One of the best ways to keep a strong and healthy immune system is to eat well. What does this mean? We are often confused by the latest and greatest diets, but eating to nourish our health is not a fad, but a lifelong habit.
Nutrient-dense whole foods, fresh vegetables and fruits, lean meats, wild-caught fish, and flavorful spices are the basis for a good diet. Things that come out of a box, package or can are not promoting good health. We need to feed our bodies at the cellular level, and this is best done with a fresh, nourishing diet.
Incorporate these foods into your diet to help keep the immune system strong:
Pumpkin is rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin and antioxidants beta-carotene and alpha-carotene, and is wonderful to eat and low in calories. Pumpkin can be pureed and added to smoothies, pancakes, granola, protein balls, even macaroni and cheese! (see pumpkin recipes). The nutrients and antioxidant benefits of pumpkin include: protecting eyesight and skin, low calorie/high fiber aids weight loss, may reduce some cancer risk, can boost mood, the immune system and helps fight infection. Roasted pumpkin seeds are a delicious snack and they are a terrific source of protein, zinc, and iron.
Garlic has several antioxidants that can help strengthen immunity and ward off infections and viruses. Garlic is a most effective broad spectrum anti-microbial, possessing 39 different anti-fungal, bacterial, parasitic and viral agents. Garlic is also a super detoxifier. Add fresh garlic to salads, meats, vegetable sautes, and fresh salad dressing. The good part is allicin, and the best way to consume garlic is to eat it raw (crushed or chopped) or take as a supplement in freeze-dried capsules.
Turmeric provides antibacterial and antimicrobial properties and has been around for hundreds of years. The golden yellow spice is known as the “healing” spice to the Eastern cultures and is used in curries. The combination of turmeric and peppercorn enhances the absorption of curcumin, the main active ingredient found in turmeric. Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant. For medicinal properties, turmeric is used to help with sore throats, colds, flus, stomachache, wounds, skin problems and abrasions. Turmeric is delicious in curries, with roasted vegetables or as a warming drink on a cold night with golden turmeric milk (see recipe).
Ginger is commonly known for digestive issues, but it is also has anti-inflammatory and detoxification properties and is rich in antioxidants and helps support the immune system. Fresh ginger makes wonderful tea and can be added to vegetables,and soups for delicious flavor and health benefits.
Wild-caught salmon is loaded with omega 3’s, Vitamins A, D and selenium, which all help boost the immune system. Salmon is a lean source of protein and experts suggest eating fish twice a week for health benefits and to keep inflammation in check.
Cruciferous vegetables (yes, the ones that are most pungent) contain antiviral and antibacterial properties. Vegetables contain fiber, vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals, and enzymes. Eat broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, radishes, collards, arugula, spinach, kale, bok choy and greens. Add sweet potatoes, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes- eat the rainbow of vegetables and fruits!
Citrus contain a high dose of Vitamin C, and are great for immune boosting. They also provide fiber, potassium and flavonoids. Guava, kiwi, red bell peppers, strawberries, oranges, cantaloupe and grapefruit contain the most Vitamin C. The body does not store Vitamin C, so plan on consuming citrus fruits daily.
Red bell peppers
Red bell peppers are higher than citrus fruits when it comes to the amount of Vitamin C they deliver. They are rich in beta-carotene, which the body converts to Vitamin A and is key for immunity. Peppers are great as a snack with hummus or wonderful in salads or meals.
Blueberries are full of antioxidants, especially when compared to other fruits. Studies suggest that blueberries can help fight cancer and increase the antioxidant value of the blood.
Bone broth helps improve gut health, where 80% of the immune system lives. Bone broth is made by slow cooking bones so amino acids, vitamins, minerals and collagen are released into the savory broth. Amino acids help to reduce inflammation and are essential for immune health and liver function.
Eat the Rainbow of Foods
One of the best things you can do to stay healthy is to eat a rainbow of wholesome and nourishing food. Good food, some daily exercise and fresh air, a good night’s sleep, and de-stressing can go a long way to helping our immune system stay strong and resilient.