Foods That Boost Your Immune System
It is common knowledge that eating citrus fruits will boost your immune system because they’re loaded with vitamin C (more about that later).
What you may be surprised to find out is that there are LOTS of other delicious foods that will boost your immune system. Let’s dive in to them shall we?
Before we do however, let’s set the table a bit shall we? What exactly IS the immune system and what is it’s function? Seems like it should be a pretty basic answer, right?
I LOVE this infographic I found on LiveScience tha shows the human immune system.
Basically, the immune system is a group of structures and processes that protect our bodies from bacteria, viruses, diseases and damaging foreign invaders.
It is when this immune system breaks down that we get sick, so protecting and boosting our immune system is vitally important to our health and well being.
When our immune system is compromised, it invites all kinds of malfunctions like asthma, allergies and auto-immune diseases.
For more detailed information on the immune system, you can check out a great article I found HERE.
So, how can we boost our immune system so that it functions properly and protects our bodies? There’s lots of answers to that question, but proper nutrition is the basis of it.
So, what exactly are these immune boosting foods?
1. Iron Rich Foods
Iron is a mineral that is really important for a healthy immune system. If you are anemic, your immune system could become weakened, so it’s important to make sure that you are including plenty of iron-rich foods in your diet.
Iron-rich foods are meat, poultry, meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, legumes, nuts, seeds, cruciferous vegetables (including: arugula, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, radish, rutabaga, turnip, watercress) and dried fruit.
Also of note is that if you add citrus to your meal when eating iron-rich foods, you can increase the absorption of iron. So go ahead, splash a little lemon juice on your broccoli, yummy!
Additionally, too much iron in your system can be a bad thing, so supplementation should only be done under the direction of your physician.
All health begins in the gut. It is in the gut, that all nutrients are absorbed, so taking great care of our gut by eating plenty of probiotic foods is of utmost importance.
Those are all great questions and can be a little confusing, so let’s dive in.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in your gut and they are also responsible for stimulating your immune system. They help to protect the lining of your gut and prevent unwanted substances from “leaking” out of your gut and in to your body. That “leaking” is responsible for triggering unwanted immune system responses.
According to PubMed, studies have shown that people who regularly ingest probiotic foods don’t get sick as often and recover much more quickly and with fewer symptoms than those who don’t eat probiotic foods.
Probiotic foods are things like sauerkraut, naturally fermented pickles, yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, kimchi, tempeh, miso, natto and kombucha.
Of all the foods that boost the immune system, citrus is probably the most well known. For that reason, we won’t dive in to this one too deeply, but it is important to note the REASONS that citrus is so beneficial.
Vitamin C is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory and helps to protect our skin. Our skin is our first-line defense when it comes to bacteria and viruses, so adequate vitamin C is super important to maintaining our immune system.
That being said, it’s way more beneficial for you to EAT your vitamin C than it is to drink it or take a supplement for it because of the multitude of other amazing nutrients you will be ingesting.
Ginger is ancient medicine and has long been known for their ability to sooth a tummy ache, ease nausea. But, did you know that it is also antimicrobial and may help to stop the growth of several dangerous bacteria like E. coli, Candida and Salmonella.
Studies are on-going as to ginger supplements and other health benefits, but what we do know right now is that adding some ginger tea, sprinkling some fresh or dried ginger on foods or infusing our water with it can be super beneficial to our health and help us to stop and/or recover from illness.
Oh, and one more thing, here’s a great way to add it to your diet deliciously!
Mmmmmm yummy garlic!!! Who’s with me on this one?! I mean REALLY, who doesn’t LOVE garlic?!
Allicin, which is the main active ingredient in garlic has also been shown to be both antibacterial and antimicrobial, which means that it helps to protect your immune system from invasion of bacteria and viruses and may even help to lessen the severity of symptoms and speed up the healing process.
Some other great benefits of using garlic on a daily basis is it’s ability to help regulate your blood sugar, lower cholesterol and even help to prevent oxadative stress which leads to heart disease and dementia.
To boost the effects of garlic, when you slice, dice or chop it, let it sit for about 10 minutes before adding it to your recipe. Who knew?!
Also, have you ever tried roasted garlic? It’s one of my faves and it’s super easy to make. Check out my recipe and instructions HERE. I’ve also got several other recipes that feature garlic, you can find them by typing “garlic” in the search bar, or HERE.
When I was little, my grandparents lived in Maine and were surrounded by fields and fields of wild blueberries. My absolute FAVORITE thing to do was to take my pail and go blueberry picking so that my Memere could make me one of her delicious blueberry cobblers. It always took me all day to collect enough in my pail because I ate so many of them !
As it turns out, berries are one of nature’s super foods, containing health promoting benefits for all sorts of things! Berries also contain high amounts of vitamin C, which as we’ve already discussed is an immune booster!
Berries are loaded with polyphenols which are those amazing antioxidant compounds that lower inflammation and help to fight illness and disease by boosting your immune system. There have even been some studies done that indicate that they help to protect us from getting the flu and may even fight Staphylococcus, E. coli and Salmonella infections.
Have you tried my delicious Mixed Fruit Compote yet?
7. Coconut Oil
Okay, so now you’re questions probably are, “But Collette, isn’t coconut oil a saturated fat?” “Isn’t saturated fat bad for us?” Those are two great questions, and the answer is yes to both of them. However, the type of saturated fat matters. Some saturated fats are healthy, some are extremely unhealthy.
Coconut oil is a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT). MCTs are a category of fats that have antimicrobial properties, so they actually HELP to protect us from illness. The particular MCT found in coconut oil has the ability to kill off harmful viruses, bacteria and fungi.
Introducing coconut oil in your diet is super easy to do. Simply substitute 2 to 3 tablespoons daily for the butter or oil you use in cooking. I would recommend purchasing an organic, unrefined coconut oil to make sure you reap all of it’s benefits.
Another cool thing about coconut oil is that you can use it for just about anything from toothpaste to skin lotion to feeding it to your beloved pup! (Simba LOVES it!)
8. Nuts and Seeds
I love nuts! My favorites are cashews (have you tried my roasted cashew recipes yet? Nuts and seeds are loaded with super nutrients, which help to boost the immune system while also giving us lots of great minerals and vitamins.
Nuts and seeds also contain selenium, which is crucial for thyroid health. Here’s the good news! You can satisfy your daily recommended amount of selenium from eating just one Brazil nut! How cool is that! Who knew that thyroid health could be so easy! But I digress….
Sesame seeds and almonds are great sources of copper and vitamin E, while pumpkin seeds and cashews are rich in zinc.
All these nutrients are very supportive to a healthy immune system!
9. Sweet Potato
Who knew that sweet potato is so good for you?! I happen to LOVE sweet potatoes, so I was very pleasantly surprised to find out how nutritious they are! They are a fabulous source of vitamin A!
Some other foods that are high in vitamin A are carrots, dark-green leafy vegetables, squash, romaine lettuce, dried apricots, red peppers, fish and organ meats, so if you don’t like sweet potatoes, it’s okay, there’s plenty more to choose from!
Just one word of caution, you can get too much vitamin A, so my recommendation would be to get your vitamin A from your diet and not from supplementation unless you are instructed to by your physician.
The bottom line....
As you can see, having a healthy immune system is all about diet and nutrition. Isn’t that fascinating?! I sure think so! It’s the whole entire reason I became a health coach in the first place and why I’m so passionate about sharing what I’ve learned so that you can live your healthiest life!
So now it’s up to you! Don’t by shy! Let me know in the comments which of these delicious foods will you be adding to your daily diet to boost your immune system?