While we’re still in the throes of a global pandemic, the word “immunity” is top of mind for us all. As the old saying goes, “you are what you eat,” so here’s a powerhouse list of 15 foods to help keep your immune system in fighting shape (and liven up your cold-weather diet) during these long, sniffly midwinter months.
This root spice is widely known for its rich nutritional properties. It contains vitamin B6 and gingerol, which has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that can ease the symptoms of viral infections while also boosting your ability to fight them. You can either consume it as a tea with lemon and honey, mince it into a juice shot or incorporate it in your meals. When I was recently down with a cold I tried ginger juice shots with honey every morning and it helped ease my congestion and soothe my throat!
This gold super-spice has been known for centuries as an immunity-boosting agent, largely due to its high concentration of curcumin. This anti-inflammatory compound activates the production of T-cells—AKA leukocytes, or white blood cells—which are essential for fighting antigens in the body. Getting your daily dose of turmeric can be as simple as mixing it with water and shooting it. A staple in Indian cooking, many dishes in your favorite local Indian restaurant will contain this healthful spice.
3. Citrus Fruits
Packed with vitamin C (the key vitamin for immune system health) citrus fruits like orange, kiwi, and papaya can both help to prevent infection and speed the recovery process if you do catch a cold. Juice it up or slice it up, it’s up to you!
4. Chicken Soup
This age-old remedy truly works wonders. It contains vitamin A, vitamin C and antioxidants that are known to strengthen the immune system and fight off viruses. In addition, the protein from chicken provides the body with amino acids that build those all-important antibodies.
Fatty fish such as salmon, and white tuna and shellfish like oysters, crab, lobsters, and mussels are nutrient-packed foods that strengthen your immune system and reduce inflammation. They are loaded with vitamins A, B, D, and minerals such as zinc, magnesium and potassium as well as omega-3 fatty acids.
6. Greek Yogurt
Probiotics are the key to this healthful food! Greek yogurt has even more protein than your regular yoghurt and is a great source of the probiotic lactobacillus that supports healthy blood cell counts to tackle pathogens. Greek yogurt also has immune-boosting antioxidants and Vitamin, an absolute essential vitamin for immune system health.
This immune-boosting fruit is high in antioxidant flavonoid that can help reduce damage to cells by tackling free radicals that have entered the body. Blueberries are credited with lowering inflammation in the body and are also packed with vitamin C, vitamin A, dietary fiber and essential minerals like potassium and manganese.
8. Ginseng Tea
Ginseng is one of the most well-known eastern medicinal herbs used for the treatment of upper respiratory tract infections. It is commonly praised for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects as well as fighting fatigue, regulating blood sugar, and enhancing brain function.
9. Organic Raw Honey
Organic raw honey contains a whole range of medicinal properties. It not only soothes the throat but protects the body against bacteria and strengthens gut immunity with its rich antibacterial properties.
Eggs are rich in antioxidants and amino acids which are key in the smooth functioning of the immune system. Interestingly, research shows that COVID-19 patients and health workers around the world have been served eggs as part of their daily meals because of the immune-boosting essential nutrients. Each egg is packed with 7g of protein and core minerals like zinc and selenium and vitamin A, B and K.
11. Red Apples
An apple a day indeed keeps the doctor away! Apples are packed with phytochemicals, particularly quercetin, which is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that help regulate the immune system. Make sure to go for the darker red apples as they contain a larger concentration of flavonoids.
Nuts are packed with protein and vitamin E which is essential to keeping your immune system healthy. Almonds, in particular, are a key source of vitamin E and the minerals magnesium, iron, phosphorus and zinc that support the immune system.
Rich in vitamin C, spinach is packed with the nutrient beta carotene (that converts into vitamin A in our bodies) and numerous antioxidants, which may together increase the strength of the immune system to fight off infections. Try to cook it as little as possible to make the most of the nutrients.
14. Whole Grains
Whole grains like brown rice, oats, and whole wheat supply essential nutrients like selenium, iron and magnesium to the immune system. Studies show that a diet rich in whole grains increases good bacteria and produce short-chain fatty acids that are important for a healthy immune system and help in the reduction of bacteria that triggers inflammation.
15. Dark Chocolate
While not quite as sweet as milk chocolate, this antioxidant-rich food contains a higher percentage of cacao than regular chocolate and therefore enhances gut health and improves blood flow: indirectly strengthening the immune system. This superfood contains high levels of flavonoids, an antioxidant that can also reduce inflammation and protect our cells from damage.