Immune Boosting Foods
Below are a list of immune boosting foods to include in your daily diet to help prevent and fend off any colds or flu, or general feelings of being run down, especially when the seasons are changing.
Fruits and Veg
It goes without saying, that including lots of fresh fruit and veg in your daily diet will fuel your body and boost your immune system. Fruit and veg are loaded with a host of antioxidants, vitamins, mineral, fibre, and phytonutrients. They may also help reduce the risk of diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers to name but a few. I can’t stress enough if you can do one thing to change your diet, if you are not already, then start to include the recommended 2 pieces of fruit a day (as don’t forget fruit does still contain natural sugars so 2 pieces is good, or 3 at the most) and 5 servings of vegetables a day (I really don’t think you can get enough vegetables, so feel free to go higher on the veg). If it’s hard to include lots of vegetables, a green juice can help increase your intake, think of kale, wheatgrass, spinach, cucumber, apple – yum and all that goodness in one glass!
Citrus fruit is an excellent source of immune busting vitamin C, which helps maintain the body’s defence against bacterial infections, plus they contain lots of antioxidants to fight off nasty free radicals in the body. An added benefit, citrus fruit, or any fruit, contains fibre, this will help you fill full for longer and also helps with digestion, particularly our bowel function. It can also help reduce cholesterol too. Stock up on your citrus, like delicious lemons, oranges, limes, mandarins, make sure your fruit bowl is fully stocked!
Berries are brimming with rich disease fighting antioxidants, like vitamin C, particularly powerful anthocyanins which gives berries their vibrant rich red/purple hue, which can help reduce inflammation and may help and prevent arthritis. Quercetin which has been shown to slow age-related memory loss and help decrease inflammation in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and polyphenols that help promote healthy tissues and organs. Again delicious on their own or thrown into a smoothie!
Most of the benefits of carrots can be attributed to an antioxidant carotenoid called beta carotene which gives them their bright orange colour This is absorbed in the intestine where it gets converted into vitamin A during digestion. This root vegetable is also rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B8, pantothenic acid, folate, potassium, iron, copper. They also contain fibre, manganese, phosphorous, magnesium, vitamin E and zinc. Carrots help support a healthy immune system and help promote healthy vision. I love steaming mine, then adding a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, or cut them up into carrot sticks to snack on throughout the day, think carrot sticks dipped into homemade hummus, yummy!
Papaya is an exotic, luscious tasting vibrant fruit and is great for boosting the immune system as it is an excellent source of vitamin C. It also contains an enzyme called papain which is beneficial for digestive problems. They are also a good source of folate, magnesium, copper, pantothenic acid and fibre. Papayas also have B vitamins, alpha and beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthan, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, vitamin K and lycopene, the powerful antioxidant most commonly associated with tomatoes. Other possible health benefits of consuming papaya include a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, aiding in digestion, improving blood glucose control in diabetics, lowering blood pressure, and improving wound healing. I love eating them on their own, or I often add it to my smoothie or make a papaya salsa.
Wheatgrass is one of the most powerful concentrated nutritionally dense greens on earth. Power-packed with naturally occurring nutrients including chlorophyll, beta carotene, vitamin C, full spectrum of B vitamins, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium. Wheatgrass is a complete source of protein, supplying all of the essential amino acids. It also is a powerful detoxifier of the blood and especially of the liver by boosting the liver’s ability to flush out toxins and heavy metals. You can drink a wonderful cold-pressed juice or even add the powder form to green juices!
Many mushrooms are rich in super immune enhancing compounds including good sources of selenium, an antioxidant mineral, as well as copper, niacin, potassium and phosphorous. Also packed with natural plant based vitamin D that helps boost immune function and bone health. Additionally, mushrooms provide protein, vitamin C and iron. It is recommended to always cook mushrooms first to get their nutritional benefits. They are great in omelettes, on top of toast or homemade pizza!
