10 Foods to Give Your Immune System a Boost

By Eileen Mannion /

10 Foods to Give Your Immune System a Boost

Is it possible to boost the immune system naturally? We are all looking for ways to boost immunity.  Everywhere we turn there is some more news about the coronavirus outbreak. We should take seriously all the advice about good hand hygiene, reducing social contact and making sure we take care of our vulnerable ones.

One thing that has been notable by its absence however, is some sound advice about how we can boost our immune system naturally. Yes, hand washing is important, but so is optimising the body’s ability to fight infection.

Here are ten foods that you can include in your meal repertoire to boost immunity:

Citrus Fruit

I don’t think many people are unaware that Vitamin C benefits the immune system. Tangerines, lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit are chock-full of vitamin C – a potent antioxidant that supports immunity by creating a barrier against invading pathogens and free radicals. Since our body struggles to store vitamin C, there is all the more reason to up your daily intake of citrus foods to keep sickness at bay.

Try having a slice of lemon in your tea (both tea and lemons are rich in another toxin-fighting compound called quercetin) or start the day with a large glass of warm water with the juice of half a lemon. –

Garlic

Garlic is not just for adding flavour to your meals: it works wonders for immunity. For centuries, garlic has been heralded the elixir of health, thanks to its antioxidant and free-radical-fighting credentials. Garlic can be chewed, crushed or sliced to produce the ‘allicin’ – the active compound that gives garlic its immune-nourishing reputation.  In clinical trials, this humble bulb has shown immense promise in preventing the common cold or flu and reducing the severity of illness when it does strike.

Top tip: if you want to reap garlic’s infection-busting properties, eat it raw because heat deactivates the allicin (a good reason to put up with garlic breath, right?).

Broccoli

“Eat up your vegetables” – most of us are familiar with that phrase from childhood! Packed with vitamin A, C, E, protein and fibre, this leafy green is one of the best things you can eat to strengthen your immunity.

Eating this versatile vegetable raw is the best way to absorb all its nourishing goodness. When chopped into small pieces it is great in a salad, giving flavour and texture. A study conducted by the University of Warwick discovered boiling broccoli can undermine its immune-boosting properties.

Red Peppers

Gram for gram, red peppers contain twice as much of this vitamin than citrus fruits! This crunchy fruit (yes, it’s a fruit!) is brimming with free radical-quashing antioxidants, making it a powerful ally for combating infections and strengthening immune responses. Slice into wedges and dip into hummus, mmmmm!

Ginger

Many of us are familiar with the use of ginger for anti-inflammatory purposes. In addition, this spicy, peppery root offers a double whammy of protection against illness. Firstly, ginger boasts antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial qualities, which support immune responses and help combat illness.  You may notice that DAO Labs includes ginger in their Immunity Support formula - not by accident as ginger further helps enhance the immunity boosting properties of this herbal formula. And if that wasn’t enough to convince of its health credentials, ginger is thought to soothe nausea, too. Many pregnant women with morning sickness find that a ginger biscuit settles the stomach for a while.

Try blending mixed greens (spinach, broccoli, kale,) 1/2 avocado, fresh ginger, turmeric, lime juice, pinch of black pepper, coconut/oat/milk for a delicious immune supporting drink.

Spinach

Not just for Popeye!! Spinach boasts an impressive vitamin C content and high levels of beta-carotene, vitamin A, and zinc, all of which have the capacity to boost the immune system and fight infection. In fact, a study published by Nature found that eating plenty of vitamin A during pregnancy was vitally important for bolstering a baby’s immune responses for life.

Like broccoli, spinach is best consumed raw to maintain its nutritional value. Thankfully, it’s the perfect canvas for a salad. Pass the greens, please.

Turmeric

Thanks to its impressive antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties, turmeric is a mighty powerhouse for immunity. It’s profile has been raised greatly recently and many people use it to reduce inflammation in conditions like osteoarthritis. It’s worth noting, however, the active compound in turmeric, curcumin, isn’t readily absorbed into the bloodstream. The secret to optimal absorption? Eating turmeric with some of its best buddies: fat-containing foods; oily fish, milk, avocados etc. Black pepper is also good at increasing absorption or curcumin in the gut.

Try this zinger of a drink:
Blend together the following ingredients – a 2 inch piece of root ginger (grated,) 1 tsp lemon juice, handful of spinach, 1 tsp turmeric, 1/2 avocado, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 300ml water. 

Cauliflower

Like broccoli, cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable and including cauliflower in your diet is another booster for immunity. Cauliflower is great for your immune system because of it’s high levels of with glutathione, an anti-oxidant which reduces circulating free-radicals in your system. .

Roast cauliflower florets with cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, salt, pepper and olive oil, for 30 minutes. Just before serving, sprinkle with fresh lemon juice for an immune-supporting side dish.

Salmon

A wealth of scientific research suggests adults with low levels of vitamin D are more likely to come down with a cold, cough or upper respiratory infection. When exposed to sunlight we can manufacture our own Vitamin D but during the winter months, you need to make sure your diet provides enough Vitamin D.  This is where oily fish can help. Salmon is chock full of this vitamin as well as omega-3’s, protein, calcium and vitamin E.

Aim to eat salmon two to three times a week during flu season. Try to use wild or organic if possible because farmed salmon can contain some problematic chemicals.

Chicken Soup

Let’s be honest, no immunity food list would be complete without a warming bowl of chicken soup. How many of us were given this when we were poorly as child? (To be honest, I preferred a certain manufacturers tinned version as a child!) This nourishing meal contains a compound called carsonine, which is thought to ease respiratory symptoms, combat infection and enhance your overall immune responses. Soups are also very hydrating, important if we are ill and not taking in enough fluids.

The Best Way To Eat These Foods

I think the best way to make sure you eat these foods is simply to make sure that they are on your shopping list. Once they are in your kitchen then you can look up recipes that will include them. Simple!

Some of the foods are best eaten raw. However, this contradicts the advice that many of you may be given by your acupuncturist! We often advise clients to eat more warm and cooked food than cold and raw. I would suggest that you allow the raw components of your diet be allowed to come to room temperature So take a salad, or the ingredients, out of the fridge at least half an hour before eating; use room temperature fruit for smoothies, etc. Try to eat only one cold meal per day.

Eileen Mannion has a passion for helping people overcome a wide variety of health issues, often things that they have become resigned to living with, and particular expertise in treating women's health with acupuncture and nutritional advice. Living and practicing in West Yorkshire, Eileen studied at Masters level and graduated from the Northern College of Acupuncture in York, and is a member of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC). You can learn more about Eileen at acupuncture-huddersfield.co.uk.

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