When we think of protecting our immune systems, we often think of taking shots of Emergen-C, getting plenty of rest and drinking copious amounts of vitamin-C infused beverages. However, these may not always be the best options for keeping a healthy immune system, especially during the winter season when sickness seems to run rampant.
We are constantly being exposed to organisms on a daily basis that we ingest or come in contact with. Our Immune system is constantly on defense, and the strength of our immune system determines whether these organisms make us feel sick or slowly manifest into disease.
80% of your immune system lives in your gastrointestinal system, so it is very important to focus on healthy types of foods that are going to react well with your gastrointestinal system. A healthy gut contributes to a healthy immune system. It’s all about balance, and if you are eating more anti-inflammatory foods that are rich in vitamins and phytonutrients, you’ll automatically support healthy immune function.
With that said, we have put together a list of 10 tasty foods that are guaranteed to boost your immune system and ward of any sickness that may be trying enter your body!
According to Los Angeles–based holistic nutritionist Elissa Goodman, turmeric is one of the richest sources of antioxidants and is therefore chock-full of the inflammation-fighting goodness our vulnerable immune systems needs.
“Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is antiviral, antifungal, and can help keep the immune system strong,” Goodman shares. “Just make sure to mix turmeric with black pepper, which increases absorption. I like to juice turmeric in addition to adding it to curries, sauces, soups, and coffee-free lattes.”
2. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are filled with zinc—one of the most important minerals for staving off sniffles and sluggishness.
Zinc is an essential mineral for the immune system. An immune system without zinc is like an army without soldiers. Enjoy a piece of dark chocolate in the afternoon, toast up some chickpeas for a salad, or snack on a handful of pumpkin seeds to help to store optimal levels of zinc in the body.
It’s believed that ginger helps to break down the accumulation of toxins in our organs due to its warming effects. It’s also known to cleanse the lymphatic system, our network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste, and other unwanted materials.
Enjoying a cup of warm ginger tea or sipping a low-sugar green juice enhanced with organic ginger root is best. You can juice ginger, just make sure you use organic, raw ginger!
Elderberry is an antioxidant powerhouse with a surplus of immune-boosting perks! Studies suggest that elderberry extract may offer virus-fighting, immune-stimulating, and anti-inflammatory effects.
5. Fermented Foods
Keeping your gut bacteria healthy is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy since roughly 70% to 80% of the cells making up your immune system are in your gut. So eat up fermented foods like coconut kefir, tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, or kombucha.
6. Dark Leafy Greens
Dark, leafy greens are a well-known source of vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients, but they are also a key source of specialized chemical signals that our immune systems use to communicate.
Try loading up on greens — hearty salads, greens sauteed with garlic and onion, or homemade green juice with kale or dandelion greens.
No…not the magic kind.
Medicinal mushrooms are amazing for supporting the immune system. Options like reishi, Cordyceps, chaga, or maitake can boost the immune system due to their high antioxidant properties and ability to fight free-radical formation. The vitamin D–filled varieties you find in the produce section of your grocery are great too.
The best way to consume mushrooms is to sauté them or add a superfood powder to your coffee, latte, or smoothie. Additionally, mushrooms have been shown to support the liver in detoxification and protect the body’s supply of mitochondria.
Garlic is one of the best foods you can consume on a regular basis that will also help improve immunity. It’s antiviral and acts as an antibiotic against fungal infections, bacteria, and viruses.
Although garlic can be consumed cooked or raw, if your stomach can handle it, it’s best to a raw garlic clove for optimal benefits. Slightly smashing the clove before swallowing it can activate the allicin compounds before swallowing it like a pill.
9. Bone Broth
Several studies have linked the substance chondroitin sulfate, found in bone broth, to both anti-inflammatory as well as immune-regulatory effects. Essentially, bone broth might help seal the gut, which prevents the proliferation of bad bacteria and other potentially harmful invaders from compromising gut health and in turn our immune systems.
This in large part is due to the glycosaminoglycans (or GAGs) found in it. GAGs help to restore the intestinal lining. They also play a role in maintaining collagen and elastin content between tissue fibers.
Use bone broth to sauté vegetables, as a base in your soups, or served straight up for a relaxing pre-bedtime sip.
Like pumpkin seeds, legumes are another great source of the mega-immune supporter zinc. Eating your daily quota of the mineral (versus supplementing) might be a superior way to fire up your immune system.
Supplementing with zinc can help to strengthen the immune system, although it is recommend trying to get your minerals from food before exploring supplementation