our gut),” says Kara Landau, RD, an expert dietitian in gut health and founder of Uplift Food. “A diet lacking prebiotics starves gut bacteria, causing a lack of diversity within the microbiome. Poor gut health, in turn, increases inflammatory markers in the body and decreases the immune response.” If you want to boost your microbiome, be sure to check out these nutritionist-approved ways to get more prebiotics in your diet.
While practically everyone indulges in cravings for sugary foods or fried foods from time to time, eating too much sugar and fat can have a profound negative effect on your immune system.
“A poor diet can overload the immune system and lead to a pro-inflammatory state. This inflammation is linked to a number of chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. A high level of refined sugar, saturated fat, and a lack of Fiber can lead to this inflammation.” Sheetal Decaria MD, an integrative physician and wellness expert at Revitalize Medical Center.
Related: The Best Eating Habits to Strengthen Your Immune System, Says a Dietitian
However, it is not just the sugar and fat content in your food that can negatively affect your immune health. Trieste Best, MPH, RD, LDD., of Balance One Supplements, says prepackaged food products loaded with additives can have a similar effect.
“Processed foods are those made with refined carbohydrates, stabilizers, emulsifiers, and other ingredients to enhance shelf stability, flavor, and texture,” Best explains. “When we eat such foods in large quantities they can irritate the intestines, cause an imbalance of gut bacteria, and eventually lead to chronic low-grade inflammation. This inflammation can reduce the body’s proper immune response and lead to an increase in acute and chronic diseases.”
While limiting your calorie intake may help you lose weight, doing so can also have a detrimental effect on your immune system.
“With any calorie restriction, the body’s metabolic rate goes down in an effort to conserve energy for vital processes. In doing so, processes like immune support go down,” Rachel Fine, RDN, owner of To The Pointe Nutrition. “One of these reasons is the body’s inability to effectively absorb immune-boosting micronutrients, such as vitamins A and E, both of which require adequate stores of body fat for absorption, storage, and utilization,” Fine adds.
If you want to boost your immune system, check out these drinking habits experts say boost your immunity, and for the latest healthy living news delivered to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter!