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Fighting Foods - Role of Nutrition in Immunity

In today's Covid-19 world, one major realisation for all has been the importance of a strong immune system. The immune system is our body’s natural gatekeeper. It helps to fight germs, viruses, parasites and other foreign invaders. It protects the body from infections and diseases caused by these. How your immune system responds to infections is largely dependent on the nutrition your body has been receiving over a period of time. Malnutrition which includes undernutrition as well as overnutrition is known to impair the immune system.

Immunity starts in the gut. Almost 70% of all the immune cells are present in our digestive system. More antibodies are made in the gastrointestinal tract than anywhere else in the body. So, a significant part of the immune system interacts with what we eat. Good nutrition is fundamental to improving immunity and is vital for health. An optimum immune system can reduce the risk of viral infections. Eating a variety of healthy foods in the right proportion not only helps provide fuel for the body to grow, develop, function and repair efficiently, but it is also crucial for boosting immunity.

Nutrient deficiencies do not appear overnight and there is no single food or supplement that can prevent illness. However, nutrient deficiencies progressively appear over a period of time. It is therefore important to eat a variety of nutrients from different sources on a regular basis. The various natural colors in foods represent different nutrients, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. These are all essential for keeping the immune system strong. A strong immune system gives the body extra protection to fight allergies, infections, inflammations, stress, and diseases.

Research has proved that individuals consuming well-balanced diets appear to be safer with better immune systems and lower incidence of infections and chronic diseases. A few nutrition guidelines you could follow to ensure good nutrition intake are:

  • Eat a minimum of 3 to 4 servings of vegetables every day.

  • Include at least 2 varieties of fruits in your daily diet.

  • Ensure the fruits and vegetables are washed well before use.

  • Do not overcook the vegetables as it leads to loss of some nutrients.

  • Include a variety of whole grains, pulses, legumes and beans in your daily diet.

  • Non-vegetarians can include eggs, lean meats, fish and poultry as their source of protein.

  • Limit the consumption of baked and fried foods, and pre-packaged snacks and foods. For example, doughnuts, cakes, pies, cookies, biscuits and chips. They contain industrially-produced trans-fats which are harmful for health.

  • Limit the consumption of foods and drinks containing high amounts of sugars, such as sugary snacks, candies and sugar-sweetened beverages.

  • For snacks, choose fresh fruits and raw vegetables rather than processed foods that are high in sugar, salt or fat.

  • Avoid irregular snacking.

  • Try to eat home-cooked meals most of the time.

  • Reduce salt intake to the recommended level of less than 5gms per day.

  • Ensure your fat intake is from good sources like nuts, seeds.

  • Keep portion sizes of food to a reasonable and recommended amount.

  • Drink sufficient water throughout the day to keep yourself well hydrated.

Enjoy a variety of foods to keep your immunity up.

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