We’ve all seen the ads and articles promoting a new rare superfood from the jungles of the Amazon, that is supposed to be a miracle solution to chronic illness. While these fads are most often overblown, there are foods that are much closer to home that can help tone up your immune system, and they are found in almost any kitchen. The key is to know how and when to use them and to use them regularly.
Any health supplement should be used sensibly, not overdosed or binged, but the immune-boosting foods listed here can be easily integrated with what you’re already eating, without taking on a crazy fad diet or traveling to the other side of the world. Some of these foods have been used medicinally for thousands of years, and they have been integrated into the cultural fabric of Asian, Indian, or Italian cooking. You’ll recognize them here, but you may never have realized how beneficial they were.
Here are some immune-boosting foods that are easy to find:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Italians will tell you it’s a staple for any delicious meal. But did you know that olive oil is an excellent immune booster? Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a powerful antioxidant, and it provides Omega 3 fatty acids, which keep cholesterol down. It’s also an anti-inflammatory. It’s best not to overheat this oil, so add it to vegetables or drizzle over your bread. You can also add a tablespoon to a smoothie.
Garlic is a folk remedy for killing infections, dating back generations. It comes in pill form, but you can also buy a clove and experiment with adding some to almost any savory dish, for a little kick of spice. Garlic is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and virus fighter. It has no side effects except for the strong taste, so blending it in with salad dressing or pasta sauce is ideal.
Lemons, limes, oranges, clementines, grapefruits, and everything in between, contain a high amount of Vitamin C, which directly increases the number of white blood cells working to fight infections. The pit and seeds of such fruits contain an even higher amount of vitamin C than the flesh and juice of the fruit, but these are incredibly bitter. A small amount of grapefruit seed extract is an excellent supplement to a health shake, and it’s power-packed with Vitamin C!
Broccoli, cauliflower, and brussell sprouts are cruciferous vegetables and are a staple of a healthy diet and great antioxidants. They contain high amounts of the minerals calcium and magnesium, vitamins A, D and E, and dietary fiber. All these components keep you proofed up against disease, and some say they may even prevent some cancers.
Green tea is an ancient staple in Asian diets and is packed with flavonoids and amino acids that promote immune function. It can be drunk as is or as an addition to a smoothie or vitamin shake.
Ginger is a wonderful and powerful root, that should be your go-to if you’re sick. It’s soothing to the throat, and it kills infections, while also improving circulation. It’s anti-inflammatory, so adding some to your food on a regular basis can also help ease chronic conditions such as arthritis.
Turmeric is another anti-inflammatory spice commonly found in Indian cooking. Fighting inflammation overall is excellent for the immune system. An ingredient in Turmeric known as Curcumin has been researched for its’ tumor-reduction abilities when taken with Bioperine, a pepper extract.
Yogurt and other fermented foods
Yogurt contains probiotics that help keep your immune system strong. If you have had to take antibiotics at any point in your life, your healthy bacteria (lactobacillus) have been killed off and this makes your overall immune system weaker. Yogurt, and other fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut and tempeh, as well as kombucha tea, help replenish those vital bacteria.
One important note is that eating these immune-boosting foods once or twice will not prevent disease. But maintaining overall health, which comes from nutrient-dense foods in your diet, exercise, and a stress-free life, is a winning combination.
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