Eating Immune-boosting foods can be life-changing!
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” ~ Hippocrates
A quote by Hippocrates, one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine. He was a physician, but he talked about food, not medicines. It goes to show that food is not only for filling our bellies. What we eat directly impacts our physical and mental being.
Wholesome nutrition and real foods are essential in healing and repairing our body systems from within. A nourished body results in greater strength to fight off bacterial and viral infections from attacking us.
Eating the right foods can boost immunity and offer a steady supply of nutrients to the body to do its job. Fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains and legumes provide several immune-boosting antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Below, we have a list of some of the top immune-boosting foods that promote an optimally functioning immune system:
Eggs, Mushrooms and Tofu for Vitamin D
Vitamin D is responsible for altering the number of white blood cells also, called killer lymphocytes. White blood cells reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses in our body. Include mushrooms, eggs, fortified milk and tofu in your diet to get ample amounts of vitamin D. Lack of this vitamin increases the risk of developing acute respiratory tract infections. Fatty fish like cod, mackerel and salmon is also a great source of vitamin D.
Bone Broth for Collagen
Some chicken soup for the soul? Used for ages, bone broth is an excellent healing food that provides collagen, calcium and magnesium. Proline and Glycine present in bone broth is used in the synthesis of DNA and proteins in the body. Connective tissue from the bones is rich in glucosamine that is known to strengthen joints. The gelatin in bone broth heals the delicate mucosal lining in the digestive tract. Healthy digestion is the first step towards a strong immune system.
Collagen is also the material that is extremely important for the health and vitality of our skin, hair and nails. So, go on and make a pot of fresh chicken soup and slurp the goodness!
Kimchi and Kombucha for Probiotics
A healthy microbiome means a varied population of good bacteria in our intestines. Most illnesses begin from the gut, and fermented food fosters a balance in the gut by producing gut-friendly bacteria such as Bifidobacterium and Peptococcus.
The organic acids produced during fermentation are short-chain fatty acids that are anti-inflammatory in nature. Fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso and yoghurt boost microbiome health, which in turn supports our immune system. It would be safe to say, fermented foods score highly on the list on immune-boosting foods.
Citrus Foods for Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and recommended by most health experts as the best cure for flu and colds. Vitamin C prevents and treats respiratory inflammation.
Eating one medium grapefruit can provide you with 90 mg of vitamin C, which is almost half of the daily recommended limit. Lemon juice, bell peppers, strawberries and kiwis are some foods rich in vitamin C that help reduce the duration of cold symptoms. Deficiency of vitamin C can result in impaired immunity and therefore leave you susceptible to infections. Include more vitamin C in your diet to see its immune-boosting effects.
Nuts and Seeds for Zinc and Vitamin E
Nuts and seeds are tiny powerhouses of nutrients. A little goes a long way with nuts and seeds, and there are a variety of ways you can include them in your daily diet. One ounce of sunflower seeds provides as much as 66% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin E that plays a major role in boosting immunity. The fat-soluble antioxidant breaks the fat peroxidation chain reaction and protects the lungs against oxidative stress. It kickstarts the immune cells whose main job is to fend off incoming invaders, i.e. bacteria and viruses.
Zinc assists in the creation, metabolism and storage of hormones. It is also responsible for maintaining the structural balance of the cell. Hormonal imbalances and weak metabolism lead to a compromised immune system, so be sure to munch on those cashew nuts, almonds and peanuts for your daily zinc dose!
Dairy Products and Meat for protein
Immunoglobulins or antibodies are proteins that flow in your blood to form key parts of a strong immune system. The body uses amino acids from dietary protein to build other proteins in your body. Too little of it leads to weakness, fatigue and consequently, poor defence against external health risks. For all the meat lovers, there is the option of beef, poultry and fish to provide protein. And for the vegans- lentils, beans and nuts are a great way to go!
Carrots and Kale for Beta Carotene
Beta Carotene is basically a carotenoid pigment, reddish-orange in colour that is converted to vitamin A in our bodies. It is a precursor of vitamin A (retinol), that is much needed for healthy mucous membrane lining on our respiratory tracts. Vitamin A also promotes healthy vision and a stable immune system.
Beta carotene keeps lungs healthy as we age. Eat foods like carrots, kale, apricots, plums and sweet potatoes to ensure you get a good amount of beta carotene, and hence, vitamin A in your diet.
A BMJ report of a test done on 535 individuals revealed that high blood beta carotene levels could repair damage done to our lungs by free oxygen radicals. So, you can stock up on carrots to protect yourself from lung infections such as pneumonia.
Turmeric for Inflammatory relief
Turmeric contains curcumin which is a natural compound that gives it that beautiful yellow-gold hue. Curcumin is a potent immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory compound that modulates the activation of B cells, T cells, neutrophils and natural killer cells. Even at low doses, curcumin improves antibody responses. Therefore, turmeric has proved to be quite beneficial in treating upper respiratory tract ailments, asthmas and allergies.
An interesting tip is to add a pinch of black pepper when you add turmeric to your food. Piperine, a bioactive compound in black pepper enhances the absorption of curcumin in our bodies by 2000%!
Although curries are popular options, our favourite is golden milk! It is a soothing way to add both pepper and turmeric to your diet. A brew of hot milk, turmeric and pepper does wonders to a scratchy throat and a sneezing bout!
Try these immune-boosting foods along with exercise and ample rest for a healthier you!