How to Boost Your Immune System Through Diet
Proper prevention is worth hundreds in cure.
Keep your immune system strong to help your body fight off those naughty little germs that are always trying to invade.
If you're already sick, you're going to want to improve your immune system to get better faster.
Because it's best to get immunity-boosting vitamins and minerals from food that you eat, rather than supplements.
We've compiled experts' advice on the best foods to help strengthen your immune system starting today.
“Mushrooms or fungi contain a wide variety of compounds that help boost your 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 to that shiitake, maitake, cremini or white button mushrooms to your favorite lunch and dinner recipes.
To start your day off right:
- Add sautéed mushrooms
- Add an egg white omelet for an uptick of immunity
- To get the most protein with your breakfast
Goji berries are jampacked 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.
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. Compared to those who didn’t eat garlic.
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.
Sweet potatoes (we're talking about the orange-colored kind, sometimes labeled as "yams") are full of beta carotene.
Which your body converts to Vitamin A.
Which helps your body neutralize free radicals (which attack your body's cells).
Sweet potatoes are also have high consistency in Vitamin C.
Spinach, kale and carrots are also packed with beta carotene.
So load up on these to help neutralize free radicals too.
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).
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 the glutathione, which is found in the fruit's red meat.
Even if you can get your hands on it during the hot summer months, try to make this tasty (and low cal) treat part of your winter diet too.
Not only is yogurt a great source of protein for your body.
But it also can help improve your immune system against those 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.
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 recommends having one “power foods” drink per day for an immune and antioxidant health boost.
If you like, you can divide the recipe into two servings and drink up twice per day.
With all the beneficial fiber this drink packs, we can add it into the category of foods that will help you feel fuller longer.
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!
Want more? Here are some references and good resources.
Links and resources:
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 http://www.prevention.com/food/food-remedies/9-power-foods-boost-immunity/3-garlic)
Now share with us:
What other immunity-boosting foods or recipes do you love? (Please leave a comment below!).
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