Foods That Will Help Boost Your Immune System
This guest blog post was written by Mount Mary University Dietetic Intern and Graduate Student Angie Kulikowski
Good nutrition is key for building a strong immune system and to protect our bodies from getting things like viruses, colds or even the seasonal flu. There is not just one food or vitamin supplement that can prevent illness but you can help support your immune system by including some of these nutritious and vitamin rich foods in your overall eating plan on a regular basis.
In today’s day and age, no one has the time to be under the weather, so here are the top 10 immune system boosters to include into your everyday eating plan to help keep you healthy:
- Citrus fruits have a key nutrient called vitamin C that acts as an antioxidant. Antioxidants help to fight off cells that can damage the immune system. Vitamin C can also help with increasing your white blood cell count to help fight off infections. Try adding fruits such as kiwis, oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit to your diet.
- Commonly used as a spice, ginger is known as one of the world’s best medicines. Ginger can be used to help relieve indigestion, nausea, gas, or cramping. It is a strong anti-inflammatory and contains an antioxidant called gingerol that can help naturally boost the immune system to help prevent viruses and the flu. Ginger also contains vitamins such as magnesium, iron, B6, and vitamin C. Try adding fresh ginger to your morning tea for an immune booster to start your day.
- Yogurt is great for bone health as well as being a source of probiotics which can help to maintain a healthy gut. Look for yogurts that have "live and active cultures" printed on the label, like Greek yogurt, since these cultures can help aid the immune system to fight off diseases. Yogurts that also contain vitamin D can help reduce the risk for viral infections, including respiratory tract infections, by stopping damaged cells from entering the body.
- Almonds are a great source of healthy fats and vitamin E. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant in the body where it helps to protect your cells and gives you immune boosting support to fight off invading bacteria and viruses. A half-cup serving of almonds, about 46 whole, provides nearly 100 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin E.
Dark Leafy Greens
- Dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale and swiss chard are great immune boosting foods that can fit into any healthy diet. They contain high levels of vitamins C, K, folate and beta carotene which are all great in helping to fight infections. Also, the darker the leaf, the more antioxidants it has to help fight off damaged cells that are in your body. Try jazzing up your salads with a variety of greens to get all the immune boosting nutrients your body deserves!
- Broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables that you can put on your plate. It is packed with vitamins A, C, and E and high in beta carotene, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron which all help in supporting a healthy immune system. The best way to get all the nutrients is to cook it as little as possible or not at all.
- Blueberries are a powerful superfood that is packed with vitamin C and flavonoids which act as an antioxidant in the body. Flavonoids help in boosting your immune system and protect you from damaged cells. Enjoy blueberries fresh or frozen to get all the health benefits that it has to offer.
Red Bell Peppers
- Red bell peppers are known to be high in beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant, that can reduce inflammation and boost immune function. It also contains twice as much vitamin C than citrus. Try roasting or stir-frying them instead of steaming or boiling to preserve the nutrient content of the pepper.
- Sweet potatoes are a nutrient dense vegetable that are very rich in beta carotene. When eaten, your body converts beta carotene to vitamin A and uses it to help boost your immune system and help lower the risk of various diseases. Beta carotene is also rich in foods like carrots, red bell peppers, broccoli and even pumpkin. Sweet potatoes are very easy to add to your diet with its natural sweetness and versatile cooking. Try them baked, roasted, fried or even steamed.
- Known for its strong odor and taste, garlic has been used as an herbal medicine for thousands of years. It can be used to help treat a variety of health problems such as lowering cholesterol and blood pressure as well as helping to treat infections in the nose, throat, and chest. It has great antibiotic and antifungal properties that can help with skin inflammation as well as having high levels of vitamin C to help stimulate the immune system. Try adding garlic to lemon, ginger, and hot water to help treat your cold.
Just remember, your immune system relies on YOU to do your part in keeping your body healthy and optimally well. Eating all the colors of the rainbow will also ensure you that you are getting a lot of those health boosting vitamins and nutrients that your body needs to support your immune system.
Better health means better quality of life!
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