Kale is full of iron, vitamins and minerals that keep your system functioning well. The dark green colour of the leaf reflects its robust antioxidant concentration.
Try and incorporate one of these vitamin A and C rich foods into your diet every day to support the immune system. These foods can include beets, carrots, citrus fruit, blueberries and garlic amongst so many others.
Add ginger, turmeric, cinnamon or cloves more often to your dishes. These spices are known for their immune boosting benefits and are powerful anti-inflammatories.
For instance, the bioactive substance of ginger known as gingerol helps to inhibit the growth of various types of bacteria during cell studies, including those linked to oral and respiratory infections.
Brazil nuts contain up to 50 times more selenium than most other food. Selenium is an important antioxidant that helps your body combat free radicals with early research demonstrating its role in combating viruses, especially retroviruses.
A handful is more than enough, since you get the recommended daily amount with 3 just Brazil nuts. An important note is the role selenium plays in the synthesis of thyroid hormones, so talk to your primary care provider should you suffer from thyroid disorders to avoid any potential interactions.
For example, enoki, shitake and turkey tail mushrooms are good immune boosters because they are full of antioxidants.
Turkey tail has a compound known as PSK or polysaccharide-K that appears to stimulate the immune system. The effect is so powerful that turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) is a government approved anticancer drug in Japan, improving survival rates in various cancers and helping to fight leukemia in clinical trials.
Protein is essential for good resistance. Our body breaks down protein into amino acids, the building blocks of tissues throughout the body. Humans need to meet their daily protein intake to produce cells of the immune system such as antibodies and enzymes. Therefore, consider protein-rich foods such as (organic) meat, fish, eggs, beans and legumes.
This active form of vitamin D is found especially in fatty fish, while egg yolks also contain small amounts. Vitamin D3 is essential for immune health as deficiencies make it more difficult for white blood cells to mature and subsequently, produce the antibodies necessary to battle infection.
Make a smoothie of pineapple, ginger, honey, lemon and elderberry juice. These ingredients are all immune boosters and pleasantly soothing on the tissue of the throat. Mix for a single serving:
- Juice of half a lemon
- A 2 cm piece of peeled ginger
- 3 tablespoons of Greek yogurt
- Approximately 100 ml of water
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- 1 tablespoon of elderberry juice
Eat more vegetables - especially the dark green leafy variety. The recommended amount in the most recent Canada Food Guide of 6-7 fruits or vegetables should be a minimum.
How can you possibly include all of this in your diet? Consider breakfast with a green smoothie, take carrots, tomatoes or celery as a snack, have lunch with a salad and serve a lot of vegetables for dinner. Sheet pan dinners make it easy to incorporate a variety of vegetables in your weekly meal planning.
Drink a glass of lukewarm water with lemon juice every morning. Lemon juice supports the liver and hydrates your body. It is also a source of vitamin C, which is indispensable for our immune system. The water on its own has the potential to increase the metabolic rate of the average adult by up to 30% for an entire hour! The effect is far more pronounced when the water is cold as the body has to expend energy to heat it up to core body temperature.
Antioxidant compounds known as flavonoids that are found in red wine (especially Bordeaux) are beneficial for your health as they help control dangerous chemical by-products.
To be clear, the benefits are far murkier when the research extends to white wine with some researchers attributing the difference to the low antioxidant content of white wine. Remember, a general rule of thumb is that the darker a food or drink (naturally), the more concentrated the antioxidants.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) contains many important minerals and vitamins that support the immune system. Due to its constituents including monoterpenoids, flavonoids and tannins, this herb has the ability to help support digestion and alleviate cramps.
If you suffer from gastroesophageal reflex, consider another herb as this may relax the lower esophageal sphincter tone, exacerbating your GERD.
Be careful with (refined) sugar. Too much sugar suppresses the immune system and decreases the ability of the white blood cells to eliminate harmful bacteria by inducing a sugar coma.
Think of the crash children have after the dreaded sugar rush when they sneak too many sweets. Making or baking foods at home allows you to control what is going in to the recipe and how much.
Grocery stores are designed in a very predictable way that has been studied for decades to ensure you spend time and money. There is a famous study to test children's willpower and it is actually a good predictor of how resistant humans are later in life as their attention wanes.
A marshmallow is placed in front of a child while the adult tells them they can have it now, but if they can wait until the adult re-enters the room, they will get to eat two marshmallows. As the child squirms alone in the room, an internal debate about whether they eat the marshmallow or not rages on within them. This is because their attention stores are slowly depleting as they resist shoving the fluffy marshmallow in their mouth.
When you enter a grocery store, you arrive to the produce and get only the things on your list (maybe), then you can reward yourself with a treat from the bakery section seeing as you just picked up all these veggies. The longer you spend wandering the aisles, the faster your control seems to evaporate, and suddenly saying no to that box of mac & cheese is harder than it was when you first entered.
A trick is to stick to the outside of the grocery store and avoid wandering into the interior aisles which often contain the goodies that are of no benefit to us. Only wander in when you have a list in hand and your willpower is strong!
The liver is the main detoxifier of the body and is critical for a strong immune system. You can help your liver by eating food without artificial additives and if possible, organic.
Add artichoke and crucifer vegetables such as kale, broccoli, lettuce and cabbage to your shopping list. These vegetables have some hepatoprotective properties and with their rich antioxidant content, can help manage some of the toxic by-products from reactions in the liver.
Hot peppers get their kick from a substance called capsaicin. Studies show that this substance supports the immune system. That means: eat spicy food if you can tolerate it without ill effect. Other bioactive compounds in peppers include capsanthin, violaxanthin, lutein, sinapic and ferulic acid.
Start each day with a healthy breakfast to provide your body the energy it needs to tackle the day and sets digestion in motion. You really need that after a night of fasting! When you optimize digestion, this ensures everything is moving.
Pathogens, allergens, and toxins are all excreted from the body through bowels and urine, but when these become sluggish, those agents spend more time hanging out in the body than we would like.
A breakfast idea: oatmeal made with almond milk, a pinch of cinnamon, blueberries and chopped nuts.
For instance, use thin zucchini noodles in lieu of spaghetti or use slices of eggplant as lasagna sheets. Cauliflower crust has also become a popular option to replace the dough for traditional pizza, while lettuce wraps can hold all of your delicious toppings.
Wheat products can be irritating to the intestinal walls, impeding their how effectively they absorb nutrients. This can put pressure on the immune system as it attempts to manage the inflammation in the gut.
Afraid of a bad breath afterwards? Just chew on a bit of parsley as the herb can help to eliminate the smell and is very healthy considering it contains a lot of iron.
It's all worth it though as one 12-week clinical trial found a daily garlic supplement reduced cold episodes by 63%. Another study repeated these results showing a 61% reduction in number of cold or flu episodes. More evidence is always warranted, but these are exciting results.
Your digestion begins in the mouth (and represents a substantial part of your immune system). So, train yourself to chew as this allows an enzyme released by the salivary glands known as amylase time to start digestion the carbohydrates in the food.
The more surface area the enzyme has to work with through chewing, the more efficiently the body can break it down into the building blocks we need.
- Practice for a couple of days by taking small bites.
- Chew every bite at least 30 times, until it is liquid.
- Put your fork down between every bite.