Your body can only be as healthy as the fuel you put into it. There is so much truth in the saying: “You are what you eat”! The same is true for the health of your immune system. During the height of cold and flu season (not to mention pandemics), you can keep your immune system functioning beautifully by intentionally choosing outstanding foods to power up your immunity.
The first step to avoiding pesky illnesses is a trip to the grocery store. Here’s what you should buy:
1. Citrus fruits - Natural Vitamin C
Citrus fruits (when organic and in season) are great for boosting the immune system because of their high vitamin C content, bioflavonoids, and nutritional co-factors. Natural vitamin C helps the body produce white blood cells, which are your key immune-active commandos for fighting infections and illnesses. Although vitamin C is extremely functional in the body, you are not able to actually produce it. You must eat foods with some of this vitamin every day in food in order to keep your white blood cell production at peak levels. Good news – citrus fruits are super easy to add to your diet! Simply squeeze some lemon juice over your salad for an easy dressing or incorporate a grapefruit or orange in your next breakfast.
2. Broccoli - Little Green Trees
Does broccoli look like little green trees to you? These “little greenies” are supercharged with vitamins including vitamins A, C, E, as well as many antioxidants and beneficial fiber. Truly, broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables that you can put on your plate. All of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber in broccoli help your immune system to function beautifully. But be careful of how you eat it! Never eat broccoli raw! You will need to cook it for 8 – 10 minutes (at boiling temperature) in order to neutralize its naturally-occurring glucosinolate, a factor that can interfere with thyroid metabolism (unless the broccoli is cooked).
3. Garlic and Ginger - The Spice Masters
Although garlic is found in almost every cuisine in the world, many people do not realize the full range of the health benefits it has. Similarly, ginger is widely recognized to have a zingy taste – but is also a powerful, immune-boosting root. The allicin in garlic and the gingerol in ginger can help to boost the immune system, decrease inflammation, and help settle a roiling stomach - not to mention they are delicious additions to most meals!
4. Leafy Greens - Immune Boosters
Leafy greens – especially spinach – fall high on the list of immune-boosting foods because they are rich in vitamin C and packed with numerous antioxidants, including beta carotene. These compounds can increase the ability of your immune system to fight infections and illnesses. When you prepare these greens, cook them as little as possible in order to retain their amazing nutrients. Cooking greens only minimally can help preserve vitamin A and other nutrients that are hiding in the greens.
5. Mushrooms - Vitamin Powerhouses
Mushrooms, including button mushrooms and reishi mushrooms, contain high amounts of the beneficial mineral, selenium, and the critical B vitamins, riboflavin and niacin. Specific, distinctive polysaccharides, compounds which naturally help boost immune function, are found in abundance in mushrooms. Mushroom-derived minerals and vitamins can help keep your immune system operating in high gear and have a savory flavor that can improve any dish.
The next time you’re looking for a way to boost your immune system as well as avoid pesky illnesses or colds, start with a trip to your local grocery store.