During uncertain or difficult times certain foods may help keep your immune system strong so its a good idea to try and get some of these immune boosters into your diet!
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Most people turn to Vitamin C when they feel they are developing or have caught a cold. Scientists are not exactly sure how it helps, but Vitamin C may reduce the duration of common cold symptoms and improve the function of the human immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells which are key to fighting infections. Popular citrus fruits include grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes and clementines. Because your body can’t produce or store Vitamin C, we need to take it daily for continued health. Most citrus fruits are high in Vitamin C and with so many options it’s should be easy to add to your diets.
Blueberries have antioxidant properties that may boost the immune system and contain a type of flavonoid called anthocyanin, which has antioxidant properties. A study in 2016 also found that flavonoids play an essential role in the respiratory tract’s immune defense system with researchers finding that people who ate foods rich in flavonoids were less likely to get an upper respiratory tract infection, or common cold, than those who did not.
Papaya is another fruit loaded with vitamin C. 224% of the daily recommended amount of Vitamin C can be found in a single papaya! They also have a digestive enzyme called papain that has anti-inflammatory effects and good amounts of Potassium, B Vitamins and Folate, all of which are beneficial to our overall health.
Kiwi Fruit are naturally full of a number of essential nutrients, including Folate, Potassium, Vitamin K and Vitamin C. Vitamin C boosts white blood cells to fight infection whilst the Kiwi Fruits other nutrients keep the rest of your body functioning properly.
Elderberrry is a shrub that has been used medicinally for centuries. Extracts of elderberry have antiviral, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory properties and is also high in flavonoids. Some studies suggest elderberry extract reduces the duration of the flu and helps reduce swelling in mucus membranes.
Acai Berry is a black-purple fruit derived from the acai palm tree in Brazil, Trinidad, and certain parts of South America. The fruit is high in anthocyanins, flavonoid molecules that are antioxidants that may combat oxidative stress in the body by mopping up free radicals. There is considerable research being undertaken as a potential treatment for all kinds of conditions with areas of study including increasing prostate specific antigen (PSA), cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome, lower rectum cancer and constripation.
A two-cup serving of watermelon has 270 mg of potassium which is 30% of the daily value of Vitamin A, and 25% of the value of Vitamin C. It also provides Vitamin B6 and Glutathione for proper immune function with another benefit being that a two-cup serving of watermelon also has only 80 calories!
Lab studies have found the beneficial compounds in pomegranate extract inhibit the growth of harmful types of bacteria including E coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Yersinia, Shigella, Listeria, Clostridium, Staphylococcus aureus, and other organisms. There’s also evidence pomegranate compounds inhibit the growth of bacteria in the mouth that contribute to periodontal disease, plaque buildup and gingivitis. Pomegranate extracts have antiviral properties against the flu, herpes and other viruses and in addition to fighting bad viruses and bacteria, there is evidence that it promotes the growth of beneficial gut flora that boosts the immune system including Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.
Red Bell Peppers
Ounce for ounce, red bell peppers contain twice as much Vitamin C as citrus fruit. They’re also a rich source of Beta Carotene which helps keep our eyes and skin healthy. Besides boosting your immune system, Vitamin C may also help maintain healthy skin. Although they contain lots of Vitamin C, Red Bell Peppers don’t have a high sugar level in the same way fruit does so they are great if you need to watch your sugar level. Stir frying and roasting are the best way to maintain the nutrients.
Broccoli is supercharged with vitamins and minerals. One cup of broccoli provides as much Vitamin C as an orange and it also provides Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6 and E, potent antioxidants, such as Glutathione and Sulforaphane, Beta-Carotene, Potassium, Magnesium, Zinc and Iron so it’s a good vegetable to eat regularly to support our immune system health! Broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables around and the best way to make the most of its nutrients is to cook it as little as possible — or better still, not at all.
