There are many ways of boosting your immune system but eating proven immune boosting foods is something we can easily do.
While it is impossible at times to control the many things that happen like the current coronavirus pandemic we do have some control over what happens inside our bodies.
If we eat well, support our detox pathways and exercise our bodies and immune systems are more likely to perform well.
Immune dysfunction is caused by various factors, including lack of nutrients, environmental stress and toxins. If your immune system is under functioning then you stand more chance of getting sick. If it’s strong and well balanced it will have a better chance of fighting off viral and other infections.
There are many immune boosting foods you can eat. These foods will not cure a virus immediately, but they may prepare your body to fight harder against it and other potential infections.
Most people know that fresh fruits, vegetables and gluten free whole grains top the list of must eat items. Some people believe that chicken soup makes a great cure when you are sick.
Related reading: The Extraordinary Detox Healing Properties of Fruits and Vegetables
There is some validity to it because chicken contains carnosine and beta-alanine which researchers have found can activate both T and B cells of the immune system.
Other people still live by the old adage “starve a cold and feed a fever.” So, what should you eat? Here is a list of the immune boosting foods that are most likely to result in better health.
These foods have proven beneficial for boosting one’s overall wellness, which in turn may help boost the odds you will be able to fight off bacteria or viruses like the coronavirus should you become infected with them.
Of course you have to also avoid foods like sugar and white flour which turns to sugar quickly. Sugar paralyzes macrophages, types of white blood cells responsible for engulfing microbial invaders and keeping them from causing you harm. Studies show that eating or drinking 100 grams of sugar can reduce the ability of white blood cells to kill germs by 40 percent and the immune-suppressing effect of sugar can last up to 5 hours.
Immune Boosting Foods
Infographic by Kitchen Product Reviewed
Fish or Flaxseed (linseeds)
These foods provide Omega 3 essential fatty acids, which recent research has shown can help enhance the function of the Immune System T cells and B cells.
While you can take a supplement containing Omega-3 fatty acids (a key essential fatty acid) you can also get essential fatty acids from your diet. Some good sources of fatty acids in food include fatty fish like tuna, wild Alaskan salmon and mackerel.
Flaxseeds provide ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) which can be converted in the body to EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) which are the fatty acids that have the immune enhancing effect.
I would point out here that fatty fish contains readily available EPA and DHA but flaxseed does not. According to studies the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA is low. A deficiency of vitamin B6 and zinc which are required for the enzyme conversion of ALA can impair the conversion even more.
Related reading: How to do a Flaxseed Cleanse
Live yogurt has been eaten by various cultures for years. Russian scientist Elie Metchnikoff believed that the high quantity of probiotics found in fermented milk products, like yogurt, were responsible for the good health and long lifespan of Bulgarians.
That belief has since been borne out by research that has found that certain probiotics helps to boost the immune system especially in older people.
To get the immune enhancing probiotics you have to take care to look for live yogurt. Many yogurts have been pasteurized, which is a heat treatment that kills the beneficial bacteria they contain.
To ensure your yogurt contains effective probiotics, look for one that contains live, active cultures, which should be listed on the label.
Different medicinal mushrooms have different properties and it’s more correct to call them immune modulators than immune boosters. They act more like adaptogens.
The immune modulating abilities of these superfoods are attributed to the high level of polysaccharides, specifically Beta-glucans, found in their cell walls.
Eastern medical practitioners often use Shiitake mushrooms to modulate immune function. They contain good levels of nutrients, such as B vitamins, vitamin D, selenium, niacin, and 7 of the 8 essential amino acids.
Reishi and Chaga and are two other notable medicinal mushrooms. Reishi mushrooms have the ability to stimulate macrophages, a type of white blood cell, which seek out and engulf bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.
Chaga mushrooms have been used for centuries in Siberia and other parts of Asia as a medicine to boost immunity and improve overall health. Now researchers have found that chaga stimulates white blood cells, which are essential for fighting off harmful bacteria or viruses.
You can benefit greatly from these mushrooms so long as you incorporate them into an overall healthy diet. You can add various mushroom powders to your smoothies.
Anthocyanins, the polyphenols which give berries their blue, red and purple color, have been described as immune modulators.
