Everything you eat impacts your overall health. You need to obsess over your diet or declare the sky is falling if you give into a cheeseburger craving. However, it’s essential to know which foods benefit your health and which ones harm it.
While an occasional indulgence won’t kill you, overeating the foods listed below can leave you feeling sick. Swipe left on the following to avoid foods that weaken immune system response. Instead, focus on healthy options to optimize your health as flu season approaches.
1. Fast Food
Almost all fast foods contain PhIP. This crazy-sounding chemical is short for 2-Amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo (4,5-b) pyridine. Try saying that five times fast — but don’t consume too much of it.
Why? When you eat foods containing this chemical, it increases your chance of developing breast and colon cancer. Plus, most fast food contains a ton of saturated fat and sodium. Do you typically hit the drive-thru at lunch? Instead, prep meals on weekends and brown-bag it during the workweek.
In small amounts, caffeine boosts focus and concentration. You don’t need to give up your morning cuppa entirely. However, if you live on a steady diet of coffee and soda, you need to upgrade to improve immune health.
Instead of that second or third cup of coffee, opt for kombucha or chai tea. Kombucha contains probiotics, and homemade chai contains herbs like turmeric that decrease inflammation and provide an immunity boost.
3. White Flour
Does your stomach sometimes hurt after you eat? If so, you might suffer celiac disease or gluten-intolerance, responses to a protein found in processed flour. White flours are one of the top foods that weaken immune function.
If you’re not sensitive to gluten, refined flours can still weaken your immune system by causing blood sugar spikes. Manufacturers remove all nutrients during the bleaching process, sometimes enriching products afterward. Instead, choose whole grains. If gluten proves troublesome, try ancient grains like quinoa.
4. Canned Convenience Foods
Fall is here, and that means soup season! Unfortunately, canned convenience foods like commercial soups contain a ton of sodium. They’re also home to artificial flavors and colors.
To boost your immune function, whip up healthy soups on the weekend and freeze individual portions. You can still enjoy the grab-and-nuke convenience, but it’s free from immune-weakening ingredients.
Your liver has to work overtime to process alcohol, lowering your immune response. Plus overindulging in the sauce leads to hangovers. Who wants to spend their morning praying to the porcelain god?
Additionally, drinking too much can lower your fertility if you’re trying to conceive. You don’t need to climb aboard the fabled wagon, but do restrict your intake to no more than one or two drinks a day.
6. Refined Oils
All vegetable oils are not equal. Refined oils stem from plant-based sources. During processing, however, they undergo chemical changes that strip away nutrients.
Dishes made with canola oil are foods that weaken immune system function because they cause free radicals to proliferate in your body. Free radicals cause changes at the cellular level and eventually lead to cell death.
7. Foods Laden With Pesticides
Yes, you want to eat more fruits and vegetables — but opt for organic whenever possible. Scientists discovered harmful pesticides like glyphosate cause cancer — hence the proliferation of lawsuits against Round-Up.
Due to the way bees flit from plant to plant during pollination, eating organic won’t guarantee a diet free of pesticides. However, it will reduce your exposure. At the very least, you can rest easy knowing your radishes didn’t bathe in the bad stuff before landing on your plate.
8. Foods Containing MSG
If you live for takeout Chinese, seek out establishments that pass on MSG. The FDA labels the ingredient as safe. However, many people experience adverse effects — including headaches, heart palpitations and numbness — a prognosis called MSG symptom complex.
Having trouble finding an MSG-free takeout spot? Try to make your favorite recipes at home.
9. Sugary Sweets
Do you suck down a sugary drink or reach for a candy bar to break the 3 p.m. slog? Doing so could make you ill. When you consume sugar, you curb immune system cells that attack invading bacteria. The effects last for several hours after downing a sugary soda or snack.
Any germs you contact during this period have a better chance of knocking you down for the count. Additionally, sugary foods often lead to tooth erosion, and poor dental hygiene can make you more susceptible to the bacteria that enters your mouth.
If you must indulge in something sweet, opt for yogurt or a fruit salad. Yogurt contains probiotics that increase the number of good bacteria in your stomach. Fruits in vivid hues contain phytonutrients like lycopene, which boost your immune system.
Pass on Foods That Weaken Immune System Function
You don’t have to eliminate all your indulgences to improve your health. By knowing the foods that weaken immune system function, you can make healthier choices. The result? A healthier, happier you.