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Bad Foods for Your Immune System

by August McLaughlin

About August McLaughlin

August McLaughlin is a certified nutritionist and health writer with more than nine years of professional experience. Her work has been featured in various magazines such as "Healthy Aging," "CitySmart," "IAmThatGirl" and "ULM." She holds specializations in eating disorders, healthy weight management and sports nutrition. She is currently completing her second cookbook and Weight Limit—a series of body image/nutrition-related PSAs.



Your immune system protects your body from infections and disease. Numerous factors may hinder your immune system function, including stress, sleep deficiencies, smoking, poor dietary and exercise habits and medical conditions, such as HIV or AIDS. A healthy diet that is rich in foods that promote your body's protective mechanisms -- such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fatty fish -- and avoiding problematic foods may help strengthen your immune system.

Red Meat

Red meat is a prime source of saturated fat, which, when consumed in excess, increases your risk for high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, certain forms of cancer and heart disease. For improved immune system function, the Cleveland Clinic recommends reducing or eliminating saturated fat sources and red meat in particular from your diet. Red meat varieties particularly rich in saturated fat include porterhouse and top sirloin steak, full-fat ground beef, lamb, pork sausage, bacon, pepperoni, hot dogs, salami, fried meats and spare ribs.

Margarine and Butter

Margarine contains trans fat, produced through a process in which hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to create a solid-form, long-lasting fat source. Like saturated fat, which is prevalent in butter, trans fat can damage the health of your heart and your immune system. In an interview with CNN in November 2007, Dr. David Katz, the director of the Yale Prevention Research Center in Connecticut, described trans fat as contributing to low-grade inflammation. If your immune system becomes "tied up dealing with inflammation," Katz explains, it may not be capable of providing proper protection for your body. Thus, replacing butter and margarine with plant-based oils, such as olive and canola oil, may help strengthen your immune system.

Refined Carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates, such as white flour and sugar, provide your body with calories but few dietary benefits. Consuming fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables in place of refined carbohydrate sources is an important step in improving your immune system function. Common sources of refined carbohydrates include regular soft drinks, candy, milk chocolate, enriched breads, cereals, and commercially prepared cookies, cakes and pastries. To effectively cut back on refined carbohydrates, check nutrition labels on commercially prepared foods and limit or avoid those that list enriched flour or added sugars as main ingredients.

High-fat Dairy Products

High-fat dairy products are additional sources of saturated fat. The Cleveland Clinic suggests taking an inventory of your diet and noting the types of dairy products you consume. If your milk, yogurt, cheeses, creamy beverages or frozen desserts are high in fat, opting for low-fat equivalents instead may provide immune-system benefits. Common dishes made with high-fat dairy products include pasta Alfredo, cheese-topped pizza, cheesecake, cheese-containing omelets and nachos.

Photo Credits:

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.