Is there something you can do nutritionally to boost your immune function? The idea of this is universally appealing. Even before the pandemic, people searched for a superfood or supplement to boost, supercharge, and build-up immunity. Now amid a pandemic, it’s even more prevalent.
New York Cancer & Blood Specialists’ Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Wendy Kaplan weighs in on immune boosters’ reality. “Your immune system needs key nutrients to function at its best, but it’s so incredibly complex and not as simple as eating a single superfood or taking a supplement. A single food or supplement cannot boost your immune system and prevent or cure illness,” Kaplan said.
Good nutrition is vital during cancer treatment to improve immune response. While there’s no shortage of products claiming to help, buzz marketing mixed in with fragments of scientific truth makes it easy to fall victim to false claims of hope. “Cancer patients are especially vulnerable to such promises as they seek ways to counteract their immunosuppressive treatments. They may not realize that taking supplements during cancer treatment can lessen the treatment’s efficacy or cause toxicities, warns Kaplan.
Simply stated, the best thing to do is to include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds along with lean proteins, low-fat dairy, omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, sardines, mackerel), and probiotics (Kefir, yogurt, kimchi) most days. Plant foods also contain phytochemicals, and when you eat them, you receive their immune-supporting bioactive compounds.
Bottom line? Choose a variety of healthy foods most of the time and take care of your body and soul! Excess stress, in addition to a poor diet, can wreak havoc on your immune system. The new 2020-2025 Dietary Guideline for Americans recommends striving for an 85/15 pattern and consuming nutrient-rich foods at least 85% of the time vs.“discretionary” foods 15% (or less). There are no guarantees for a better immune system, but good nutrition is a surefire way to arm yourself with the best possible immune defense.
To schedule an appointment at New York Cancer & Blood Specialists, please call 1-833-CANCER9.