Top Immunity-Boosting Foods
How to Boost Your Immune System Through Diet
“These fungi contain a variety of compounds that help boost the immune system, in part, by stimulating activity of the body’s white blood cells,” explains Registered Dietitian and Raw Food Instructor Lauri Boone.
You can add shiitake, maitake, cremini or white button mushrooms to your favorite lunch and dinner items. To start your day off right, try adding in sautéed mushrooms to an egg white omelet for an uptick of immunity and protein with your breakfast.
Goji Berries & Camu Camu Berries
Goji berries are packed with antioxidant-rich vitamin A and vitamin C. “These tiny, red, dried berries contain special sugar-protein complexes that help boost the immune system,” says Boone.
She recommends loading up on them with a healthy snack. You can add them into trail mix, smoothies or eat them alone. Even better, goji berries are also a great metabolism booster.
Tart camu camu berries, on the other hand, are most often found in juice or powder form. Add a teaspoon to your juice or smoothies for a boost of vitamin C. These berries actually contain the highest known level of vitamin C, which helps protect against oxidative damage and enhances immune cells' function.
“While researchers have found that vitamin C won’t prevent or treat a cold, they have found that consuming it on a daily basis (as little as 200mg per day) may shorten the duration and severity of the common cold,” explains Boone. We’ll take a shorter sniffle outbreak any day.
Herbs & Spices
Ever had a friend that swears spicy Thai food can kick any cold? Well that might not be too far from the truth.
“From the inflammation-fighting and congestion-reliving properties of cayenne and ginger to the antibacterial action of garlic, a well-stocked spice rack can become your medicine cabinet,” says Boone.
If sweat-inducing cayenne and other hot peppers are too much for you, try adding a flavorful garlic kick to your meals. Garlic contains allicin, which helps fight infection. British researchers found in a recent study that participants who included garlic extract in their diets were 67 percent less likely to catch a cold than those who didn’t.
Black tea and green tea (regular or decaf) both contain the amino acid L-theanine, which has been shown to increase the body's ability to fight viruses. Shoot for several cups a day to get this immune boost.
We're talking about the orange-colored kind (sometimes labeled as "yams"). These are full of beta carotene, which your body converts to Vitamin A, and helps your body neutralize free radicals (which attack your body's cells). Fruits and vegetables like spinach, kale and carrots are also packed with beta carotene. Sweet potatoes are also high in Vitamin C.
Beef & Legumes
Beef and legumes (you know, beans and peas) are both high in iron and zinc, which help protect against bacterial, viral and parasitic infection. Beef also has a high amount of the antioxidant selenium, which helps repair and defend immune cells. (Of course, make sure you're eating a lean beef cut, and don't go over a 4 oz. serving).
In addition to iron and zinc, legumes also have a lot of vitamin B6, which helps the body produce white blood cells that fight infection.
Watermelon is full of wonderful nutrients, but the one that makes it a powerful immune booster is glutathione, which is found in the fruit's red flesh. If you can get your hands on it outside of the hot summer months, try to make this tasty (and low cal) treat part of your winter diet.
Not only is yogurt loaded with protein, but it also can help arm your immune system against pesky germs. Yogurt is loaded with probiotics, which help to lower the body’s inflammatory response. Read: Less congestion, runny noses and sore throats.
A 2012 study out of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey suggested that probiotics reduced the number of sick days missed by college students by cutting down the duration of sickness and the intensity of symptoms.
Look for yogurt which contains live and active cultures (it'll be on the label), and look for one with vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to higher rates of cold and flu. Add in a few goji berries or vitamin C loaded strawberries to your yogurt for an extra, tasty kick.
Power Foods Drink
For a drinkable boost to your immunity, Dr. Rick Kattouf, triathlon, fitness and nutrition coach recommends what he calls a “power foods” drink.
In a blender, add the following ingredients:
1-2 cups collard greens
1 large carrot (chopped)
1 apple (cut up)
1/4 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
2 strawberries (fresh or frozen)
6-12 ounces water
Blend until mixed well and enjoy.
Dr. Kattouf advises consuming one “power foods” drink per day for an immune—not to mention antioxidant—boost. If you like, you can divide the recipe into two servings and drink up twice per day. Added bonus? With all the beneficial fiber this drink packs, we can add it into the category of foods that will help you feel fuller longer. Double win.
A healthy diet isn't just about achieving a certain dress size; what you put into your body will help you ward of illness and feel your best! Now tell us: What other immunity-boosting foods do you love? (Please leave a comment below!).
(References: University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) (2012, October 22). Probiotics are secret weapon for fighting symptoms of the common cold in college students, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121022162335.htm; Prevention Magazine. (2013) Power Foods: Garlic. Retrieved from prevention.com/food/food-remedies/9-power-foods-boost-immunity/3-garlic)
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