8 Foods to Build into Your Diet to Boost Your Immune System
Working every day to build our immune systems is very important, especially as the weather gets colder and our bodies are more susceptible to the flu, feeling low in energy, and a headache or two.
There are however multiple foods that you can consciously integrate into your daily diet, or even just occasionally, that will help to boost your immune system and make you feel better overall.
Let’s get started:
The benefits of Ginger are very impressive and have various medicinal uses. If you like to get very scientific, Chapter 7 from the book Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition, by Ann M. Bode and Zigang Dong >> dives deeper into why Ginger should be a common condiment in your diet. However, if you are here for a quick read…ultimately there are a variety of bioactive components that are healthy with the following: reduces inflammation in the body, stimulates digestion, lowers blood pressure, ability to lower nausea (often recommended by doctors), and is beneficial for cholesterol levels, among many others.
You can eat ginger in a number of ways: fresh ginger root, ground ginger, ginger tea, integrate into smoothies, capsules and even ginger oil. Ginger is one of the most powerful foods for your health, so it is great that there are so many different ways that you can consume it and adjust to your own personal taste.
Belongs to the same family as Ginger, and is known as the “Golden Spice of India” and dates back over 4000 years in the Indian culture. Just like Ginger, Turmeric has medicinal uses, but it's advised to integrate lower quantities through your diet, where possible. Curcumin is the main active ingredient of Turmeric; Curcumin is a natural anti-inflammatory, a strong antioxidant, boosts the levels hormones in the brain (BDNF, that helps with the growth of new neurons) and several studies are also suggesting that it can increase the health of the heart and consequently lower the risk of heart disease.
Turmeric has quite a potent flavour, so it is natural to integrate when making Asian food, but otherwise difficult. So here are the different ways that you can consume Turmeric: use a ground powdered version on meat and rice. I like to add it to my homemade soups for the winter, mixed into my breakfast yogurt, via turmeric tea or also blend it into your smoothie because you only need approximately 400-600 milligrams (mg) per day to feel the benefits.
Now if we put the stinky breath to one side (haha), let's be honest garlic is essential for the amazing flavour in a lot of dishes, and its health benefits are great - win win! Garlic is a cheap, easy ingredient to integrate into pretty much any meal and it is definitely worth it (although the best way to consume garlic is raw and on an empty stomach…but this isn’t for everyone.) As the purpose of this blog is to discuss how we can boost our immune systems, I am just going to leave some findings here from a 12-week large study conducted by P Josing >> , and hopefully it’s enough to make you at least try, especially if you are more susceptible to flu symptoms:
- The volunteers who took a daily garlic supplement had a reduced likelihood of getting a cold by 63% compared with those who took a placebo.
- The average time that the volunteers had cold symptoms when they took a daily garlic supplement was reduced by 70%, from 5 days in the placebo group down to 1.5 days.
Arguably the heartiest green vegetable you can get and classed as a “superfood” because it is packed with antioxidant characteristics and iron, calcium, Vitamin A, C and K1, along with potassium and folate. This low-calorie option boosts your immune system, improves bone health, improves eye health, reduces blood sugar levels and hypertension in the body. Spinach is a powerful nutrient that can contribute massively to the overall wellness of your body.
Spinach can be somewhat sharp in flavour for some people, so if you have difficulty with it being the base of your salad, it goes great in a green smoothie, or perfect cooked with some eggs in the morning to start your day.
5. Manuka Honey
wanted to include this one because its properties are amazing, but it is unfortunately not so accessible for some people, and more of a luxury item due to the price point. If you can afford a small tub per month, I highly recommend one spoonful every morning to start your day - this can be straight or in hot water/tea (let the water cool down a little bit before adding.). Manuka honey is antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which makes it beneficial for wound-healing (open wounds and burns), fighting or preventing flu symptoms, relieving a sore throat and also improving digestion.
The key thing to look out for when purchasing Manuka Honey is the MgO rating, which you will see on the packaging, and this represents the strength of the honey's antimicrobial activity - the higher the value the higher the health benefits. For daily use for the average person, 70 MgO is a sufficient antimicrobial level.
I wanted to also provide a green vegetable that is best served warm, for these upcoming cold months, and broccoli is really good and has lots of health benefits. Broccoli is rich in fibre which helps the body's digestive system, and it also has a high amount of vitamin C which knowingly supports the overall strength of immune systems and calcium which improves the health of our bones and teeth. The optimal way to consume broccoli for the body is raw, but there is nothing wrong with putting it in a pan with a bit of salt and pepper to serve with anything of your choice, or even making a nice homemade broccoli and potato soup for the colder months :)
I wanted to include one food type that can be eaten in snack form, because who doesn’t love a little snack in the day? Almonds are high in Vitamin E which is a powerful antioxidant ingredient and protects our bodies from “free radicals” that attack our bodies cells and cause infections, illness and aging. Then iron and protein have a strong presence as well which we know are very important to a high functioning immune system. Please note that one downfall is that almonds are also high in fat, so you should try and limit yourself to a small handful once per day.
Almonds can also be a great addition to your salads, in almond butter form (in moderation) or almond milk is a great substitute for regular dairy milk. In blog post 5 of my health and wellness series I go more in depth about almond milk, here is the link >> just in case you missed it.
8. Green Tea
Everyone enjoys a warm drink during the colder months, so why not make yours a green tea? Green tea is high in natural plant compounds and antioxidants, and if you haven't noticed the pattern by now across all these foods, antioxidants are very important to a strong immune system! So, enjoy a nice green tea during the winter months, with no guilt and know that you are improving your energy levels, how you feel and your overall health.
As you can see all these ingredients can be integrated in different ways depending on your tasting palate, if you like the flavour, need them to be “hidden” or would rather take a “tasteless” capsule. Regardless, there are lots of options and lots of options mean no excuses ;) … just give it a try over time and you will feel a difference in your body.
As always, I look forward to hearing your feedback :)