One medium sweet potato contains 120% of the daily value of Vitamin A and 30% of the daily value of Vitamin C for just 100 calories! They are also rich in Beta Carotene, an antioxidant that gives the skin of the potatoes its orange colour. It’s also a source of Vitamin A which helps to keep skin healthy and may even provide some protection from sun damage from ultraviolet (UV) rays. Sweet potatoes are cholesterol-free, fat-free and serve up a healthy portion of fibre too!
Mushrooms are high in Selenium and B vitamins like Riboflavin and Niacin which are necessary for the immune system to work to its best. They are also high in polysaccharides, sugar-like molecules that boost immune function and synthesise Vitamin D when they are exposed to UV light. Mushrooms may therefore be the only plant source of Vitamin D which is thought to boost the immune system.
Garlic is a must-have for your health. Early civilizations recognised its value in fighting infections and there is some research showing that it may also help lower blood pressure and slow down hardening of the arteries. Garlic’s has antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties and its immune-boosting properties seem to come from a heavy concentration of sulfur-containing compounds, such as Allicin. The bulbs are rich in antioxidants that may quench free radicals that play a role in Alzheimers disease, heart disease, cancers, and other conditions. The antiviral properties may be helpful in reducing the severity of colds, flu or COVID-19 infections.
Ginger is thought to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, antibacterial and antiviral properties. It may also help decrease nausea, chronic pain and inflammation which can help reduce a sore throat and other inflammatory illnesses. Ginger may also possess cholesterol-lowering properties It can be used in a variety of dishes and desserts, as well as in teas.
Spinach is rich in Vitamin C but is also packed with numerous antioxidants such as Flavonoids and Carotenoids, Folate, Fibre, Magnesium and Iron as well as Vitamin E and Beta Carotene, which may increase the infection-fighting ability of your immune system and provide the body with necessary nutrients for cell division and DNA repair.. Similar to broccoli, spinach is healthiest when it’s cooked as little as possible so that it retains its nutrients. However, light cooking enhances its Vitamin A and allows other nutrients to be released from Oxalic Acids.
Nutrition guidelines recommend adults consume 3 servings of dairy products per day. Low-fat yogurt provides 11 grams of protein, 250 calories, and almost 400 mg of calcium per 8-ounce serving. Low-fat yogurt can also help meet your daily requirement for Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin). Adequate levels of Vitamin D and other nutrients are necessary for robust immune function. Yogurt is rich in probiotics including Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, and Bifidus and these strains may boost immune function and help reduce the length and severity of colds. Beneficial gut flora are also needed for proper digestion, detoxification, and immune function. Look for yogurts that have “live and active cultures” such as Greek yogurt. These cultures may stimulate your immune system to help fight diseases. Go for plain yogurts rather than the pre-flavored ones which are loaded with sugar. Try sweetening plain yogurt with healthy fruits and a drizzle of honey instead. Yogurt is also a great source of Vitamin D which helps regulate the immune system and is thought to boost our body’s natural defenses against diseases.
NUTS AND SEEDS
A small handful or a quarter of a cup of almonds is a healthful snack that may benefit the immune system. A half-cup serving (about 46 whole, shelled almonds), provides nearly 100% of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin E which is key to a healthy immune system. It’s a fat-soluable vitamin so it requires the presence of fat to be absorbed properly. Nuts are a ‘healthy fat’ and also contain Fibre, Manganese and Magnesium.
Sunflower seeds are full of nutrients, including Phosphorous, Magnesium and Vitamin B-6. They’re also incredibly high in Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that is important in regulating and maintaining immune system function. Other foods with high amounts of Vitamin E include Avocados and dark leafy greens. They can make a tasty addition to salads or to porridge.
HERBS AND SPICES
Turmeric has also been used for years as an anti-inflammatory in treating both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It is also thought that the high concentrations of curcumin, which gives turmeric its distinctive color, can help decrease exercise-induced muscle damage and improve immune response.
It is thought Cinnamon can reduce the ability of bacteria to multiply and should also help ease the symptoms of a cold. Try mixing it with raw honey which has similar properties, sprinkling over porridge or in a hot chocolate.
