Foods to Support Your Immune System
As we head into Autumn, you have no doubt already caught yourself thinking about the dreaded coughs and colds that accompany the season and also find yourself keeping your fingers crossed that you don’t succumb too often! Of course, some colds will be unavoidable, nevertheless we can definitely help ourselves by boosting our immune system and offering it extra support to do its’ job more effectively by eating certain immune boosting foods.
Our immune systems function best when we consume a varied and well-balanced diet (as well as getting a decent amount of sleep and regular exercise). With optimal effect, this is key to supporting our bodies to fight infection and disease.
One of the key elements of our immune system are the millions of incredible white blood cells which act as our main defence against bacteria, toxins and viruses that threaten our health. These white blood cells safeguard us by roaming the blood stream and lymphatic system constantly seeking out any suspicious activity & signs of disease. If an infection is detected then the immune system activates a response in order to fight it. Even more incredible, it also retains the information for the next time, which is how the immune system builds our defences!
This clearly demonstrates that what we eat plays a very important part in how we support the immune system, as the foods we consume provide the body with the vital nutrients we need to build a protective response.
So next, let’s take a look at what these important foods are! Keep in mind that the more you can include in your diet and the greater the variety the better!
Ideal foods to support your immunity:
One could be forgiven for overlooking the simple orange as they do not stand up to declare themselves a fashionable & trendy ‘superfood’! In particular, however, blood oranges are real superstars in the citrus family. They contain five times the antioxidant activity of a regular orange and carry the same amount of vitamin C. They are also known to help reduce inflammation in the blood.
Greek yogurt is probiotic-rich and packed with more protein than regular yogurt.
Pomegranate contains polyphenols that can help treat and prevent coughs and colds. Concentrated amounts of polyphenol antioxidants can be found in pomegranate juice and have been shown to help reduce the duration of a cold by as much as 40%.
Brazil nuts contain selenium which are an important mineral in the protection against oxidative stress. Selenium has also been shown to help the body in fighting viral infections.
Wild salmon is packed with zinc which is a nutrient that has been proven to help reduce the symptoms of a common cold. Wild salmon is also high in omega-3 fatty acids which can help with reducing inflammation, preventing viral infections and enhancing immune cell function.
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (eg: cauliflower, cabbage, kale & spouts) are proven to help boost immunity because they contain sulforane. This is a plant chemical in the vegetable which switches on antioxidant genes and enzymes in specific immune cells. In doing so, they combat free radicals to reduce the risk of disease.
Green tea is often included on lists of super healthy foods and for good reason! Green tea contains flavonoids which is an antioxidant that boosts immunity and has anti-inflammatory properties. Green tea also contains an antioxidant called catechin that is a powerful antibacterial and antiviral that can kill off cold-starting bacteria and the influenza virus.
Research has shown that ginger has strong anti-inflammatory properties which are essential for fighting the common cold & flu.
Shallots contain up to six times more polyphenols than most onions due to their quercetin content. Quercetin plays a big role in helping the body combat free radical damage which is linked to disease.
You will be pleased to learn that good, strong dark chocolate (that which has 80+% cocoa) contains magnesium which is an essential mineral for supporting the immune system. It works by helping lymphocytes bind to pathogens so they can be removed from the body.
These little lovelies are loaded with twice the vitamin C content of an orange and loaded with antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin. They really are a super fruit stuffed full of nutrients that assist the immune system in its’ vital functions.
Oregano contains a number of antimicrobial and antifungal essential oils which are useful in treating infections and boosting the immune system. Make sure you put plenty in your cooking!
There is little doubt that what we eat has a direct influence on our immune system. Certain foods, as shown above, have the power and properties to help us lower the risk of disease or reduce our recovery time when we fall ill. Wherever possible, choose fresh, whole foods and try to eat as wide a variety of colourful and flavoursome foods as you can.
Your immune system will thank you!