4 Foods that Destroy Your Immune System

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Key Takeaways:

      • The immune system needs the proper fuel to protect the body from harmful pathogens

      • Not all food contains the nutrients the bodily systems need to work correctly

      • Some foods are harmful to the immune system

    A strong, reactive, healthy immune system is necessary for survival. Our immune system fights off germs that cause illness, disease, and cell changes that can significantly harm us. Keeping it in ideal shape is a priority, but many people still eat foods that are bad for the immune system. 

    Our immune systems depend on many things to protect us adequately. Quality sleep, exercise, and proper nutrition keep the immune system working at its best. 

    What you eat has a significant impact on your immunity. You need a wide variety of vitamins and minerals to maintain a healthy immune system, but some foods are counterproductive. Instead of feeding the body beneficial nutrients, they supply the body with unhealthy fats and sugars that slow us down and trigger illness.

    This guide explores the connection between food and the immune system and looks at some of the worst foods you can eat when it comes to your immune system. If you want to stay healthy, avoiding these four foods forever is a great place to start.

    The Connection Between Food and Immunity 

    Most people understand how important food is to keep our bodies running, but only some know how specific foods and ingredients affect our bodies. Diet impacts the inflammatory processes, functioning of the white blood cells, gut barrier functions, and microbiome. 

    Low nutritional value or CRAP (Chemicals, Refined sugar, Artificial sweeteners, and Processed) foods hamper our immune system and make it easier to get sick. 

    4 Foods that Destroy Your Immune System 

    Foods high in sugar, saturated fats, calories, and salt fill the body with useless stuff that it must work extra hard to eliminate. It makes you feel full for a while but provides no real value to your body. Staying away from CRAP foods is the only way to keep a healthy immune system. 

    1. Bad Beverages

    Alcohol, sweet tea, sodas, energy drinks, and juices negatively affect your immune system. They turn up the volume on cortisol, the stress hormone, and blood sugar production but slow down insulin production, which puts a whammy on the immune system. 

    2. Refined Sugar

    Refined sugar is a big no-no. It has no redeeming qualities for the human body. Anything containing lots of refined sugar has a detrimental effect on your immune system. This includes:

        • Candy

        • Cookies

        • Cakes, pies, and baked goods

        • Ice cream

        • Fudge

        • Muffins

        • Cereal

        • Fruit juice

        • Milk Chocolate

      Many surprising foods, such as tomato sauce, also contain a lot of sugar.

      3. Red Meat

      Pork, lamb, and beef contain enough saturated fats to send your cholesterol through the roof when you eat them regularly. Eating a lot of red meat breaks down the immune system and damages the heart. 

      Red meat contains a specific sugar that is hard for the body to digest, so it hangs around. The extra sugars trigger all sorts of problems in the body, including with the immune system.

      4. Processed Foods

      Packaged foods are made with chemicals and substances intended to help preserve them and help them stay looking appetizing longer. The problem is that those chemicals also hurt the immune system, heart, and respiratory health.

      Processed foods are things such as:

          • Pre-packaged cereal

          • American cheese

          • Frozen meals

          • Fast foods

        Eating a lot of processed foods leads to chronic health issues such as weight gain, insulin resistance, and inflammation.

        The key to a healthy diet is to eat things like red meat and fruit juices in moderation. Staying away from foods with no nutritional value is also essential. There are many delicious foods that help build the immune system to substitute.

        Foods That Build Immunity

        The truth is that there is no one individual food that will boost your immunity. Specific nutritional patterns might better prepare the body for microbial attacks and unnecessary inflammation, but specific foods don’t offer special protection.

        Each stage of the immune response depends on a supply of micronutrients selenium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, protein, and glutamine. They are found in many types of foods. 

        Eating a varied diet is all it takes to boost the immune system, but it must be full of highly nutritious foods containing the nutrients the immune system requires. Those include:


        Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, and tangerines are chock full of vitamin C, which helps produce the white blood cells that fight infection. The human body doesn’t produce or store vitamin C, so it’s extremely important to consume appropriate amounts every day to keep your immune system running smoothly.

        Red Bell Peppers

        If fruit isn’t your thing, you can get a lot of vitamin C from red bell peppers. They have three times as much as an orange, ounce for ounce. They are also rich in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that reduces inflammation and supports immunity. Beta-carotene is also great for the eyes and skin.


        This cruciferous vegetable is supercharged with all the essential stuff the body needs to perform at its best, such as Vitamins A, C, and E, fiber, and antioxidants. According to scientists, raw or steamed broccoli is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. 

        Eating these foods, and others, such as spinach, almonds, and yogurt, ensures your immune system always has the fuel it needs for high performance. 

        Feeding Your Immune System Starts by Feeding Your Mind

        Finding that your immune system isn’t up to par can be terrifying, but there are solutions. Understanding how foods affect your body is the first step. 

        Dr. Karen Threlkel, ND, is a naturopathic doctor serving women (and women’s health concerns) primarily in the greater D.C. area. She provides a holistic approach to medicine (mind-body-spirit) and natural-focused remedies for treating symptoms and underlying conditions.

        Contact our offices today to see everything we can do for you.

        FAQs About Foods that Destroy Your Immune System

        The immune system requires proper fuel to protect the body from harmful pathogens.

        No, not all food contains the nutrients needed for the body to function correctly.

        Foods high in sugar, saturated fats, calories, and salt, as well as processed foods, can be harmful to the immune system.

        A strong immune system fights off germs, illnesses, diseases, and harmful cell changes, essential for our survival.

        Quality sleep, exercise, and proper nutrition are key factors that keep the immune system working at its best.

        Diet can affect inflammatory processes, white blood cell functioning, gut barrier functions, and the microbiome, all of which influence the immune system.

        CRAP stands for Chemicals, Refined sugar, Artificial sweeteners, and Processed foods, which can hamper the immune system and make it easier to get sick.

        About The Author:

        Picture of Dr. Karen Threlkel, Naturopathic Physician, Washington DC

        Dr. Karen Threlkel, Naturopathic Physician, Washington DC

        Dr. Threlkel received her degree of Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine from The National College for Naturopathic Medicine (now called The National University of Natural Medicine) in Portland, Oregon. She also holds a Bachelor Degree in Kinesiology from The University of Maryland. She is licensed in Naturopathic Medicine by the Government of the District of Columbia Department of Health. Dr. Threlkel is a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, past president & current member of the Washington DC Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

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