TEN FOODS TO BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
Overall, the immune system manages to defend us against illness causing microorganisms, but every now and again, it fails and a germ manages to get through. The result is that you wake one morning with a sore throat, headache, stuffy nose, coughing, sneezing, and you feel as if you’d been run over by a truck. You’re sick. You have a cold, or worse, the flu.
Ready or not, the cold and flu season is upon us. The months of December, January, February, and March tend to be the time that most people experience these illnesses. We’ve been told, over and over again, that to prevent getting a cold or the flu we should wash our hands often, use hand sanitizer, and cough or sneeze into the inner elbow. That helps to protect us, but what if you could boost your immune system?
The immune system needs harmony and balance to function at its best. Choosing to live a healthy lifestyle is the first line of defense in protecting the immune system. Regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, controlling blood pressure, giving up smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, if at all, curbing stress, and getting the sleep you need are all ways to bolster and protect the immune system.
Your diet has an effect on the immune system, as well. The first thing to do is to eliminate or decrease from your diet foods that cause inflammation. This includes things like sugar, refined carbohydrates (white flour, white rice, etc.), saturated fats, and animal fats like chicken skin. Instead, you’ll want to add lots of colorful vegetables and fruits to your meals and drink 8-10 glasses of water each day. Adding the following foods to boost your immune system will keep your body working at its best, to ward off germs that cause cold and flu.
- Garlic. A number of studies have proven that garlic has antiviral and antibacterial properties. It works as an antioxidant and stimulates white blood cell production. One study showed that allicin, which is the oily liquid found in garlic, has a number of antimicrobial, antifungal, antiparasitic, and antiviral activities. A British study showed that two-thirds of those who ingested garlic were less likely to contract a cold. There have been other studies that show those who eat more than six cloves of garlic each week have a lower rate of colorectal and stomach cancer (30% and 50%, respectively). Two raw garlic cloves each day, in addition to adding crushed garlic when cooking will provide optimum effectiveness.
- Probiotics are healthy bacteria and yogurt is chock full of probiotics. They keep the intestinal tract free of germs that cause disease. While probiotics are available in supplement form, a study at the University of Vienna showed that a single seven ounce serving of yogurt each day has the same effect.
- Vitamin C-rich Fruit: Vitamin C is an antioxidant that supports the immune system. A tasty way to get the necessary vitamin C is by eating citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes. Peppers, strawberries, and kiwi are also good sources that will help to boost the immune system.
- Oats and Barley. Influenza and herpes are less likely in animals that eat oats and barley. In humans, these grains help to speed up the healing of wounds, bolsters immunity, and may assist antibiotics to be more effective. This is because they contain beta-glucan which is a type of fiber that has antioxidant and antimicrobial capabilities according to one Norwegian study.
- Shellfish. Lobsters, oysters, clams, and crabs are abundant in selenium, which helps to produce cytokines, the proteins that aide in clearing the flu virus from the body. In addition, fish like mackerel, salmon, and herring contain omega-3 fats. They protect the lungs from respiratory infections and colds. Two servings a week should do the trick.
- Tea. A Harvard study showed that people who drank five cups of black tea every day over a two week period had ten times more interferon (a virus fighting protein) in their blood than those who were given a placebo beverage. Drink several cups daily and bob the tea bags up and down while you brew the tea for more effectiveness.
- Beef. Zinc is vital for white blood cell development which is a major part of the immune system. Unfortunately, most American adults are deficient in zinc. Even a minor zinc deficiency can increase infection risks. A three ounce serving of beef provides about 30% of the necessary daily value of zinc. If you don’t eat beef, the oysters, poultry, yogurt, milk, chickpeas, baked beans (no sugar), and fortified cereals are all good options.
- Sweet Potatoes. Any vegetable rich in beta carotene will help to boost the immune system. Of all of them, though, the sweet potato comes out on top with the highest amount of beta carotene. Beta carotene is converted to vitamin A, a vital component for healthy skin. Your skin is a key component of your immune system and is, in fact, the first line of defense against colds and the flu. Other vegetables rich in beta carotene are squash, pumpkin, cantaloupe, and carrots. Red bell peppers are another good source.
- Mushrooms. High in selenium, antioxidants, vitamin B, and niacin, the mushroom packs a powerful punch against infection. Shitake, reishi, and maitake mushrooms are the most effective in bolstering the immune system. For best results, consume up to one ounce a few times a day. They can be added to pasta sauce or eggs, eaten raw in salads, or heaped on top of a pizza. Yum.
Nuts. Particularly high in protein, nuts are also high in vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants. Eating nuts on a regular basis help to fight chronic illnesses, especially when included as part of a healthy diet.
Of course, you can always turn to grandma’s cure for everything—good old fashioned chicken soup. According to studies at the University of Nebraska, grandma wasn’t too far off the mark. Chicken soup blocks the migration of inflammatory white blood cells. The broth keeps mucus thin, and added spices like garlic and onion can give it more of an immunity boost.
All of these foods are excellent choices for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including bolstering the immune system. Eat well, stay hydrated, and have a healthy winter!
Leave a comment