As orthopedic specialists, our top priority is helping people stay active and healthy. These days, a strong immune system is top of mind for many people looking for simple things they can do to help protect against illness and infection.
Choosing foods that provide a steady stream of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber is a great way to boost immunity and promote overall wellness. The nutrients in many of those foods can do “double duty” by promoting orthopedic health as well.
For example, not only is calcium good for our bones, but it also is important for physical functions such as healthy muscle contraction and blood circulation. The vitamin D that enables the absorption of calcium also helps regulate the immune system and boosts the body’s defenses against disease.
For a healthier immune system along with stronger bones, joints and muscles, consider including these seven foods along with other essentials for a well-balanced diet (though needless to say, do not consume anything you may be allergic to):
Almonds are rich in vitamin E, an important antioxidant for maintaining the immune system, particularly in advancing age. The healthy fats in almonds help the body absorb vitamin E. Almonds also are a great source of protein, calcium, and heart-healthy magnesium.
Packed with vitamins A, C, and E, as well as many other antioxidants and fiber, broccoli ranks among the healthiest foods you can find. It also contains a compound (sulforaphane) that has been shown by some studies to help slow the breakdown of cartilage in joints from arthritis. To make the most of broccoli’s nutritious effects, it’s ideal to gently steam it — or better yet, eat it raw.
Kale is a great source of many nutrients, including vitamin K, calcium and phosphorus to support bone density and health. Kale also provides vitamin C (which boosts the immune system and builds collagen to support bone structure) and beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A to help maintain all body tissues.
Oranges and other citrus fruits contain many nutrients that help the body function properly. Leading the way is vitamin C, which has shown to stimulate the production of white blood cells for boosting immunity and fighting infection. Citrus fruits are high in plant compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Poultry, such as chicken and turkey, is high in vitamins B-3 and B-6, which play an important role in many of the body’s functions. Vitamin B-6 supports muscle function and is key to the formation of new and healthy red blood cells. Some studies have shown vitamin B-3 as having positive effects on arthritis symptoms caused by inflammation. In addition, poultry is an excellent source of protein, which is key to supporting muscle health and bone structure.
Spinach is rich in vitamin C and magnesium for bone health, plus beta carotene, which is associated with reducing inflammation and increasing disease-fighting cells for higher immunity levels. Because beta carotene converts to the fat-soluble vitamin A, it’s a good idea to pair spinach and other dark, leafy greens with a healthy fat, like nuts, for improved absorption.
The high levels of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium in dairy are key to maintaining orthopedic health. Look for yogurt that contains “live and active cultures,” like Greek yogurt. These cultures may stimulate the immune system to help fight disease. Yogurt can also be a great source of protein for the muscles and of vitamin D for healthy bones.
Choosing healthy, nutrient-rich foods will go a long way toward keeping the immune system strong. From all of us at Dickson-Diveley Orthopaedics, stay safe and stay well!