While food alone isn’t the answer to help ward off colds, flu, and infections, eating the right things does help to boost our immune system and reduce the risk of getting sick.
The immune system is made up of organs, cells, proteins, and tissues, and this is designed to combat pathogens (viruses, bacteria, foreign bodies) that are the cause of infections. If the immune system discovers a pathogen, an immune response occurs in the form of a release of antibodies that attach to the pathogen and kill it. Because a strong and robust immune system has a better chance to keep us healthy, we can eat certain foods in our diet that can boost the system. It’s also possible to perform a gut test with a company like Biomes to find out more about your body and overall immune system.
In addition to a good exercise routine, here are some foods that help to boost your immune system.
Elderberries, acai berries, and blueberries – You really can’t fault anything from the berry family, but elderberries and blueberries are especially packed with antioxidants, which help to fend off inflammation. They also taste great and work well in pretty much any smoothie. Acai berries are full of a useful nutrient named anthocyanin.
Button mushrooms – Great on a pizza or in a pasta or soup, button mushrooms help provide us with a mineral named selenium, as well as B vitamins riboflavin and niacin. It’s possible that a shortage of selenium can lead to a longer, harsher flu. Riboflavin and niacin also work together to form a stronger immune system.
Watermelon – Not just delicious at a summer picnic, watermelon is also full of an antioxidant named glutathione. Be sure to eat the watermelon as close to the rind as possible to get the most out of the food.
Wheat germ – Great to eat with your cereal every morning, wheat germ is pretty tasty and rich in nutrients like B vitamins, antioxidants, and zinc. You’ll also get a great mix of fibre, protein, and healthy fats, so win-win.
Low-fat yoghurt – Probiotics are one of the main benefits of yoghurt and many types of fermented products, which are said to ease cold and flu symptoms. Some dairy products can sometimes include added vitamin D (which we can also get from sunshine), so check the label for another advantage here.
Spinach – Popeye’s favourite turns out to be somewhat of a super food, as spinach is full of folate (helps to make new cells in our bodies and to repair DNA) fibre, antioxidants, and vitamin C. Frozen or raw spinach is equally great in smoothies if you’re not the biggest fan of the taste but still want the nutrients.
Tea – Most people in the UK don’t need to be told to drink more tea, but now you know that green, black, or white teas are packed with polyphenols and flavonoids that can hunt down and kill free radicals that damage cells. Caffeinated, decaf, or herbal teas are all equally great.
Broccoli – One of those vegetables that is a hit or miss with many people, broccoli is nevertheless a fantastic immune-boosting food. Rich in vitamins A and C, as well as the antioxidant glutathione, broccoli is great when paired with a steak and potato dish.
Garlic and ginger – If you like your dishes to be enhanced with flavour, then you can’t beat raw garlic, but it’s also amazing to fight viruses, fungi, and bacteria. Pair garlic with ginger in something like a stir fry to boost your immune system and get a delicious meal that’s rich in antioxidants.
Chicken soup – It’s a bit of an ancient remedy for colds and flu, but there is some science behind it all. You’ll find a chemical in chicken soup called carnosine, which is incredibly beneficial in protecting yourself against foreign bodies. Many store-bought chicken soups are good, but fresh chicken soup is still the best.