14 Ways to Boost Your Immune System
Can what you eat help build up your resistance to disease and infections? Several recent studies suggest that the antioxidants, vitamins and minerals in some foods can help your immune system perform at peak efficiency.
What does this mean? Fewer colds for one thing. As kids go back to school and we spend more time indoors in recirculated air, exposure to germs rises. And if you do get a cold or even the flu, a high-functioning immune system means shorter duration and less severity of your illness.
The human body is remarkable in its ability to fight off the many viruses, germs and diseases that strike it on a daily basis. A healthy immune system works day and night to eliminate foreign invaders. However, factors such as a high stressed lifestyle, poor diet and lack of exercise interfere with the body’s ability to function, leaving it vulnerable to disease. Even worse, the extensive use of prescription and non prescription drugs adds to the overload of chemicals already in the body. A detox program and the use of natural herbs and the elimination of toxins helps to boost the immune system.
With that in mind, look for opportunities to include these foods in your diet:
Broccoli is an easy superfood to embrace. Abundant year round and inexpensive, broccoli contains vitamin A and vitamin C, and at least one study has shown broccoli to stimulate the immune systems of mice. Broccoli is delicious in stir fries or as a simple side dish with some cheese grated on top.
2. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are another low-cost immune booster. Rich in the antioxidant beta carotene, sweet potatoes also have a lot of vitamin A, which may lower the risk of some cancers. Sweet potatoes can substitute for regular potatoes as a mealtime staple–serve them baked, mashed, or look for sweet potato fries in the grocery freezer.
Black or green, caffeinated or decaf, tea provides a potent dose of polyphenols and flavonoids. These antioxidants destroy free radicals, which damage and age your body. Drink iced tea in warm weather, and hot tea in cool seasons. Green, white and black teas have many health benefits including improved immune functioning. They contain high levels of antioxidants, even more than many vegetables.
The humble mushroom is more potent than you might think. Mushrooms have selenium, a trace element that has been linked to less severity in flu infections. Mushrooms are also a good source of B vitamins, important to a healthy immune system, and some animal studies have shown mushrooms to have antiviral effects. You don’t need fancy gourmet mushrooms, either–the common button mushroom is just as nourishing. Mushrooms can go into all kinds of dishes–salads, soups, sauces and gravies, stir fries, and even as a sandwich topping.
Watermelon is a great source of glutathione, an antioxidant known to be an immune system booster. The red pulp closest to the rind has the most glutathione, so when eating watermelon be sure to eat all the way to the edge! Watermelon is a refreshing addition to a fruit salad, and is delicious eaten on its own.
Cabbage is inexpensive and easy to find throughout the winter months when other veggies become scarcer and pricier. Cabbage contains the antioxidant glutamine as well as anthocyanins, which protect the brain from the plaques that cause Alzheimers, and lower the risk of diabetes. In winter months, cabbage is a delicious addition to soups and stews, while in the summertime, coleslaw made from cabbage and chilled is a cool treat.
Almonds are a nutrition powerhouse–just one quarter of a cup contains more than half the daily recommended allowance of vitamin E, an immune system booster. Almonds also contain a number of B vitamins, which seem to have some effect on helping your systems bounce back from the effects of stress. A handful of almonds makes an energizing and filling afternoon snack, or try almond milk in the place of regular milk on your breakfast cereal.
Choose low fat yogurt that contains live cultures to add some probiotics to your diet. Some research evidence suggests that probiotics give a powerful push to the immune system. Yogurt also has vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to a higher severity in colds and flu. Yogurt is another healthy snack to reach for, or mix granola and fruit into some yogurt for a healthy breakfast.
Spinach is high in folate, which helps your body repair DNA and produce new cells. A potent mix of fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins, spinach has rightly been called a “superfood.” Spinach is most nutritious eaten raw or very lightly cooked. Eat raw spinach in salads or on top of sandwiches; stir some spinach into a stir fry or pasta dish as the very end of cooking, and allow the heat of the food to wilt it.
It’s a “super food” that has been studied and tested extensively. Garlic was known to the Chinese, Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations as a medicinal herb. Garlic acts as an antibiotic, killing bacteria that cause infections, especially the bacteria H. pylori, which is linked to both ulcers and some types of stomach cancer. Garlic is a tasty addition to many dishes. To get the most effect, peel and chop garlic and then let it sit for 15-20 minutes before adding it in cooking. This allows the enzymes in garlic to fully activate, making it as potent as possible.
Garlic helps boost the immune system as it is one of nature’s most potent antibiotics. Its anti-bacterial and anti-viral qualities are well known, yet this herb is seldom found on the average American plate. No drug ever devised can boast the added benefits of reducing cholesterol and improved circulation.
In use for thousands of years in China, ginger was the solution to digestive disorders. Ginger is a simple herb that is used as a tea and flavor meals. It’s a better alternative to antacids that only suppress stomach acids. While antacids help subdue heartburn and indigestion, they destroy the beneficial flora that keep Candida overgrowth and bad micro flora from flourishing in the stomach.
It’s been known for its ability to fight colds and the flu far better than any vaccine or drug can accomplish. While the medical community insists that everyone take flu shots, too often the vaccine fails to provide any protection and often brings about severe side effects. Because we pump our bodies with chemicals such as thimerosal that contains 50% mercury, we only weaken the immune system.
13. Elimination of Refined Sugars
The elimination of refined sugar in the diet is one of the best ways to restore a healthy body and mind. Unfortunately, most of today’s foods come loaded with sugar, fats and other chemicals that wreck havoc on the digestive and immune systems. Sugar has been known to kill many of the beneficial bacterial flora in the intestines. Without a healthy gut, good health is impossible. A constant diet of refined carbohydrates leads to diabetes and heart disease.
14. Regular Exercise
Regular activity improves circulation and helps eliminate the toxins that accumulate in the body’s fat tissue. A healthy immune system depends on an active flow of blood to every part of the body that carries the oxygen needed by all the organs to function. Regular exercise helps reduce colds and prevents the onset of the flu.
These 14 simple methods can help restore an effective immune system. They can help cut down on the use of standard medications that too often mask but never eliminate disease.