Top 9 Immune-Boosting Foods
We can’t always control what bacteria and viruses we’re exposed to, but we can take charge of our wellbeing by eating immune-boosting foods that help to fortify our health, especially during cold and flu season.
In addition to staying on top of fundamental immune-boosting habits like getting enough sleep, washing our hands, managing stress effectively and incorporating regular exercise, stocking the fridge and pantry with the right foods and supplements can strengthen our body’s ability to fight off yucky germs. As you make your next grocery list, consider stocking up on the following immune-boosting foods and supplements.
It’s not grandma’s remedy for nothing; chicken soup has been shown to help reduce inflammation associated with viruses. It’s also hydrating, with the warm liquid helping to loosen congestion and reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms.
It’s not clear exactly what it is about chicken soup that provides the benefit. It’s likely that the collagen-rich broth – like what’s found in slow-cooked homemade chicken soup – plays a key role.
If you’re opting for store-bought chicken soup instead of simmering your own for hours, try adding bone broth for more nutrition and protein. Bone broth is made by simmering animal bones for hours so that more nutrients, including collagen, are pulled into the broth.
All kinds of pure tea – including black, green, white and oolong teas – are packed with antioxidants called flavonoids. Green and white teas are also particularly rich in epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, a particularly potent antioxidant that has been shown to enhance immune function.
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Shrimp and oysters to fend off the flu? It’s not what we typically first think of, but shellfish is one of the top food sources of zinc, which may help reduce the severity of a cold and clear it up faster.
Research has shown that consuming 300 micrograms of selenium daily can help to strengthen the immune system – a dosage easily obtained from just three Brazil nuts. Other selenium-rich foods include lobster, oysters, crabs and tuna.
The bright yellow spice is a natural anti-inflammatory, meaning it can help to relieve symptoms like sore throat and achy joints. Add turmeric to sauces, proteins and vegetables, or consider adding a turmeric supplement. (Tip: Look for turmeric supplements that also contain black pepper, which enhances our body’s absorption and utilization of the active compounds in turmeric).
Rich in a compound called gingerol, ginger can help decrease inflammation, which in turn can improve cold symptoms like sore throat, nasal congestion and nausea. To reap the benefits, steep freshly grated ginger in hot water to make a tea, or add an ounce of fresh-pressed ginger juice, which can be purchased online or at local juice bars, to hot tea or smoothies.
This common spice contains allicin, pungent compounds that appear to help fight infection and boost our immune system. Garlic might also reduce the frequency and number of colds we experience.
While adding garlic (and allicin-rich onions and leeks) to our diet may have some benefit, we’re far more likely to reap garlic’s cold-fighting benefits if we incorporate it in supplement form as well.
Along with other probiotic-rich foods like kombucha, kefir and sauerkraut, Greek yogurt is rich in beneficial bacteria that bolster our immune system and may help reduce symptoms of the common cold – and just might help to prevent us from getting sick in the first place.
Rainbows of produce
Mix up your veggie selections to include fruits and vegetables of all hues. Anthocyanin-rich berries, red beans, red cabbage, beta-carotene-rich pumpkin, sweet potatoes, carrots, and lutein-rich spinach and kale are linked to a stronger immune system and a lower risk of the flu and the common cold.