Foods to Boost Your Immune System

July 31, 2012

Must See Nutrition Videos

It's frustrating to train for a big race or make it past the first round of the playoffs, then suddenly become ill. Athletes are at high risk for colds and other fatigue-related illnesses due to the stresses of competition, constant interaction with their peers and busy schedules. Unfortunately, catching a bug can sabotage your performance, or keep you out of competition entirely.

You can take preventative measures to reduce the risk of contracting an illness. Proper nutrition, recovery and hydration are all critical for maintaining your immune system so it can fight off the germs that you will inevitably come in contact with.

Follow these food guidelines to keep yourself healthy and performing at your best.

  • Carbohydrates. Replenishing your energy stores is essential for keeping your immune system functioning at its peak. Make sure to take in carbs before, during and especially after competition to offset the suppressive effect of exercise on immune function.
  • Lean protein. Foods containing zinc also help support immune function. The body requires zinc to develop and activate T-lymphocytes, which help prevent illness. Examples include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts.
  • Iron deficiency anemia can also lead to decreased immune function and fatigue. Consume adequate amounts of iron from sources such as lean meats, poultry, nuts, beans, lentils, and dark or leafy greens. Also make sure to get your daily dose of vitamin C so the body can more easily absorb iron.
  • Eat foods rich in antioxidants every day to combat oxidative stress. Antioxidants are found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (healthy fats) for their anti-inflammatory properties. Peanut butter, extra virgin olive oil, avocado and salmon are great options.
  • Choose foods that contain probiotics, such as yogurt, sauerkraut or Kombucha to enhance gastrointestinal and immune health.
  • Make sure to take rest days and engage in some relaxing activities!

Sources: Sports Nutrition and Cardiovascular Wellness (SCAN); Office of Dietary Supplements

Photo:  mrscienceshow.com

Kait Fortunato
- Kait Fortunato is a registered dietitian at Rebecca Bitzer & Associates, a large and experienced nutrition practice in Maryland. She focuses on individualized nutritional recommendations...
Kait Fortunato
- Kait Fortunato is a registered dietitian at Rebecca Bitzer & Associates, a large and experienced nutrition practice in Maryland. She focuses on individualized nutritional recommendations...
Must See
Patrick Willis' Homegrown Off-Season Workout Patrick Willis' Homegrown Off-Season Workout
Views: 1,230,103
Jadeveon Clowney on Making Big Hits Jadeveon Clowney on Making Big Hits
Views: 6,566,283
Abby Wambach Will Do Whatever It Takes Abby Wambach Will Do Whatever It Takes
Views: 6,012,696

Featured Videos

Kevin Love's In-Season Basketball Workout Kevin Love's In-Season Basketball Workout Views: 1,018,026
A Day in the Life With Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelce A Day in the Life With Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelce Views: 15,983
Path to the Pros 2015: Shaq Thompson Path to the Pros 2015: Shaq Thompson Views: 70,834
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Two-Ball Dribbling Drill With John Wall Two-Ball Dribbling Drill With John Wall
Views: 3,362,798
Paul Rabil's Box Jumps Paul Rabil's Box Jumps
Views: 851,480
Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift
Views: 1,577,381
Dribbling Drills for Tighter Handles Dribbling Drills for Tighter Handles
Views: 4,333,163
Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill
Views: 9,499,214

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like
12 Foods Every Athlete Should Eat

