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By Kelley Herring

It’s hard to read anything these days without encountering propaganda about the benefits of a plant-based diet for planetary and personal health. In fact, just this week, Bill Gates is dominating the headlines for his recommendation that wealthy nations shift away from consumption of beef toward 100% consumption of synthetic meat!

We’re not even going to dignify this with a response!

But we would like to address the commonly-held perspective that a “plant-based” diet is the key to optimal health and enhanced immunity. In my previous article, we discussed the evidence that the opposite is true – an animal-based diet is the key to strong immunity. I also highlighted a study, which clearly showed that when compared to a vegetarian diet, an animal-based diet resulted in greater numbers and stronger activity of immune cells.

Today, we’ll show WHY this is true… by highlighting the most powerful immune-boosting nutrients… showing how they work to promote immunity… and demonstrating that they are almost exclusively found in the greatest concentrations within animal-based foods!

So, let’s take a look at the nutrients your body needs to build a strong immune system and how they work:

immunity, heart disease, essential fatty acids, muscle, dementia, wrinkles, skin health, b vitamins,choline, grassfed nutrition

Protein

High-quality protein is the primary “ingredient” you need for a healthy immune system. The amino acids in protein are required to produce and activate your body’s immunity “soldiers”, including T-cells, B cells, natural killer (NK) cells and macrophages. Amino acids are also used to produce antibodies and other microbe-killing substances, like cytokines.1

For healthy people, protein intake should be around 0.5 g / lb of body weight daily. For those at risk of viral infection or to boost immunity, 1 to 1.5 g / lb is advised.2 And please keep in mind that plant sources of protein are “incomplete” and deficient in at least one essential amino acid. Instead choose complete, bioavailable proteins from animal sources like: grass-fed beef, wild seafood, pastured poultry, pork, eggs, and undenatured whey protein.

Omega-3

These essential fatty acids boost the immune system in several ways. They boost B-cell activity, decrease inflammatory substances and increase phagocytosis.3 Omega-3 fats have also been found to be beneficial in improving sepsis and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). This is the “cytokine storm” which often causes death in Covid-19 patients.4 To get the benefits of omega-3, consume EPA and DHA from wild fish and other seafood.

Vitamin A

Called the “anti-infection” vitamin, vitamin A acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory that is vital to healthy immune response.5 It helps to maintain integrity of the gut lining, protecting the body against infections. It is also required for macrophages to engulf and destroy invaders. It helps to regulate the number and activity of natural killer (NK) cells. Vitamin A is even involved in signaling stem cells to become various immune cells!6

Vitamin A is ONLY found in animal foods. Excellent sources include, grass-fed beef liver, eggs, cod liver oil, butter and other dairy products. Foods like sweet potatoes and winter squash contain beta-carotene – which can be converted into vitamin A, but this process is inefficient.7

Iron

The mineral, iron, modulates genes and proteins involved in the immune system, influences inflammation and is used directly against pathogens by immune cells.8 Heme iron is the most bioavailable form. And it is found only in animal foods, particularly red meat. The vegetarian form of iron (known as non-heme iron) is found primarily in legumes, but is very poorly absorbed in comparison.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is protective against a myriad of diseases – including cancer, autoimmune disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Those who are deficient in Vitamin D have been shown to experience worse outcomes for COVID-19, while optimizing vitamin D levels improves COVID prognosis.9 Vitamin D levels are typically very low in vegetarians and even lower in vegans.10,11 And while you should get the majority of your vitamin D from regular, direct sunlight exposure, animal foods (including organ meats, wild seafood, eggs and dairy) do provide small amounts of this critical immune-boosting nutrient.

Zinc

This well-known, immune-boosting mineral is essential for the development and activation of T cells. A zinc deficiency also weakens the immune system by increasing oxidative stress and reducing two important immune cells – macrophages and monocytes.12 And increased cellular concentrations of zinc impair the replication of viruses, including coronavirus.13 Excellent sources of bioavailable zinc include clean-sourced oysters, grass-fed beef and lamb, pastured poultry and pork.

Vitamin B6

This B vitamin, also called pyridoxine, plays a key role in the production of T cells and immune factors called interleukins.14 What’s more, a deficiency in vitamin B6 causes shrinkage of two key immune organs – the thymus and the spleen.15 Wild seafood, pastured poultry and pork, grass-fed beef, lamb and bison, as well as organ meats all provide a good source of vitamin B6.

