Eating foods that benefit your immune system is one of the best ways to maintain your health. One of the critical components of your immune system is the white blood cells. Your body depends on WBCs to fight antigens such as bacteria.
White blood cells attack antigens allowing you to stay healthy. To increase the number of white blood cells in your body as well as strengthen them, you need to eat foods rich in minerals and vitamins like B vitamins, vitamin C, and selenium, among others.
Therefore, proper nutrition is vital with regard to having a robust immune system. It’s worth noting that there isn’t a single food that can help boost your WBCs. However, several foods have been proven to contain the nutrients necessary to improve WBCs.
This review will discuss the foods that can help boost WBCs and the nutrients they contain. But first, let’s discuss the types of WBCs in the blood and their uses.
Types of White Blood Cells
Basophils make up only 1% of the white blood cells in the body. They secrete histamines as an immune response which helps them respond to allergies.
Eosinophils are WBCs whose main objective is responding to allergic reactions caused by substances like pollen and terminating cancerous cells.
Lymphocytes are the WBCs responsible for creating antibodies that help protect your body against threats like bacteria and viruses.
Monocytes are a type of WBCs whose function is to get rid of dead cells in the body. Of all WBCs, monocytes have the longest lifespan.
More than 50% of the WBCs in the blood are Neutrophils. These WBCs signal the basophils, eosinophils, lymphocytes, and monocytes to attack any antigens in the body.
Foods to Eat to Boost White Blood Cell Levels
Berries are rich in antioxidants like bioflavonoids as well as vitamin C. Berries have more vitamin C than most citrus fruits, with one cup of strawberries having roughly 100 mg of vitamin C, double what a whole orange has. The vitamin C in berries helps in the formation of new WBCs, which come in handy in fighting off new infections.
Broccoli contains a sulfur-rich compound SFN (sulforaphane) that can help boost the number of WBCs in the blood and your immune system as well. Steam your broccoli and eat it plain or use it to make a salad; just ensure you don’t overcook it.
3. Citrus Fruits
Eating lemons or making hot lemon is a common cure for colds and flu. The reason behind this is that the vitamin C in lemons boosts the production of WBCs.
WBCs, as illustrated above, are crucial in fighting and eliminating antigens such as bacteria and viruses, so boosting your vitamin C intake can help prevent colds.
However, it’s not just lemons in the citrus family that are rich in vitamin C. Other citrus fruits like grapefruit, limes, and oranges can help boost vitamin C levels in your body. It’s worth noting that vitamin C can’t be stored in the body, so you should eat citrus fruits regularly.
4. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish such as anchovies, herring, salmon, and tuna contain omega-3 fatty acids, which promote the functionality of white blood cells. To be more specific, fatty fish contains two omega-3 fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
Research has proven that garlic is an antioxidant that helps WBCs fight and eliminate antigens and also increase the number of WBCs in the blood.
However, garlic does much more than boost your blood’s WBC count. According to the NCCIH (National Center for Complementary and Integrated Health), garlic can help deal with hypertension and slow down atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries).
Ginger is renowned for its anti-inflammatory properties. It also has immune-boosting properties meaning it can boost white blood cells.
To reduce inflammation in various body parts, like the gut and throat, ginger increases blood flow, allowing white blood cells to work.
7. Green Tea
Green tea is rich in antioxidants, catechins, flavonoids, and vitamins. Green tea is especially rich in catechin known as EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which is responsible for most of the benefits associated with drinking green tea.
One study has revealed that the EGCG in green tea can eliminate influenza. EGCG has also been proven effective in improving the number of WBCs in the blood.
8. Kiwi Fruit
Kiwi fruit is rich in antioxidants like choline, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Kiwis are also rich in fiber, potassium, and vitamins C, E, and K. All these antioxidants and micronutrients help boost the number of WBCs, which in turn boost immunity.
9. Papaya Leaves
Papaya leaves are rich in a compound known as acetogenins which boost the number of WBCs in the blood and fight off cancerous cells.
You might be wondering how to ingest papaya leaves. Just pluck several from a tree, wash them and blend them. You can add some honey to sweeten the papaya leaf blend.
Apart from being rich in vitamins A, C, and K, spinach also contains antioxidants like lutein, beta carotene, coumaric, and ferulic acid. All these antioxidants and vitamins help boost the production of WBCs, which helps the body fight off infections easily.
11. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds might not be massive, but they are rich in antioxidants like flavonoids and phenolic acid and nutrients like selenium and vitamin E. These nutrients and vitamins are critical in maintaining the immune system.
Turmeric is ideally a spice, but it’s also beneficial to the immune system thanks to high levels of curcumin. This is a compound that has been proven to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress and prevent cell death and the multiplication of cancerous cells.
In addition, this compound helps boost the number of white blood cells, antioxidants, and plaque-forming cells. You can grate turmeric and add it to your food or a smoothie.
In conclusion, these are the foods you can eat to improve your blood’s white blood cell count. Eating one of these foods won’t magically boost the number of white blood cells in your blood; you need to find a way to combine several of them to enjoy the benefits.