Every morning your mom has a cup of coffee with extra crème and sugar to go along with her bacon and eggs. Your dad has to stop at McDonalds for a hamburger and a Coke every Wednesday for lunch. While these sound like innocent, trivial eating habits, they can have an impact on your loved one’s ability to fight illnesses and injuries.
Good nutrition for seniors is essential for them to thrive and be healthy, especially this time of year with cold and flu season, not to mention the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Seniors have weakened immune systems, making them more susceptible to illness and infections. A weakened immune system also means a longer recovery time from sickness or injury.
Why a Healthy Diet is Important
There have been studies done showing the connection between one’s diet and one’s immune response. Those who regularly consume a diet lacking in nutrients are more likely to get sick and develop infections. A diet containing key antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals helps protect healthy body cells, boosts the effectiveness of the immune system, and produce antibodies to ward off infections and viruses.
Seniors are at a high risk of not receiving the necessary nutrients their immune system needs in order to function its best. There are many reasons for this including:
Poor food choices resulting from stress, depression, and loneliness
A reduced appetite
The inability to absorb nutrients because of medication or intestinal issues
Inaccessibility to transportation
Limited food budgets
The lack of interest or effort to cook
Not wanting to try new foods and add variety to their meals
Immune Boosting Foods
Here are 12 immune system boosting foods your loved one should incorporate into their diet:
With 70-80 percent of the immune system located in the digestive system, probiotics play a key role in boosting immune system health. Probiotics are good bacteria our digestive tracks need to function correctly. The amount of good bacteria in the gut declines with age so it is important seniors eat yogurt and other foods high in probiotics such as kombucha, kimchi, buttermilk, kefir, sauerkraut, and pickles. Not all yogurts is healthy. Be sure to have Greek yogurt or other yogurts that contain live and active cultures.
Spinach is a superfood that is loaded with vitamins and minerals for great health including vitamins A and C, fiber , iron, foliate, magnesium, and beta carotene. Beta-carotene not only boosts eye health, but it also helps the immune system fight viruses and infections.
Like spinach, broccoli is a health superfood packed with fiber, and vitamins A, B-9, C, and E. The antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals of broccoli have been shown to boost the production of enzymes that fight the common cold and the flu. Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are also superfoods that offer the same immune-boosting benefits.
Blueberries and other berries like raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries contain antioxidants that support both the immune and cardiovascular systems.
Green and black teas are a good source of flavonoids. Green tea also contains the epigallocatechin gallate antioxidant that boosts immune system function and the L-theanine amino acid that is an anti-inflammatory that helps the immune system’s T-cells fight germs and bacteria.
Almonds contain a high concentration of Vitamin E, which is an important part of a strong immune system. They also contain healthy fats needed for overall body health. Sunflower seeds, dark, leafy greens, and avocados are other sources of Vitamin E and healthy fats.
Citrus fruits and vegetables like oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, papayas, strawberries, peppers, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, and broccoli are packed with Vitamin C. This nutrient produces antibodies and white blood cells, increasing the effectiveness of the immune system in fighting illness and infection.
Herbs & Spices
Certain herbs and spices can help the immune system fight infections and viruses. Cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and black peppercorn have anti-inflammatory properties that strengthen the immune system so it works more effectively.
Mushrooms, especially fresh shiitake, reishi, and maitake varieties contain properties that increase the production of white blood cells. The immune system produces white blood cells to attack pathogens in the body.
While shellfish is off limits to some either because of food allergies or preferences, items like mussels, clams, crabs, and lobster are rich in zinc, a key ingredient for immune system health. Zinc is also proven to help speed up recovery once one gets sick.
While processed foods like white bread, crackers, and pasta are to be avoided, whole grains like oats, buckwheat, and brown rice can facilitate the growth of healthy gut bacteria that boosts your immune system.
The immune system works its best when there isn’t inflammation. Inflammation can activate immune cells that can keep them from effectively fighting illnesses and infections. Ginger is packed with anti-inflammatory properties that can help your immune system work more efficiently and effectively.
At Tribute Senior Living, we take the health of our residents seriously. We pride ourselves on incorporating a nutritious diet into our residents’ daily routines so they can fully enjoy their later years. Contact Tribute Senior Living today for a tour and learn how our chefs can help your loved one get the nutritious meals they need to be healthy and thrive.