Vitamin B12

This B vitamin, also called cobalamin, plays a host of roles in the immune system. It is required to make white blood cells. It enhances the number of cytotoxic T cells against viral infection. It maintains normal function of macrophages. So, it’s no surprise that vitamin B12 is used as immunotherapy, including as a therapeutic against sepsis.16 Unfortunately, vitamin B12 deficiency is widespread, especially among those who follow a “plant-based” diet. Studies have shown up to 77 percent of vegetarians and 92 percent of vegans being are vitamin B12 deficient, compared to just 11 percent of omnivores.17,18,19

Vitamin B12 is abundant in meats and seafood, including grass-fed beef, lamb, bison, pork, clams, mussels, and wild salmon.

Selenium

This vital micronutrient boosts immunity and reduces inflammation. Selenium deficiency has also been shown to worsen viral illnesses, including coronavirus, making even “mild” pathogens highly virulent.20,21 Optimize your selenium levels with wild seafood – including wild shrimp, scallops, sardines, crab and salmon – as well as grass-fed beef, pastured pork and poultry.

Vitamin C

One of the best known immune-boosting nutrients, vitamin C plays many roles in the immune system. It supports epithelial barrier function, participates in the growth and development of immune cells, helps white blood cells migrate to infection sites and aids in the production of antibodies.22,23 Vitamin C is one critical immune nutrient that is most prevalent in plant foods, including bell peppers, kiwi, brussels sprouts, broccoli, berries, lemons and other citrus fruits, as well as herbs including parsley and thyme.

Many other nutrients and trace elements are also involved with maintaining healthy immunity including vitamin E, thiamin, copper, choline, glutamine and folate.24 In addition to ensuring adequate supply of immune-boosting nutrients in your diet, it is also important to:

  • Strictly avoid vegetable oils. These processed omega-6 fats are highly inflammatory. They are also linked to decreased immune function and nearly every chronic disease.25 What’s more, diets high in vegetable oils are suspected to play a role in the development of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Opt instead for traditional immune-boosting fats including tallow, lard, butter, ghee, duck fat and coconut oil.

  • Achieve a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese is clearly associated with lowered immune function. It impairs T cells, B cells, natural killer (NK) cells and the production of antibodies.26 What’s more, obese individuals who have been vaccinated have twice the rate of influenza or flu-like illness, indicating that obesity impairs the adaptive immune response.27

  • Improve gut health. An imbalance of bacteria in the gut (known as dysbiosis) sets the stage for infections and chronic disease. Achieving a healthy weight and avoiding refined carbohydrates – namely starches and sugars – are both important steps to reduce the harmful bacteria that can compromise immune health.28 Probiotic foods, including traditionally lacto-fermented foods, may be beneficial to the microbiome and therefore, immunity.29

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The Animal-Based Diet Plan for Bulletproof Immunity

Your greatest protection against illness comes from avoiding stress, getting proper sleep, and supporting your immune system with a nutrient-dense diet!

The great news is that the most powerful immune-boosting foods you can consume are the animal-based “superfoods” you know and love! Here are some ideas for “multivitamin meals” – chock full of the above listed immune-boosting nutrients:

Read more health and wellness articles from Kelley Herring on our Discover Blog.

kelley herring

ED NOTE:

Kelley Herring is the author of the brand new book Keto Breads – which includes more information you need to know about why it is so important to avoid wheat and grains in your diet, plus how to use healthy replacements for these foods to create all the breads you love… without the gluten, carbs and health-harming effects. Click here to learn more about Keto Breads