According to Raul Corredor MD:
specific types of anthocyanins may have a direct effect in decreasing influenza viruses infectivity by decreasing the ability of the virus itself to get into the human cells
Polyphenols have been shown to enhance intestinal mucosal immunity.
Seaweed which includes nori, kelp, wakame, kombu, dulse and blue-green algae, such as spirulina and chlorella is very nutritious.
It is rich in beta-carotene, B vitamins, Vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, iron, and iodine. It also contains omega-3s fats and polyphenols and is a good source of protein and fiber.
The plant fiber is good for the gut as it encourages the growth of the beneficial bacteria that in turn help to modulate the immune system.
Beta-glucans, polysaccharides, found in seaweed promotes the production of macrophages and natural killer cells that are responsible for fighting off invasive bacterial and viral infections.
Seaweed may also cause the body to produce more antibodies, which are a type of white blood cell that helps fight disease and infection.
Add a sprinkling of seaweed flakes to your salads. Use kelp or kombu in stocks, soups, and stews. Stir it into dressings.
Make sure that you buy seaweed that is organic and derived from a high-quality source to avoid toxic metals that it can contain.
Green tea, like many other teas, is a powerhouse of antioxidants. Black tea also contains many beneficial antioxidants, but studies suggest green tea is best. You can buy it decaf or caffeinated.
Polyphenols, potent plant antioxidants, are what’s believed to give green tea its immune-boosting effects. Researchers have discovered that one of these polyphenols, known as EGCG, has a powerful ability to increase the number of “regulatory T cells” that play a key role in immune function
According to researchers garlic appears to enhance the functioning of the immune system by stimulating certain types of immune system cells, such as macrophages, lymphocytes, and natural killer (NK) cells.
In one 2012 study taking aged garlic extract reduced the severity of cold and flu symptoms and that the symptoms went away faster in the participants who took the garlic extract than among those who didn’t.
Most of the immune boosting benefits of garlic are due to the sulfur containing compound alliin which is converted to allicin due to the action of an enzyme once the garlic clove is crushed or chopped. Allicin quickly changes into a series of other sulfur-containing compounds.
Cooking garlic destroys the enzyme responsible for the conversion.
Fresh garlic has many immune boosting properties, whether you take it as a supplement or as a whole food. Add it to salads, cold soups, cold salsas or dips.
You may not have thought of good old oats in this way before. Oats are another food that contains beta-glucan which helps to boost the infection-fighting natural killer cells. Beta-glucan is a soluble fiber that help feed the good bacteria in the gut which can also help boost immune function
Best to eat whole oats and not the instant kind which have been precooked, may have added sugar and can raise your blood glucose. Even if the instant oats has no sugar it can still spike blood sugar as it is a carbohydrate, gets digested very quickly into glucose and gets into the blood stream quickly.
Related reading: Is Sugar Toxic? Why Avoid it on a Detox Diet?
Try oatmeal for breakfast, top with blueberries and live yogurt and have a cup of green tea for a powerful immune boosting meal.
This list is far from comprehensive, but it does give you an idea of the types of foods you can eat that are most likely to result in better health. Have you noticed that these are all foods that are good for detoxing as well?
Your immune systems need needs vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to work effectively. This means you need to make sure you are eating all of your body’s requirements for macronutrients, vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C and D, as well as B6, B12 and folate, zinc, copper, iron and selenium, as well as essential amino acids and essential fatty acids.
You should think about eating whole foods rather than processed or packaged foods, as many processed foods (even if fortified with vitamins) contain too much unhealthy fat and too many preservatives.
Whole foods include foods that are in their whole state; they are natural, minimally processed and good for you. You can find gluten free grains, vegetables and lean proteins that are whole foods.
Look for grass-fed and free range meat that contains a better ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fats than commercially reared meat. Many meats from intensively reared animals may be tainted with hormones which are given to help the cows providing the meat and milk to grow.
Don’t forget that everyday chemical toxins that get into our bodies can interfere with how our immune system functions. Taking care to avoid toxins and supporting the detox system with nutritious foods can help enormously.
Detoxing on a regular basis is considered essential these days. Are you eating any of these important immune boosting foods?