9 Foods and Beverages that can Compromise your Immunity
Eating a healthy diet plays a critical role in supporting our immune system, which protects us from a wide array of disease-causing pathogens. While no foods are good or bad for your immune system, healthy eating habits are crucial to maintaining strong immunity.
Our immune system is on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It includes our skin, enzymes in our tears and the numerous immune cells circulating in our bloodstream. The immune system also includes the trillions of immune-modulating bacteria residing within our guts.
We are constantly exposed to all kinds of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other potentially disease-causing microorganisms on a daily basis. However, as long as our immune system is functioning well, we are largely able to resist infection. Nutrition plays a critical role in determining immune health.
Here are nine foods and beverages that can compromise your immunity:
1. Alcoholic beverages
Alcohol compromises the immune system by reducing the cells that fight infection. Consuming alcoholic beverages increases your susceptibility to pneumonia, sepsis and poor wound healing. It also triggers inflammation that can damage the lungs, which the coronavirus attacks.
For optimal health, you shouldn’t drink alcohol.
If you do drink alcoholic beverages, whether you’re a man or a woman, you should limit yourself to these amounts on a daily basis:
- Beer, no more than 12 ounces.
- Wine, 5 ounces.
- Liquor or spirits, 1.5 ounces.
Replacing alcohol with fruit- and herb-infused water such as watermelon and mint, an herbal tea like ginger tea or a low-sugar kombucha would benefit your immune system. Some herbs are high in anti-inflammatory phytochemicals, and kombucha and green tea are fermented foods that promote good gut health.
2. Caffeine before bedtime
Consuming caffeine isn’t necessarily bad for your immune. However, if it hinders your sleep, that’s when it becomes a problem for your immunity. This is because adequate sleep is crucial for proper immune function. Enough sleep ensures that your hormones are functioning properly and that there is less inflammation in the body, bettering your immune function.
Coffee isn’t the only thing you shouldn’t consume before bed.
You should also refrain from consuming these caffeine-laden items before bedtime:
- Caffeinated tea.
- Certain protein bars.
3. Canned or dried fruit
While seemingly healthy, dried or canned fruits often contain added sugar and therefore imbalance your microbiome. Everyone has a microbiome, which is a collection of more than 100 trillion microbes that live in and on our body. The majority of these microbes are in our large intestine.
Canned and dried fruits feed glucose and fructose to the unhealthy bacteria in your microbiome, and also promote a craving for sweets by feeding yeast and other sugar-loving microbes. Giving in to those cravings by consuming foods with added sugar can affect your immune system.
4. Dairy products
While consuming dairy products can be beneficial for some people, for others it can lead to inflammation, a leaky gut, food intolerance and reactions that can negatively affect the immune system.
Many people benefit from cutting down on their dairy intake or abstaining entirely.
Dairy products include:
- Cow’s milk.
- Ice cream.
5. Fast food
Burgers, burritos and fries from fast-food joints are tasty – but provide high amounts of calories, fat and sodium. These food items are low in nutrients like vitamins and minerals.
On the other hand, foods rich in antioxidants, like fresh fruits and vegetables, contain plenty of nutrients like vitamin C to help support your immune system. High fast-food consumption means you’re less likely to be eating balanced meals with fruits and vegetables as much as you should.
6. Food additives, preservatives and colorings
These products are highly processed and associated with inflammation, and they can lead to imbalance in your bacterial communities which in turn can affect your immune system.
7. Processed foods
Some processed foods claim to be natural, but contain significant amounts of sugar, refined carbs and additives and preservatives that are associated with inflammation. Higher levels of inflammation can weaken your immune system.
Processed foods include:
- Lunch meats.
- Canned soups, vegetables and pasta with meat.
- Frozen dinners.
8. Refined foods
Eating refined foods can compromise your immune system and cause an imbalance in the gut microbiome and critical collagen bacterial that keeps our bodies healthy.
Refined foods include:
- White flour.
- White pasta.
- White bread.
Instead of refined foods, reach for whole-grain varieties of bread and pasta. Stay away or greatly limit your intake of foods or beverages that contain added sugar.
9. Refined vegetable oils
Refined vegetable oils are highly processed and can lead to inflammation and imbalances in bacterial communities, which can affect your immune system.
These vegetable oils include varieties like:
Olive oils and coconut oils are healthier and are better choices.