We’ve all heard that you are what you eat. So if you want to stay healthy and strong, you need to eat foods that give your body a boost and keep your immune system in tip-top shape. With a new school year starting and the holidays in sight, nobody has time to be under the weather.
The connection between nutrition and immune strength is like the best friend duo of the century. They go hand-in-hand, and it’s all thanks to the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients found in some of our favorite (and maybe some surprising) foods. Incorporating these foods into your diet can help improve your immune response, preventing illness and shortening unpleasant symptoms when you do get sick.
So, what’s cooking in the kitchen of immune-boosting goodness? Let’s take a look at these 10 amazing foods:
1. Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits are your Vitamin C heroes. Why is Vitamin C a big deal? It’s a powerful antioxidant that can help strengthen your body’s natural defenses and promote immune cell function. Citrus fruits high in Vitamin C include oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits. You can even add lemon or lime to a glass of water for a refreshing boost of immune health!
Popeye was onto something! Leafy greens like spinach are loaded with beta-carotene, which the body converts to Vitamin A (a known infection fighter). Spinach is also a good source of Vitamin C and folate, which studies suggest may boost the immune system. You can use it as a base for salads, blend it into smoothies, or add it to sauces. Just remember not to overcook it, as you’ll want to preserve its nutrients.
A culinary favorite, garlic is much more than a flavor enhancer. That pungent aroma comes from allicin, a natural compound that’s thought to stimulate immune cells and improve the body’s response to illness. Garlic soup, anyone?
We all know ginger helps with nausea, but that’s not the only benefit this zesty spice has to offer. Ginger has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that support immune health and combat disease. It’s a bit strong to eat raw, but you can add it to teas, grate ginger root into sauces or salad dressings, or blend it into a breakfast smoothie.
There’s a clear connection between gut health and the immune system, and yogurt contains probiotics that keep both at their best. Look for yogurts that use live and active cultures, and try to avoid brands loaded with excess sugar. Greek Yogurt is usually your best bet and can be eaten plain, topped with fruits and nuts, or added to dressings. It’s also a great (and healthy) substitute for sour cream!
These crunchy delights are filled with Vitamin E, an essential part of the immune system. They’re also high in healthy fats, which help the body absorb Vitamin E more easily. A handful a day keeps the doctor away?
That golden spice in curry? That’s turmeric, a medicinal herb used in eastern cultures for thousands of years. Turmeric contains curcumin, a natural compound known to reduce inflammation, fight free radicals, and keep the immune system in balance. It also actives important parts of the immune system such as T cells and B cells.
8. Green Tea
Green tea is a cozy cup of catechins, a powerful antioxidant that helps protect immune cells against damage. It also contains a polyphenol called ECGC, which studies suggest can increase the number of “regulatory T cells” that play a key role in immune function.
Mom was right – it’s best to finish your broccoli. This stalky green vegetable is an immune superfood thanks to its high concentration of Vitamins A, C, and E. Broccoli also contains sulforaphane, a powerful phytochemical that reduces oxidative cell damage and stimulates your immune response. Eat broccoli raw or lightly steamed to maximize your health boost.
10. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish like tuna and salmon are like superheroes for the immune system. They’re packed with immune-boosting nutrients that are hard to find in other foods, including Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin D, zinc and selenium. Experts suggest eating fatty fish at least 1-2 times per week to keep your immune system healthy and strong.
The path to a healthier immune system is filled with delicious opportunities. Incorporating these tasty foods into your diet doesn’t only make your taste buds happy, but your body will thank you, too.