Wheat Germ is the innermost part of the wheat kernel and the most nutrient rich part of the grain. The germ is rich in B Vitamins, Zinc, and Vitamin E and can easily be added in your diet by sprinkling on top of yogurt or cereal, added to a shake or baked goods by substituting for a bit of white flour in recipes.
Antioxidants in tea called polyphenols and flavonoids are credited with boosting immune function. These compounds may also reduce the risk of heart disease. Both green and black teas are packed with flavonoids, a type of antioxidant but Green Tea also has a high level of Epigallocatechin Gallate, or EGCG, another powerful antioxidant which is thought to enhance immune function. The fermentation process black tea goes through destroys a lot of the EGCG but Green Tea, is steamed and not fermented, so the EGCG is preserved. Green tea is also a good source of the Amino Acid L-theanine which may aid in the production of germ-fighting compounds in our T-cells.Green Tea may also affect blood lipids, increasing good HDL cholesterol and decreasing LDL bad cholesterol, triglycerides and total cholesterol. It also contains only a small amount of caffeine, so people can enjoy it as an alternative to black tea or coffee.
Dark chocolate contains an antioxidant called Theobromine which may help to boost the immune system by protecting the body’s cells from free radicals, the molecules that the body produces when it breaks down food or comes into contact with pollutants. Free radicals can damage the body’s cells and may contribute to disease. However good dark chocolate is though, its important to remember that it’s high in calories and saturated fat, so should be eaten in moderation.
FISH AND MEAT
When you’re sick, chicken soup is more than just a feel-good food with a placebo effect. It helps improve the symptoms of a cold and can also help protect you from getting sick in the first place. Chicken and turkey, is high in Vitamin B-6 and just 3 ounces of light turkey or chicken meat contains 40 to 50% of your daily recommended amount. Vitamin B-6 is an important to many of the chemical reactions that happen in the body. It’s also vital to the formation of new and healthy red blood Stock or broth made by boiling chicken bones contains gelatin, chondroitin, and other nutrients helpful for gut healing and immunity.
Some types of shellfish are packed with zinc which our bodies need to help our immune cells function as intended. Varieties of shellfish that are high in zinc include crab, clams, lobster and mussels. You shouldn’t have more than the daily recommended amount of zinc in your diet which for adult men, is 11 milligrams (mg), and for women, 8 mg. Too much zinc can inhibits the immune system function.
Salmon, tuna, pilchards, and other oily fish are a rich source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids which can hep the auto-immune system. According to a 2014 report, long-term intake of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis a chronic autoimmune condition that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks a healthy part of the body.
One 3-ounce serving of Pacific oysters provides 190% of the daily value of Selenium, 45% of the daily value of Iron, and 20% of the daily value of Vitamin C, all for just 140 calories. It also contains 16 grams of high-quality protein, Zinc and Vitamin A which are all critical for proper immune function.
Kefir is a fermented drink that contains live cultures of bacteria that are beneficial for health. It’s thought that it may boost the immune system and that regular consumption can help with fighting bacteria, reducing inflammation and increasing antioxidant activity and is particularly beneficial in building a healthy gut.
Miso soup has been a staple in Japanese cuisine for centuries. It’s a salty paste made from fermented soybeans which is rich in probiotics that are beneficial for gastrointestinal health and boosting the immune system. A lack of beneficial bacteria or an imbalance of bacteria in the GI tract is associated with a variety of medical conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, food allergies, gastroenteritis, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease and even certain kinds of cancers.
The beneficial microorganisms found in fermented foods perform a variety of necessary functions in the GI tract. They synthesize vitamins and amino acids and produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that the cells lining the GI tract use for fuel. The probiotics establish a healthy balance of flora in the gastrointestinal tract, protecting against pathogenic strains that try to take hold. About 70% of the immune system lies in the gut. Healthy, balanced gut flora makes for a strong immune system.
Eating just one of these foods won’t increase your wellbeing even if you eat it constantly. Pay attention to serving sizes and recommended daily intake so that you don’t get too much of a single vitamin and too little of others.