Balanced Lifestyle

Maintaining a healthy immune system is always important, but it is especially top of mind today. What does it take to maintain a healthy immune system? The design of our immune system is complex – hence the word, “system” rather than single unit. It is influenced by an ideal balance of many factors, both internally and externally. The answer is just as multi-faceted.

Is there a specific diet to follow?

There is no single food or nutrient that will “boost” your immune system or provide special protection, but rather a balanced diet consisting of a range of vitamins and minerals, along with other non-diet or external factors including managed stress, physical activity, and regular sleep contribute to the normal functioning of the immune system. The Mediterranean lifestyle, for example, promotes a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, olive oil, nuts and seeds, as well as promotes habits related to stress management and physical activity1. Foods emphasized in the Mediterranean diet contain polyphenols, which are associated with reduced inflammation, a mechanism that benefits the immune system2. Components critical for the growth and function of immune cells include several micronutrients, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, B vitamins, and polyphenols3. Walnuts are a nutrient powerhouse containing an excellent source of omega-3 ALA (the only nut with an excellent source of ALA) and a good source of vitamin B6 (0.2mg/oz) – both part of immune system functioning. Among tree nuts and peanuts, walnuts have the greatest amount of polyphenols4, which are beneficial plant compounds that may play a role in a variety of diseases and health outcomes, including cancer, heart health, cognitive health and inflammation5.*

What about gut health – does that help?

All roads lead to gut health. You’ve likely heard all the buzz about maintaining a “good gut” and this may be beneficial for your immune system, too. Good gut health has been linked to a variety of health benefits including those for digestion, metabolism and the immune system6. In fact, research suggests walnuts may be a good choice for gut health because of their prebiotic properties7. For more on walnuts and gut health, visit here.

Quick tips to support your immune system:

  1. Eat a balanced diet, like the Mediterranean diet.
  2. Get adequate sleep and keep to a regular sleep schedule.
  3. Adopt strategies to manage or reduce stress, such as physical activity or meditation.
  4. Wash your hands!
 And speaking of maintaining a balanced diet, below are a few Mediterranean Diet-friendly recipes:

*Walnuts offer a variety of antioxidants (3.721 mmol/oz), including polyphenols (69.3 ± 16.5 μmol catechin equivalents/g) and gamma tocopherol (5.91 mg/ounce). The data for antioxidant capacity of foods generated by test-tube methods cannot be extrapolated to human effects. Clinical trials to test benefits of dietary antioxidants have produced mixed results.


  1. Willett WC, Sacks F, Trichopoulou A, et al. Mediterranean diet pyramid: a cultural model for healthy eating. Am J Clin Nutr 1995;61(6 Suppl):1402S-1406S.
  2. Casas R, Sacanella E, Estruch R. The immune protective effect of the Mediterranean diet against chronic low-grade inflammatory diseases. Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets. 2014;14(4):245-254. doi:10.2174/1871530314666140922153350
  3. Iddir M, Brito A, Dingeo G, Fernandez Del Campo SS, Samouda H, La Frano MR, Bohn T. Strengthening the Immune System and Reducing Inflammation and Oxidative Stress through Diet and Nutrition: Considerations during the COVID-19 Crisis. Nutrients. 2020; 12(6):1562.
  4. Vinson JA, Cai Y. Nuts, especially walnuts, have both antioxidant quantity and efficacy and exhibit significant potential health benefits. Food Funct. 2012;3(2):134–140. doi:10.1039/c2fo10152a
  5. Sánchez-González C, Ciudad CJ, Noé V, Izquierdo-Pulido M. Health benefits of walnut polyphenols: An exploration beyond their lipid profile. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017;57(16):3373–3383. doi:10.1080/10408398.2015.1126218
  6. Bischoff, S.C. ‘Gut health’: a new objective in medicine?. BMC Med 9, 24 (2011).
  7. Holscher HD, Guetterman HM, Swanson KS, et al. Walnut Consumption Alters the Gastrointestinal Microbiota, Microbially Derived Secondary Bile Acids, and Health Markers in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Nutr. 2018;148(6):861–867. doi:10.1093/jn/nxy004
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