We all desire to live illness-free, healthy lives. That’s what prompts us to seek solutions to our ailments but most trips to the doctor wouldn’t be necessary if we keep to best practices. This includes eating foods that boost the immune system.
You’ve probably heard the phrase; you’re only as healthy as what you eat. How true! Your immune system takes a hit whenever you indulge in unhealthy habits. On the flip side, it gets a boost when you eat a healthy diet.
Factors that affect the immune system
Smoking, inactivity, and unhealthy diets are the main causes of chronic ailments each year. Other factors that affect the immune system include land, air and water pollutants that we’re exposed to every day.
The low level of radiation from our mobile devices and other gadgets also affect the body. Most people recycle specific types of food every week. If this sounds like you, chances are your body is missing out on a lot of nutrients. Thankfully though, the right foods can help. I’ll walk you through some foods that boost the immune system.
10 Foods that boost the immune system
There is some truth to the old saying that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Apple supplies the body with dozens of phytochemicals. They also contain more potassium than fresh oranges.
A medium-sized apple is 84% water which contributes to our recommended daily water intake. The peel of the apple fruit contains triterpenoids – compounds that have anti-cancer properties. More than half of the immune system is linked to our gastrointestinal tracts. Apples are great for intestinal health. Additionally, apples help to detoxify the body and fight viral infections.
Tip: Every part of an apple is edible. Even though the seeds may contain trace amounts of cyanide, your healthy cells contain enzymes that render cyanide inactive.
Probiotics – a key component of yoghurt, supports healthy digestion and immune function, eases allergies, reduces inflammation, lowers cholesterol, eliminates bad bacteria, and lots more.
You also get 35 to 40 percent of your daily value of calcium from a cup of yoghurt. Yoghurt is recommended after treatment with antibiotics to replace the good bacteria. It makes the immune system resilient, protects the intestinal tracts, and increases resistance to diseases such as cancer and gastrointestinal infection.
Tip: Commercial yoghurt usually has a high lactose content and a lot of sugar. Homemade yoghurt can be made to eliminate high lactose and will be fresher than store-bought yoghurt. You can add fresh fruit or honey to it if the taste isn’t to your liking.
Although technically a fruit, tomatoes are the most eaten vegetables worldwide. Thankfully, they are also one of the foods that boost the immune system.
Tomatoes are rich in saponins. These plant chemicals function as natural antibiotics, fighting off infection and inhibiting disorders such as cancer.
Tomatoes offer more lycopene than any other food source. Lycopene keeps your cardio-immune centre healthy and protects against several cancers of the prostate, lung, digestive tract, cervix, and bladder.
Stick to red tomatoes as yellow and green variants are poor in lycopene.
Tip: Unlike other vegetables which are best in their raw form, you get the full benefit of tomatoes when you cook them.
With the exception of corn, potatoes are the world’s most important vegetable. It’s no wonder that they made it to our list of foods that boost the immune system.
Grown in more than a hundred countries. Potatoes can be steamed, boiled, fried sauté, shaken and baked, roasted and pressure-cooked, depending on how you like it. Potatoes supply us with nearly all the vital nutrients we need with the exception of vitamins A and D.
Carrots are packed with beta-carotene. They do more for our eyesight than any other vegetable.
Carrots contain complex sugars called oligosaccharides that prevent diarrhoea by stopping bad bacteria from attaching to the wall of the intestines.
They are high in fibre content which reduces LDL cholesterol and raises good HDL cholesterol for a good functioning of the heart. Carrots have antiseptic properties and therefore can be used as a laxative, and a remedy for liver conditions.
Tip: Slender carrots are tastier than big chunky carrots.
A few foods are as immune-enhancing as garlic.
Garlic is known to inhibit up to seventy-two distinct infectious agents like bacteria, fungi, and viruses. It contains inulin, which helps lower cholesterol and blood glucose. It also has antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and antiparasitic properties.
The sulphur compound in garlic, allicin helps to purify the body. Garlic helps the liver produce enzymes and amino acids to rid it of the toxins it encounters daily. Detoxifying the liver is the first step to cleansing other organs.
Tip: Try two cloves of garlic with a slice of ginger for a rapid immune system fix. Ginger and garlic are both natural antibiotics that boost a weakened immune system
7. Herbs and spices
Herbs like parsley help to improve vigour in the lungs and spleen, and to freshen breath.
Parsley is also packed with vitamins and minerals including Vitamin K which helps in blood clotting. It also supplies phytochemicals that improve immunity throughout the body. Basil is a great source of vitamin K for strong bones as well as beta-carotene, magnesium, iron, calcium, and potassium. It contains anti-inflammatory compounds like eugenol which is an antibacterial shield against Listeria, E. coli, and many other bacteria.
Thyme is an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial herb useful in healing respiratory conditions such as bronchitis. It is a good source of vitamin K and manganese for strong bones and healthy nerve function. It also contains soluble plant fibre which is useful in controlling intestinal pH.
Spices like ginger benefit the stomach and liver. A dose of this root plant relieves nausea, motion sickness, indigestion, and flatulence. Some studies indicate that ginger may help lower cholesterol and prevent blood clotting.
Turmeric, a root-relative of ginger contains the healing compound curcumin which gives curry its colour. Turmeric is a useful fight-back therapy for disorders caused by inflammation, such as heart disease and arthritis.
The more legumes you eat, the better. Consume at least three cups of beans a week, and you’ve got the upper hand on lowering cholesterol, stabilizing blood sugar, avoiding heart disease, obesity, and some cancers.
Beans can be added to any meal or eaten as the main dish. This food is packed with fibre, folate and phytates which help to reduce the risk of stroke, depression and colon cancer.
Tip: To help reduce the flatulence properties, add ginger to the cooking process.
9. Citrus fruits
Besides helping to prevent rhinovirus infection, the flavonoids in oranges reduce LDL cholesterol and increase the good HDL. All citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C, folate, potassium, vitamin D, as well as capillary-supporting and antiviral bioflavonoids.
Our list of foods that boost the immune system wouldn’t be complete without Salmon. Salmon is a great source of protein and one of the healthiest fish you can eat. They are a natural source of vitamin D for strong bones and beneficial fats.
Salmon should be a regular feature in your diet because it contains Omega 3 fatty acids which help to reduce the risk of heart diseases.
Tip: Some varieties of salmon have a strong ‘fishy’ taste. Try using herbs and spices in the cooking process to enhance the flavour.
When choosing foods, it’s important to buy organic options where available. Organic foods are healthier since they are not treated with synthetic pesticides which leave residues on the food we eat. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly to reduce the possibility of ingesting toxins. You should also aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water daily so the body functions properly.