Natural Immunity boosters
Find out which foods and nutrients bolster your immune system.
The much-dreaded cold and flu season is upon us. How can you bolster your defenses against the germs lurking in the common areas in your office, the mall where you do your holiday shopping and the rest stops you encounter in your holiday travels? Include these immunity boosters in your diet, plus make sure to wash your hands, take a multi-vitamin and try to get enough sleep too.
A strong antioxidant, ginger also has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It can help to stimulate circulation, which means more oxygen to body tissue, helping to move toxins.
Ginger can also help settle an upset stomach, so try adding it to a cup of tea and slowly sipping it. You can make your own ginger tea by simmering some ginger root in water on the stovetop. After 10-15 minutes, drain the liquid through a sieve and stir in a little honey for a touch of sweetness.
Allicin, a phytonutrient found in garlic, can help to fight bacteria and infection in your body. Garlic gives your body’s immune cells a boost, which can help to fight off common colds. Even if you’ve already been hit with a cold, garlic can help reduce the severity of the symptoms.
Most people turn to vitamin C after they’ve caught a cold. That’s because it helps build up your immune system. Vitamin C is thought to increase the production of white blood cells. These are key to fighting infections.
Popular citrus fruits include:
Because your body doesn’t produce or store it, you need daily vitamin C for continued health. Almost all citrus fruits are high in vitamin C. With such a variety to choose from, it’s easy to add a squeeze of this vitamin to any meal.
You may know turmeric as a key ingredient in many curries. But this bright yellow, bitter spice has also been used for years as an anti-inflammatory in treating both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Also, research shows that high concentrations of curcumin, which gives turmeric its distinctive color, can help decrease exercise-induced muscle damage.
Spinach made our list not just because it’s rich in vitamin C. It’s also packed with numerous antioxidants and beta carotene, which may increase the infection-fighting ability of our immune systems. Similar to broccoli, spinach is healthiest when it’s cooked as little as possible so that it retains its nutrients. However, light cooking enhances its vitamin A and allows other nutrients to be released from oxalic acid.
Broccoli is supercharged with vitamins and minerals. Packed with vitamins A, C, and E, as well as many other antioxidants and fiber, broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables you can put on your table. The key to keeping its power intact is to cook it as little as possible — or better yet, not at all.
If you think citrus fruits have the most vitamin C of any fruit or vegetable, think again. Ounce for ounce, red bell peppers contain twice as much vitamin C as citrus. They’re also a rich source of beta carotene. Besides boosting your immune system, vitamin C may help maintain healthy skin. Beta carotene helps keep your eyes and skin healthy.
Regularly eating probiotics, so-called “good bacteria” found in foods like yogurt and sauerkraut, may help your immune system work better and improve digestion. Kefir (a yogurt-like beverage) is also a good bet. Look for products labeled with a “Live & Active Cultures” seal from the National Yogurt Association, which signifies that the yogurt contains a set minimum amount of two particular types of beneficial bacteria. (While it’s not a guarantee of probiotic power—the bacterial counts don’t differentiate between added probiotic organisms and the bacteria that’s used to ferment the yogurt—the seal is a helpful start.) With the new “probiotic” cereals and granola bars on the market now, it’s not always clear how much good bacteria the manufacturers actually add to the products or whether the strains included are effective. If you really want to know about the science backing a product’s “probiotic power,” contact the manufacturer.
Polyphenols, potent plant antioxidants, are what’s believed to give green tea its immune-boosting effects. One laboratory study suggested that a particular type of polyphenols called catechins may kill influenza viruses. To maximize benefits and minimize bitterness, use just-below-boiling water and steep green tea no more than a minute or two. A little lemon and honey can also help blunt the bitterness. But don’t add milk, because the proteins will bind to the polyphenols, making them ineffective.
In a study published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, children who took daily vitamin D supplements (1,200 IU) were 40 percent less likely to get a common flu virus than kids who took a placebo. Laboratory studies indicate that the nutrient may help immune cells identify and destroy bacteria and viruses that make us sick. Since the majority of us don’t get enough vitamin D, most experts recommend a D supplement. You can also get it (in small doses) from fatty fish, such as salmon —and your body makes vitamin D from the sun.
Mice that ate a diet rich in soluble fiber for six weeks recovered from a bacterial infection in half the time it took mice that chowed on meals containing mixed fiber, according to a recent study in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity. Soluble fiber—abundant in citrus fruits, apples, carrots, beans and oats—helps fight inflammation. Insoluble fiber—found in wheat, whole grains, nuts and green leafy vegetables—is still important for overall health, but it doesn’t seem to have the same impact on immunity. Strive for 25 to 38 grams of total fiber a day, paying extra attention to getting the soluble kind.