12 Foods Every Athlete Should Eat

The Grain Guide: How and Why to Use 8 Healthy Whole Grains

The Grain Guide: How and Why to Use 8 Healthy Whole Grains

A Sneaky Food Additive Athletes Should Avoid

A Sneaky Food Additive Athletes Should Avoid

5 Simple Food Swaps That Make Eating Out Healthier

5 Simple Food Swaps That Make Eating Out Healthier

10 Athlete-Approved High-Protein Cereals

10 Athlete-Approved High-Protein Cereals

9 Athlete-Approved Peanut Butter Sandwiches

9 Athlete-Approved Peanut Butter Sandwiches

How Friends and Family Affect Your Food Choices

How Friends and Family Affect Your Food Choices

The Healthiest (And Unhealthiest) Ways to Eat Chicken

The Healthiest (And Unhealthiest) Ways to Eat Chicken

11 Food Services That Deliver Ready-Made Nutritious Meals

11 Food Services That Deliver Ready-Made Nutritious Meals

5 Nutritional Power Combos for Athletes

5 Nutritional Power Combos for Athletes

5 Ways Junk Food Can Mess With Your Head

5 Ways Junk Food Can Mess With Your Head

Living Near Fast Food Could Increase Your Odds of Obesity

Living Near Fast Food Could Increase Your Odds of Obesity

5 'Healthy' Side Dishes That Are Worse Than French Fries

5 'Healthy' Side Dishes That Are Worse Than French Fries

6 Healthy Foods You're Overeating

6 Healthy Foods You're Overeating

Load Up on These Foods at Your Backyard Barbecue

Load Up on These Foods at Your Backyard Barbecue

Terrible Toppings: The 5 Worst Things We Put on Food

Terrible Toppings: The 5 Worst Things We Put on Food

5 Foods That Are Stunningly High in Sodium

5 Foods That Are Stunningly High in Sodium

You Should Eat the Peel of These 12 Fruits and Vegetables

You Should Eat the Peel of These 12 Fruits and Vegetables

5 'Good Foods' That Might Be Bad for You

5 'Good Foods' That Might Be Bad for You

3 Fruits and 3 Vegetables Athletes Must Eat

3 Fruits and 3 Vegetables Athletes Must Eat

5 Non-Boring Ways To Eat Chicken

5 Non-Boring Ways To Eat Chicken

STUDY: Eat More Fruits and Veggies, Live (Almost) Forever

STUDY: Eat More Fruits and Veggies, Live (Almost) Forever

6 Eating Mistakes That Undo Your Workouts

6 Eating Mistakes That Undo Your Workouts

4 'Bad Foods' That Might be Good for You

4 'Bad Foods' That Might be Good for You

5 Healthy Foods That Got a Bad Rap

5 Healthy Foods That Got a Bad Rap

How to Eat Organic Without Breaking the Bank

How to Eat Organic Without Breaking the Bank

The 6 Worst Foods for Athletes

The 6 Worst Foods for Athletes

Where the Paleo Diet Falls Short

Where the Paleo Diet Falls Short

Cookout Commandments: What to Eat (and Avoid) at Your Summer BBQ

Cookout Commandments: What to Eat (and Avoid) at Your Summer BBQ

Spice Up Your Healthy Cooking With These Lively Combos

Spice Up Your Healthy Cooking With These Lively Combos

Why You Should Say No to Diet Foods

Why You Should Say No to Diet Foods

How Undereating Can Make You Gain Weight

How Undereating Can Make You Gain Weight

The Boston Cannons' Keep It Real Eating Plan

The Boston Cannons'

Fuel Up Fast With 4 Smoothies From the New York Giants

Fuel Up Fast With 4 Smoothies From the New York Giants

Healthy (and Unhealthy) BBQ Ideas For Athletes

Healthy (and Unhealthy) BBQ Ideas For Athletes

Healthy Eating at Restaurants: Decoding a Diner Menu

Healthy Eating at Restaurants: Decoding a Diner Menu

Are You Eating Too Much Protein?

Are You Eating Too Much Protein?

Small Change, Big Difference: 5 Foods You Should Buy Organic

Small Change, Big Difference: 5 Foods You Should Buy Organic

The Cheat Meal Day: Why It's Not So Smart

The Cheat Meal Day: Why It's Not So Smart

5 Delicious Ways to Make Junk Food Less Junky

5 Delicious Ways to Make Junk Food Less Junky

Brown Rice vs. White Rice: Does It Really Matter?

Brown Rice vs. White Rice: Does It Really Matter?

Salad Showdown: Which Greens Are the Healthiest?

Salad Showdown: Which Greens Are the Healthiest?

Healthy Makeovers for 3 Classic Meals

Healthy Makeovers for 3 Classic Meals

How Marc Gasol Got Better by Overhauling His Diet

How Marc Gasol Got Better by Overhauling His Diet

7 Foods That Are Ruining Your Workouts

7 Foods That Are Ruining Your Workouts

Vegetarian Athlete Tips: Olympic Swimmer Kate Ziegler

Vegetarian Athlete Tips: Olympic Swimmer Kate Ziegler

5 Protein-Packed Recovery Shakes

5 Protein-Packed Recovery Shakes

The Best Foods for Digestive Health

The Best Foods for Digestive Health

YardBarker