You might have heard the old saying, “you are what you eat”? Well, we couldn’t agree more with this very accurate phrase and believe that what we put into our bodies has a direct impact on our entire bodily health; especially our immune system.
The job of the immune system is to fight off invading bacteria that cause infection and disease, so it is essential that we provide the right vitamins and minerals for it to work effectively. Our article ‘10 easy ways to boost your immune system’, gives you a more detailed explanation of how the immune system works and 10 easy ways to give it a boost.
One of the most important ways in which to keep our immune system strong and healthy is through diet, so we scoped out some of the best immune-boosting foods for you to stock up on next time you go to the grocery store.
Garlic is the king of immune boosters and has over 100 chemical compounds that benefit the body in numerous ways. It’s jam-packed with nutrients such as vitamins B1, B6 and C, iron and phosphorus and the enzyme alliinase which converts alliin into allicin. Allicin is the most well-known, sulfur-containing compound which is anti-viral, anti-fungal and is responsible for fighting off invading pathogens and speeding up the rate at which natural killer cells are made.
Since Vitamin C is one of the major contributors to a healthy immune system, it’s no wonder citrus fruits are high on the list of immune boosting foods, considering the high levels of vitamin C they contain. Citrus fruits also contain an impressive list of other important vitamins and minerals that are essential for efficient immune function. These include B vitamins, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, thiamin, niacin, folate, iron, zinc and copper. The citrus fruits we recommend include sweet oranges, grapefruits, mandarins, limes, and lemons.
Yay! Finally, we have a reason to eat chocolate – guilt free! Scientists are now proposing this new tasty strategy as a way of boosting the immune system and our brain health – eaten in moderation of course. Dark chocolate contains high levels of flavonoids, which are a group of phytochemicals that have antioxidant abilities. The darker the chocolate the higher the level of flavonoids, which increases anti-inflammatory responses as well as helps to increase infection-fighting T-cells.
Turmeric has some of the most powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties out of any other food. Curcumin, a potent immunomodulatory agent, is the active ingredient in turmeric, which is anti-fungal, anti-viral and even has cancer-curing abilities. Curcumin is known to reduce the number of proinflammatory cytokines (the chemical messengers of the immune system) and enhances antibody responses.
Tip: When turmeric is mixed with black pepper, it increases your body’s absorption significantly.
Ginger contains very potent anti-inflammatory compounds that have been valued for centuries. Namely, its main bioactive compound gingerol, which inhibits the formation of proinflammatory cytokines. Ginger has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which is why it’s one of our ‘go tos’ in times of sickness. Throughout history, ginger has been known to be very effective at alleviating stomach pain.
Tip: At the first sign of a cold, we recommend you make a fresh lemon, ginger and honey tea which is a great way to speed up your recovery.
Green vegetables are so rich in antioxidants and vitamins that they are said to be the source of a chemical signal that is vital for healthy immune function. They do this by ensuring that immune cells in the gut and the skin known as intra-epithelial lymphocytes (IELs) function properly. IELs are a type of white blood cell that are responsible for balancing ‘good’ and ’bad’ bacteria in the gut and protecting the body against infection by destroying infected cells. Research suggests that the chemicals found in green vegetables trigger the activity of AhR ( aryl hydrocarbon receptors) proteins, which in turn help regulate the production of IELs throughout the body. Green veggies we recommend are leafy greens, spinach, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus.
Fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and herring, and shellfish such as oysters, lobsters, crabs, and clams are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are famous for being wonderful immune modulators. These nutrient-rich kinds of seafood contain a number of vital immune-boosting vitamins and minerals such as various B vitamins, vitamin D, and selenium. Selenium especially helps white blood cells to produce cytokines that help clear viruses out of the body.
Eggs are a great source of vitamin D, B12, zinc, and selenium; all of which are essential for keeping immune-fighting compounds healthy and strong. Vitamin D is important for regulating the body’s natural defense mechanisms, B12 regulates red blood cells which are what carries oxygen to vital parts of the body, zinc prevents out-of-control inflammation and selenium helps to produce bacteria fighting cytokines. We recommend you choose organic eggs where possible, as they will be free from hormones, vaccines, and antibiotics that are harmful to the human body.