A deficiency that many of us have in our diet is that we don’t factor in building a naturally strong immune system in what we intake. A lot of that is due to the way food is marketed. For years, you would see many products referred to as “low fat” or “low calorie.” The current trend is to label food as “organic” or “keto friendly.” This information is helpful, but it is rare that immune system impact is discussed.
In Part 1 of our immunity blog, we discussed over-the-counter supplements you can buy to strengthen your immune system. Here, we’ll provide some choices you can make at the supermarket or in a restaurant that will help your body’s natural immunity.
Citrus foods, such as oranges, lime or grapefruit. There’s a reason why most people turn straight to Vitamin C when they’ve caught a cold. Vitamin C increases the production of white blood cells, which are key to fighting infection1. Citrus foods are very dense in Vitamin C. And really, it’s so simple – and tasty – to add a squeeze of citrus to your food! If you prefer veggies to fruit, red bell peppers are a great source.
As an added benefit, Vitamin C speeds wound-healing and is great for your skin!
Garlic is a fun, tasty add to many types of cuisine. Garlic is dense in allicin, which is a sulfur-rich compound with a myriad of immune system benefits. Specifically, allicin has been shown to help prevent infections and slow down the hardening of arteries.
Yogurt is a tricky one. The right type works terrifically in helping your immune system fight disease – what is now commonly referred to as “gut health” – and is also a great Vitamin D source. However, you’ll need to examine the label for “live & active cultures” which Greek yogurts contain. To add flavor, drizzle a little honey on top.
Definitely avoid the yogurts that are overly processed. “Fruit on the bottom” is a giveaway. These types are high in sugar and rarely contain the immune-protecting cultures found in Greek yogurts.
Dark Chocolate is probably not a “hard sell” to have our Team Members & customers consume! It contains an antioxidant called theobromine that protects the body’s cells from free radicals. Of course, most dark chocolate is high in calories & saturated fat so take in moderation. With this in mind, Hershey’s makes a good product that you can eat guilt-free.
Oily Fish such as salmon, tuna & pilchards contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which strengthen your immune system in several ways2. Notably, they also fight Rheumatoid Arthritis, a chronic autoimmune condition which occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy parts of your body.
Sunflower Seeds are tasty and have so many benefits for your immune system and otherwise! They are high in phosphorus, magnesium, Vitamin B-6 & Vitamin E – the latter is key in regulating immune system function. They’re also high in selenium. Studies have shown that selenium helps fight various flu strains including the Swine Flu3.
Broccoli is this author’s favorite vegetable, so it was interesting while researching this article to learn of its benefits to the immune system. It is high in Vitamins A, C & E, rich in fiber, and many antioxidants. One pro tip here is to cook it as little as possible, as that process lessens many of these benefits. Steaming broccoli is the way to go!
1 Healthline – “15 Foods That Boost the Immune System: Citrus, Bell Peppers & more” – https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/foods-that-boost-the-immune-system
2 Medicalnewstoday – “The Best Foods for Boosting Your Immune System” https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322412
3 Academic.oup.com – “Dietary Selenium in Adjuvant Therapy of Viral and Bacterial Infections” https://academic.oup.com/advances/article/6/1/73/4558052