Your immune system is your body’s built in defense system against foreign invaders. When it’s fully powered up it can help protect you against all kinds of illnesses and diseases including cancer.
At the center of this powerful defense system are your white blood cells, or leukocytes, which are special immunity cells that fight illness and disease. Think of them as the foot soldiers in the war against cancer.
White blood cells, such as natural killer cells and T cells, are continually sent out on “search and destroy” missions looking for mutated cells such as cancer cells that could harm your health.
But sometimes your body’s immune system starts to drag and it needs a little extra support. Things such as illness, stress and diet can suppress your immunities and raise your risk of getting sick. But by feeding your immune system the nutrients it craves the most you can support your white blood cells, including those all-important cancer-fighting natural killer cells and T cells.
Following are five nutrients that can help boost your immune system.
1. Beta carotene:
Beta carotene, a form of vitamin A, can help boost your number of infection-fighting natural killer cells and helper T cells. Plus the powerful antioxidant takes on the free radicals that are linked to aging and all kinds of diseases including cancer.
Most folks associate beta carotene with carrots, but it’s actually deep orange colored sweet potatoes that claim the beta carotene crown. Sweet potatoes are brimming with up to 226 micrograms of the carotenoid per gram compared to carrot’s eight micrograms.
Other foods that are rich in beta carotene include kale, turnip greens, spinach, mustard greens and tomatoes.
2. Vitamin C:
Boosting your vitamin C levels is a great way to supercharge your immune system. Vitamin C naturally stimulates the production of white blood cells, including cancer combatting T cells. And studies show that folks whose diets are higher in vitamin C have lower rates of breast, colon and prostate cancer.
Most people turn to oranges and other citrus fruits to increase their vitamin C levels. But while citrus is a good source of this important vitamin it’s far from the best source. Try yellow bell peppers instead. Other great sources of vitamin C include papaya, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and strawberries.
Intravenous vitamin C (IVC), administered in a doctor’s office, can also be used to fight cancer. Experts say IVC is a safe way to combat cancerous cells without causing any of the “friendly-fire damage” that most traditional cancer treatments cause.
Polyphenols are phytonutrients found in fruits, vegetables, cocoa, tea, coffee and other plants. They’re natural antioxidants and have anti-carcinogenic properties. Animal studies show polyphenols can boost infection-fighting natural killer cells, helper T cells, macrophages and dendritic cells.
You can increase the number of polyphenols in your diet by eating more fruits, vegetables and herbs. But to get the most bang for your food buck according to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition the top ten polyphenol rich foods are cloves, dried peppermint, star anise, cocoa powder, dried Mexican oregano, celery seed, Black chokeberry, dark chocolate, flaxseed and black elderberry.
4. Vitamin E:
Vitamin E often gets overlooked when it comes to shoring up our immunities. And that’s a real shame because E is critical to a healthy, high-functioning immune system. Studies show that vitamin E stimulates cancer fighting natural killer cells and increases T cell function.
Foods that are rich in vitamin E include almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, Swiss chard, mustard greens, spinach, turnip greens and kale.
Zinc is an immunity building superstar. The mineral triggers your body to produce more infection fighting white blood cells. Plus zinc boosts the activity of natural killer cells. Studies show that zinc can slow the growth of cancer, and zinc deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Research has revealed a link between zinc deficiency and a drop in natural killer cell activity.
You can naturally raise your zinc levels with zinc rich foods including oysters, beef, lamb, pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate.