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May 28, 2020
As coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to impact families across Tampa Bay, many are wondering whether there are steps they can take to stay well. Although it may feel as though we don’t have any control, we absolutely do. We can choose what goes into our bodies, and we have the power to protect ourselves in this way.
If you’re looking for ways to boost your immune system, your first step should be a visit to your local farmer or grocery store. Our bodies are naturally equipped to fight off infections, and while no one is invincible, we can significantly lower our risk by feeding our body certain foods that may help keep the immune system strong. Research over the past ten years has shown that quality nutrition plays a major role in supporting the immune system.
One of the most important strategies is to improve what goes on the end of our fork — as in, what you feed your immune system. Food is information for your body, and so essential is this system that keeping it healthy should be a top priority for everyone right now.
The safest way to keep the immune system well is to develop a healthy lifestyle that includes eating a balanced diet largely comprised of a variety of whole, fresh foods each with a multitude of nutrients. Here are 10 plant-based foods with easy recipes that can help boost your immune system.
Oranges are touted as Vitamin C superstars and typically the go-to when we think of staying healthy. However, tropical fruit like papaya, pineapple and kiwi deserve that title because they’ve actually got more. We’ve all heard “an apple a day keeps the doctors away,” and this is true since apples contain quercetin, which increases our innate immunity and lowers inflammation. You can also head over to the freezer section to find wild blueberries, full of the antioxidants that give them their pretty blue hue and anti-viral characteristics that can boost immunity.
#2 Colorful Vegetables
Cauliflower and red bell peppers are packed with vitamin C. Sweet potatoes, squash and carrots are rich sources of beta carotene, which helps to produce white blood cells and strengthen the immune response. The spring favorite asparagus is a powerful ally of the immune system. Broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables you can put on your plate. The key to keeping its power intact is to cook it as little as possible — or better yet, not at all.
#3 Green Tea
Recent research shows that green tea inhibits the neuraminidase enzyme, slowing the spread from cell to cell of many viruses. Another component of green tea, L-theanine, has been shown to increase immune response by affecting the immune cells that are an essential part of the body’s defenses against viruses and other invaders.
#4 Nuts and Seeds
When it comes to supporting the immune system, vitamin E tends to take a backseat to vitamin C. However, vitamin E is key to a healthy immune system. It’s a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it requires the presence of fat to be absorbed properly. Nuts and seeds are great sources of vitamin E. Zinc, another important nutrient, is known to play a central role in the immune system, and those that are deficient experience increased susceptibility to a variety of pathogens. You can find zinc in pumpkin seeds, cashews and sesame seeds. Brazil nuts are high in zinc, and also contain selenium which is essential for optimal immune response.
#5 Herbs and Spices
Five of the best spices to help your body bolster immunity levels and fight off viruses, infections and inflammation are turmeric, ginger, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and oregano. Kitchen staples like sage, thyme, rosemary and basil herbs offer powerful antiviral activity.
#6 Fermented Foods
Did you know that your gut houses an estimated 70% of your immune system? That’s why it’s important to feed it foods that keep it happy. The bacteria that live in your gut have a significant impact on your immune system. Due to their high probiotic content, fermented foods can give your immune system a boost and reduce your risk of infections. Miso, sauerkraut, kimchi and lactic acid pickles are excellent sources for these beneficial probiotics.
#7 Leafy Greens
Leafy greens made our list not just because they are rich in vitamin C. They are also packed with numerous antioxidants, folate, vitamin K, calcium and beta carotene, which may increase the infection-fighting ability of our immune systems and help to maintain the lining of the respiratory and digestive tracts, both important defense lines to prevent illness. Kale, spinach, and Swiss chard are versatile options for smoothies, salads or soups. Similar to broccoli, leafy greens are healthiest when cooked as little as possible so that they retain their nutrients.
#8 Onions and Garlic
The medicinal properties of garlic have been recognized for centuries, and when it comes to powerhouse herbs and natural remedies, garlic tops the list. It is naturally antimicrobial, antiviral and antibacterial, making it beneficial for helping the body fight many types of infections. The immune-boosting properties of garlic and onions seem to come from a heavy concentration of sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin. Onions are packed with nutrients like selenium, zinc and vitamin C. Most importantly, they are one of the best sources of quercetin, a potent flavonoid and antioxidant that has antiviral properties.
Beans are an excellent source of protein, which plays an important role in building cells, including those of your immune system. Beans or legumes, especially chickpeas and kidney beans, are an excellent option both for everyone who needs to step up protein intake in order to keep the immune system healthy. Beans also contain the B Vitamin folate which helps the manufacture of new immune cells as well as zinc.
Avocados are good source of Glutathione, a powerful antioxidant needed for the lymphoid cells and associated with immune system health. Avocadoes are rich in nutrients and antioxidants which not only strengthen the immune system, but also keep vital organs healthy.
These specific plant-based foods naturally strengthen the immune system thanks to their high concentrations of essential micronutrients. When you combine them, their immunity-boosting powers get even stronger. Making these foods and herbs a part of your daily routine — not just during this time but year-round — can go a long way toward supporting a strong and healthy immune system for you and your little one.
Head over to TheUprootedMother.com to grab Alexa’s immune supporting shopping list.
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Originally published in Tampa Bay Parenting’s June 2020 Issue.