Eat These 10 Foods 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.


With that in mind, look for opportunities to include these foods in your diet:

1. Broccoli

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.


3.  Tea

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.


4. Mushrooms

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.


5.  Watermelon

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.


6.  Cabbage

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.


7.  Almonds

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.


8. Yogurt

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.


9.  Spinach

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.


10.  Garlic

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.


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