Tumeric has been used for thousands of years as a spice and also used in Chinese and Indian systems of medicine. Its medicinal properties comes from compounds called curcuminoids and the most important which is Curcumin, which is the main active ingredient in Turmeric, responsible for the distinct yellow colouring and the impressive list of health properties including being a powerful anti-inflammatory and a very strong antioxidant. It also is anti-bacterial, detoxifying and amazing for digestive health. Turmeric has been linked to the prevention of cancer cell growth and management of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, asthma, eczema and inflammatory bowel disease. It is a nutritional powerhouse, rich in manganese, zinc, B group vitamins and iron. I often add this to cooking or even add it to warm water, lemon and ginger in the morning for a detoxifying and immune boosting drink but you would need huge amounts to get its full benefits using the spice alone, therefore it is best to take an organic extract that contains high levels of curcumin. Look for curcumin/turmeric products that also contain black pepper, which contains piperine, this is a natural substance that helps absorption of curcumin by 200%.
Studies have shown that ginger has potent antioxidant compounds beneficial to health such as gengerols, beta-carotene, capsaicin, caffeic acid, curcumin and salicylate. It helps to boost immune function and combat cellular damage. It’s anti-inflammatory, great for pain relieve and has antimicrobial properties This spice stimulates digestion, gut motility and bowel function, while helping to relieve bloating, cramping and nausea. So it’s also good for digestive upset, travel/motion/morning sickness. Ginger also has been proved to help relieving PMS pain in women and is anti-inflammatory. I love adding fresh ginger to flavour foods, you can also chew it and I love making warming fresh ginger tea. Can someone put the kettle on please!
Garlic has been used for thousands of year as a super immune boosting superfood, protecting the body from infections, illness such as heart disease, high cholesterol, as it contains allicin a powerful and potent phytonutrient that is amazing for cardiac health. It has been shown to help lower blood pressure, inhibit blood clotting and promote healthy cholesterol levels and help prevent certain cancers. I add garlic to everything, oops, sorry about the bad breath! 😉
Manuka honey is produced in New Zealand by bees that pollinate the native manuka bush. This honey has antibiotic, antiviral and antibacterial qualities from hydrogen peroxide and methglyoxal (MG) which are components of honey. It is a powerful antioxidant that can help to increase vitality and immunity. It also can help heal wounds and skin ulcers if applied topically. To be considered potent enough to be therapeutic, manuka honey needs a minimum rating of 10 UMF or above (UMF rating corresponds with the concentration of MG and other health benefiting compounds). Never give any honey to babies under the age of 12 months and diabetics remember that this is still a natural sugar and has a high glucose content so you should avoid or limit intake. Due to it being high in glucose and quite expensive I just use this for medicinal purposes. I’ll either take a teaspoon, or add it to a warm water with lemon and ginger in and drink throughout the day whenever I’m feeling rundown or feeling a sniffle or sore throat coming on.
A healthy gut will help our digestive health and will also have a positive healthy ripple effect on the whole body, including boosting our immune system. 80% of our immune system is located in our digestive tract, which is why it is paramount to keep your gut healthy. Probiotics are live microorganisms (good bacteria) that live in the gut. Probiotics support our immune system, aid digestion and assist with nutrient absorption into our bloodstream. Increase your intake of fermented foods as these are naturally packed with probiotics that promote healthy gut bacteria. Try experimenting with the following: fermented vegetables, kefir, natto, kombucha tea, yoghurt, miso, sauerkraut and kimchi, or try a good probiotic supplement. I recommend to do your research, as like anything, there are different qualities out there and different strains.
To keep your immune system in top form you need to think what you are putting into your body as nutrition. You need to fuel it with a wholesome nutrient dense diet with lots of veg and fruit (organic where possible). Also include good quality protein (think salmon, organic chicken, lentils, beans), cook from scratch where possible, cut out processed foods, eat healthy fats (yes, you are allowed fats only the healthy ones though, think of avocado, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, your body needs fats for fuel), keep hydrated with filtered water, herbal teas, incorporate daily green juices, limit sugar, salt and alcohol. Exercise is so important for the body and mind, get lots of good quality sleep, fresh air and keep stress to a minimum and you will start to feel in top-notch condition in no time! 🙂