References

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  2. Kurpad, A.V. 2006. The requirements of protein & amino acid during acute & chronic infections. The Indian Journal of Medical Research, 124(2), 129–148.
  3. Gutiérrez, S. Svahn, S.L. Johansson, M.E., 2019. Effects of Omega-3 fatty acids on immune cells. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 20(20), 5028.
  4. Chen, H. et al. , 2018. Correlation analysis of omega-3 fatty acids and mortality of sepsis and sepsis-induced ARDS in adults: data from previous randomized controlled trials. Nutrition Journal, 17(1), 57.
  5. Stephensen, C.B. 2001. Vitamin A, infection, and immune function. Annual Review of Nutrition, 21(1), 167–192.
  6. Gombart, A.F. Pierre, A. Maggini, S. 2020. A review of micronutrients and the immune system-working in harmony to reduce the risk of infection. Nutrients, 12(1), 236.
  7. Ross CA. Vitamin A. In: Coates PM, Betz JM, Blackman MR, et al., eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. 2nd ed. London and New York: Informa Healthcare; 2010:778-91.
  8. Ward RJ, Crichton RR, Taylor DL, Della Corte L, Srai SK, Dexter DT. Iron and the immune system. J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2011 Mar;118(3):315-28. doi: 10.1007/s00702-010-0479-3. Epub 2010 Sep 29. PMID: 20878427.
  9. Over 200 Scientists & Doctors Call for Increased Vitamin D Use To Combat COVID-19. https://vitamindforall.org/letter.html
  10. Craig WJ. Nutrition concerns and health effects of vegetarian diets. Nutr Clin Pract. 2010 Dec;25(6):613-20. doi: 10.1177/0884533610385707. PMID: 21139125.
  11. Kristensen NB, Madsen ML, Hansen TH, Allin KH, Hoppe C, Fagt S, Lausten MS, Gøbel RJ, Vestergaard H, Hansen T, Pedersen O. Intake of macro- and micronutrients in Danish vegans. Nutr J. 2015 Oct 30;14:115. doi: 10.1186/s12937-015-0103-3. Erratum in: Nutr J. 2016;15:16. PMID: 26518233; PMCID: PMC4628270.
  12. Maywald, M. , Wessels, I. , and Rink, L. , 2017. Zinc Signals and Immunity. International Journal of Molecular Sciences , 18(10), 2222.
  13. Velthuis, A.J. , et al. , 2010. Zn(2+) inhibits coronavirus and arterivirus RNA polymerase activity in vitro and zinc ionophores block the replication of these viruses in cell culture. PLoS Pathogens, 6(11), e1001176.
  14. Qian, B. , et al. , 2017. Effects of Vitamin B6 deficiency on the composition and functional potential of T cell populations. Journal of Immunology Research , 2017, 1–12.
  15. Philip C Calder. Nutrition, immunity and COVID-19.BMJ Nutr Prev Health. 2020; 3(1): 74–92. Published online 2020 May 20. doi: 10.1136/bmjnph-2020-00008
  16. Tamura, J. , et al. , 1999. Immunomodulation by vitamin B12: augmentation of CD8+ T lymphocytes and natural killer (NK) cell activity in vitamin B12-deficient patients by methyl-B12 treatment. Clinical & Experimental Immunology, 116(1), 28–32.
  17. Herrmann W, Schorr H, Obeid R, Geisel J. Vitamin B-12 status, particularly holotranscobalamin II and methylmalonic acid concentrations, and hyperhomocysteinemia in vegetarians. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Jul;78(1):131-6. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/78.1.131. PMID: 12816782.
  18. Herrmann W, Obeid R, Schorr H, Geisel J. Functional vitamin B12 deficiency and determination of holotranscobalamin in populations at risk. Clin Chem Lab Med. 2003 Nov;41(11):1478-88. doi: 10.1515/CCLM.2003.227. PMID: 14656029.
  19. Herrmann W, Obeid R, Schorr H, Geisel J. The usefulness of holotranscobalamin in predicting vitamin B12 status in different clinical settings. Curr Drug Metab. 2005 Feb;6(1):47-53. doi: 10.2174/1389200052997384. PMID: 15720207.
  20. Zhang, L. , and Liu, Y. , 2020. Potential interventions for novel coronavirus in China: a systematic review. Journal of Medical Virology, 92(5), 479–490.
  21. Yu, L. , et al. , 2011. Protection from H1N1 influenza virus infections in mice by supplementation with selenium: a comparison with selenium-deficient mice. Biological Trace Element Research , 141(1–3), 254–261.
  22. Hemila, H. , and Douglas, R.M. , 1999. Vitamin C and acute respiratory infections. The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, 3(9), 756–761.
  23. Zhang, L. , and Liu, Y. , 2020. Potential interventions for novel coronavirus in China: a systematic review. Journal of Medical Virology, 92(5), 479–490.
  24. Kim H. Glutamine as an immunonutrient. Yonsei Med J. 2011 Nov;52(6):892-7. doi: 10.3349/ymj.2011.52.6.892. PMID: 22028151; PMCID: PMC3220259.
  25. Simopoulos AP. The importance of the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio in cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2008 Jun;233(6):674-88. doi: 10.3181/0711-MR-311. Epub 2008 Apr 11. PMID: 18408140.
  26. Milner JJ, Beck MA. The impact of obesity on the immune response to infection. Proc Nutr Soc. 2012 May;71(2):298-306. doi: 10.1017/S0029665112000158. Epub 2012 Mar 14. PMID: 22414338; PMCID: PMC4791086.
  27. Green WD, Beck MA. Obesity Impairs the Adaptive Immune Response to Influenza Virus. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2017 Nov;14(Supplement_5):S406-S409. doi: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.201706-447AW. PMID: 29161078; PMCID: PMC5711276.
  28. Ley RE, Bäckhed F, Turnbaugh P, Lozupone CA, Knight RD, Gordon JI. Obesity alters gut microbial ecology. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Aug 2;102(31):11070-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0504978102. Epub 2005 Jul 20. PMID: 16033867; PMCID: PMC1176910.
  29. Lomax AR, Calder PC. Probiotics, immune function, infection and inflammation: a review of the evidence from studies conducted in humans. Curr Pharm Des. 2009; 15(13):1428-518.
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