Immune system boosters
Feeding your body with certain foods can help keep your immune system strong. If you’re looking for ways to prevent colds, flu, and other infections, your first step should be to visit your local supermarket. Plan your meals to include these 15 powerful immune system boosters.
1. Citrus Fruits
Most people turn to vitamin C directly after catching a cold. That’s because it helps strengthen your immune system. Vitamin C is believed to increase the production of white blood cells, which are key to fighting infections.
Almost all citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C. With so much variety to choose from, it’s easy to add a little of this vitamin to any meal.
Popular citrus fruits include:
Because it is not produced or stored by your body, you need vitamin C daily to maintain your health. The recommended daily allowance for most adults is:
- 75 mg for women
- 90 mg for men
If you choose supplements, avoid taking more than 2,000 milligrams (mg) a day.
Also note that while vitamin C may help you recover from a faster cold, there is still no evidence that it is effective against the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.
2. Red Peppers
If you think citrus fruits have the most vitamin C of any fruit or vegetable, think again. Ounce for ounce, red bell peppers contain almost 3 times more vitamin C (127 mg from a reliable source) than a Florida orange (45 mg from a reliable source). They are also a rich source of beta carotene.
In addition to boosting your immune system, Vitamin C can help you maintain healthy skin. Beta-carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A, helps keep your eyes and skin healthy.
Broccoli is supercharged with vitamins and minerals. Packed with vitamins A, C, and E, as well as fiber and many other antioxidants, broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables you can put on your plate.
The key to keeping your power intact is to cook it as little as possible, or better yet, for nothing. Research has shown that steaming is the best way to keep more nutrients in food.
Garlic is found in almost every kitchen in the world. Add a little sparkle to your food and it’s a must for your health.
The first civilizations recognized their value in the fight against infections. Garlic can also slow down the hardening of the arteries, and there is weak evidence that it helps lower blood pressure.
Garlic’s immune-boosting properties appear to come from a high concentration of sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin.
Ginger is another ingredient that many turn to after getting sick. Ginger can help decrease inflammation, which can help reduce sore throat and inflammatory diseases. Ginger can also help with nausea.
While used in many sweet desserts, ginger contains some heat in the form of gingerol, a relative of capsaicin.
Ginger can also decrease chronic pain and may even have cholesterol-lowering properties.
Spinach is on our list not only because it is rich in vitamin C, but it is also packed with numerous antioxidants and beta-carotene, which can increase our immune system’s ability to fight infections.
Similar to broccoli, spinach is healthier when cooked as little as possible so it retains its nutrients. However, light cooking facilitates the absorption of vitamin A and allows the release of other nutrients from oxalic acid, an antinutrient. Check out some spinach recipes here.
Look for yogurts that have the phrase “live and active cultures” printed on the label, like Greek yogurt. These crops can boost your immune system to help fight disease.
Try to get plain yogurts instead of those that are flavored and loaded with sugar. You can sweeten plain yogurt with healthy fruit and a drizzle of honey yourself.
Yogurt can also be a great source of vitamin D, so try to select brands fortified with this vitamin. Vitamin D helps regulate the immune system and is believed to stimulate our body’s natural defenses against disease.
Even clinical trials are underway to study its possible effects on COVID-19.
When it comes to preventing and fighting colds, vitamin E tends to outpace vitamin C. However, this powerful antioxidant is key to a healthy immune system.
It is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that it requires the presence of fat to be properly absorbed. Walnuts, like almonds, are full of vitamins and also have healthy fats.
Adults only need about 15 mg of vitamin E per day. A half-cup serving of almonds, which are about 46 whole, shelled almonds, provides about 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance.
9. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are packed with nutrients, including phosphorous, magnesium, and vitamins B-6 and E.
Vitamin E is important for regulating and maintaining the function of the immune system. Other foods with high amounts of vitamin E include avocados and dark green leafy vegetables.
Sunflower seeds are also incredibly high in selenium. Just 1 ounce contains almost half of the average adult needs daily. A variety of studies, conducted primarily on animals, have looked at its potential to combat viral infections such as swine flu (H1N1).
You may know turmeric as a key ingredient in many curries. This bright and bitter bitter spice has also been used for years as an anti-inflammatory in the treatment of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Research shows that high concentrations of curcumin, which give turmeric its distinctive color, can help decrease exercise-induced muscle damage. Curcumin promises to be an immune booster (based on the findings of animal studies) and an antiviral. More research is needed.
11. Green Tea
Both green and black tea are full of flavonoids, a type of antioxidant. Where green tea really stands out is in its levels of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), another powerful antioxidant.
In studies, EGCG has been shown to improve immune function. The fermentation process that goes through black tea destroys a large amount of EGCG. Green tea, on the other hand, is steamed and not fermented, so EGCG is preserved.
Green tea is also a good source of the amino acid L-theanine. L-theanine can aid in the production of compounds to fight the germs in your T cells.
Papaya is another vitamin C-laden fruit. You can find the recommended daily amount of vitamin C in a single medium fruit at Double Papayas also have a digestive enzyme called papain that has anti-inflammatory effects.
Papayas have decent amounts of potassium, magnesium, and folic acid, all of which are beneficial to your overall health.
Like papayas, kiwis are naturally packed with a ton of essential nutrients, such as folic acid, potassium, vitamin K, and vitamin C.
Vitamin C increases white blood cells to fight infection, while other nutrients in kiwi keep the rest of the body working properly.
When you’re sick and looking for chicken soup, it’s more than just the placebo effect that makes you feel better. Soup can help reduce inflammation, which could improve cold symptoms.
Poultry, like chicken and turkey, are rich in vitamin B-6. About 3 ounces of light turkey or chicken meat contains almost a third of the recommended daily amount of B-6.
Vitamin B-6 is an important player in many of the chemical reactions that occur in the body. It is also vital for the formation of new and healthy red blood cells.
The broth or broth made by boiling chicken bones contains gelatin, chondroitin and other useful nutrients for intestinal healing and immunity.
Seafood is not what comes to mind for many who try to strengthen their immune systems, but some types of seafood are full of zinc.
Zinc doesn’t get as much attention as many other vitamins and minerals, but our bodies need it for our immune cells to function as intended.
High-zinc seafood varieties include:
Keep in mind that you don’t want to have more than the recommended daily amount of zinc in your diet:
- 11 mg for adult men
- 8 mg for most adult women
Too much zinc can inhibit the function of the immune system.
More ways to prevent infections
Variety is the key to proper nutrition. Eating just one of these foods will not be enough to help fight the flu or other infections, even if you eat it constantly. Pay attention to portion sizes and recommended daily intake so you don’t get too much vitamin and too little of others.
Eating right is a good start, and there are other things you can do to protect yourself and your family from the flu, cold, and other illnesses.