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The Vegan Diet & Your Immune System — Protecting Your Family’s Health

by | June 18, 2020

By Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD

Choosing a whole-food, vegan diet is not only possible, but one of the best things you can do for your family’s health.

While good nutrition is never a foolproof guarantee for the health outcomes we desire, overwhelming evidence shows that feeding ourselves well is worth prioritizing, especially when it comes to supporting the immune system.1 

family eating immune system boosting vegan diet
Preparing healthy meals can be a bonding experience (wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock.com)

How A Whole-Food Vegan Diet Supports Your Immune System

Plants contain unique compounds that support your body’s ability to fight off illness. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants that can help protect your cells and keep your immune system functioning at its best. A whole-food, plant-based diet is also known to reduce inflammation, a major risk factor for disease susceptibility.2,3

Furthermore, plants are rich in fiber, a critical nutrient for gut health. What does this have to do with immunity? Research indicates that much of your overall health stems from the health of your gut and its bacterial balance.4 Nourishing your gut well is one of the key pieces to optimal immune function.

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plant-based meal
A variety of whole foods can be included in a vegan meal plan (Jukov studio/Shutterstock.com)

The Best Plants For The Job

While there are lots of not-so-healthy options that can be included in a vegan diet, you really can’t go wrong when choosing to eat whole plant foods. My best advice is to try new things, find what your family enjoys, and incorporate a wide variety into your rotation. 

Try to regularly incorporate immune-supporting foods from these categories in your family’s diet:5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14

  • Legumes: lentils, peas, chickpeas, black beans, navy beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, peanuts, pinto beans, edamame
  • Leafy greens: spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens, collard greens
  • Berries: blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, acai berries 
  • Cruciferous veggies: kale, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy 
  • Nuts and seeds: cashews, almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, hemp seeds
  • Whole grains: amaranth, quinoa, barley, oats, whole wheat
  • Roots and tubers: sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, radishes, parsnips, turnips
  • Alliums: garlic, onions, scallions, leeks, chives, shallots
  • Mushrooms: portobello, shiitake, white button 

Not surprisingly, this also means that avoiding sugary, processed, and animal-derived foods is also a good idea. Not only do these foods lack many of the immunity-boosting nutrients found in whole plant foods, eating them on a regular basis has been shown to increase your risk for numerous chronic diseases.15,16,17

Fueling your body well with whole plant foods is one of the best things you can do for your, and your family’s, innate immune defenses. 

Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD is a writer, plant-based lifestyle strategist for families, and mom of two living in Colorado. Find her on Instagram here.

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One Response to “The Vegan Diet & Your Immune System — Protecting Your Family’s Health”

  1. The Vegan Diet & Your Immune System — Protecting Your Family’s Health – Lifesinmouseyears – Health and Fitness
    June 18th, 2020 @ 8:50 pm

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