Popular Foods Wrecking Your Immune System, Says Dietitian — Eat This Not That

By Ghuman


Eating the wrong foods can have a negative impact on your immune system. According to dietitian, certain popular foods can wreak havoc on your immune system and leave you vulnerable to illness and infection. In this article, we will discuss the popular foods that are wrecking your immune system and provide some healthier alternatives. We will also provide tips on how to make better food choices to help keep your immune system strong and healthy.

Popular Foods Wrecking Your Immune System, Says Dietitian — Eat This Not That

If you’re looking to keep your immune system in top shape, you may want to rethink some of your favorite foods. According to dietitian and nutritionist, Karen Ansel, certain popular foods can wreak havoc on your immune system. Here’s what she recommends avoiding and what to eat instead.

Foods to Avoid

  • Processed meats: Bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and deli meats are all high in sodium and saturated fat, which can weaken your immune system.
  • Refined grains: White bread, white rice, and other refined grains are low in fiber and can cause inflammation in the body.
  • Sugary drinks: Sodas, energy drinks, and other sugary beverages can cause blood sugar spikes and lead to weight gain, both of which can weaken your immune system.
  • Fried foods: French fries, fried chicken, and other fried foods are high in fat and calories, which can lead to weight gain and inflammation.

Foods to Eat

  • Fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which can help boost your immune system.
  • Whole grains: Whole grains are high in fiber and can help reduce inflammation in the body.
  • Lean proteins: Lean proteins like chicken, fish, and beans are low in saturated fat and can help keep your immune system strong.
  • Healthy fats: Healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, and avocados can help reduce inflammation and keep your immune system strong.

By avoiding processed meats, refined grains, sugary drinks, and fried foods, and eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, you can help keep your immune system strong and healthy.

A global pandemic has brought immune health to the forefront of conversations. Thankfully, immune health can be majorly influenced by lifestyle choices. What we eat, how we move, and how we feel all impact our immune system.

The benefit of making daily healthy habit changes is clear: we have power over our immune health and can impact it through diet and lifestyle choices.

Consider limiting the following food choices, and opting for healthier swaps! Then, be sure to check out our list of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.


High fructose corn syrup in the form of soda has been shown to increase inflammatory markers specifically in the context of a high-calorie diet.

CRP, a common lab value that assesses systemic inflammation, was found to be elevated in the soda-drinking group in this study.

Further, drinking your calories makes it even easier to over-consume calories—thus promoting inflammation.

“Too much processed sugar may impact immunity by increasing markers of inflammation in the body,” says Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD Owner of Sound Bites Nutrition. “Go easy on candy, sugar-sweetened beverages, and desserts high in added sugar.”

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drinking alcohol

Alcohol is known for being disruptive to our immune system. Alcohol is treated as a toxin in the body and takes significant resources to process and remove from our system. It’s also well-known for decreasing our quality of sleep and thus, impacting our ability to fight colds and viruses the following day.

“Excessive alcohol consumption can disrupt the immune system and impair the body’s ability to defend against infection,” says Joan Salge Blake EdD, RDN, FAND, professor Boston University and host of nutrition and health podcast, Spot On! “Alcohol can also impair the gut, altering the gut microbiome, and the function of the immune system.”

Consider other Popular Drinks That Increase Inflammation, Says Science.

fast food

Generally, western civilizations get a bad rep for their quality of food. In fact, researchers observed systemic inflammation in mice when fed a standard western diet.

One of the hallmarks of western culture is fast food. The combination of fried foods, refined flours, and added sugars contribute to high-calorie diets that wreak havoc on our immune system.

Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD, author of The Nourished Brain, unpacks this study: “A German study found that one too many fast-food meals may cause the immune system to act as if it’s responding to bacterial infections that may accelerate the development of arteriosclerosis and diabetes.”

“One too many greasy hamburgers with fries and a large soda takes a toll on immune health,” she continues. “Fast food addiction will be a diet devoid of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, each important component for a healthy immune functioning.”

omega 6

Omega 6 fatty acids are a type of fat that may be linked to decreased immunity specifically when overconsumed. These oils typically come in hyper-processed forms and may generally be considered lower quality.

For immune health, focus on a balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids instead of removing these oils from your diet.

charred meats

Charred meats produce a compound called advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that increase oxidative stress. Foods containing these compounds have been linked to worse immune health and colon cancer.

“Limit charred meats and reduce intake of processed meats as much as possible,” says Jacqueline Gomes, RDN, MBA. “Examples include charred processed meats like hot dogs, bacon, and skin-on poultry.”

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