It’s coming up to that time of year where germs are going round and the chances of catching cold & flu are pretty high. While there are plenty of things you can do with herbal remedies to protect yourself and help your body heal. Using foods to boost your immune system is just as, if not more, important! and can ensure you have a healthy, strong immune system all year round.
Food & Your Immune System
Eating the right foods and being aware of what’s in the food you eat can ensure you feed your body with the vitamins, minerals, & essential key nutrients that it needs to carry out key processes which keep your immune system working at an optimum level.
The specific vitamins and minerals your body needs to give you a functioning immune system include:
Iron, Vitamin C, A, & E, Zinc, Fibre, Beta carotene, L-theanine, Omega-3’s, Protein & B-6.
But your body needs ALL essential vitamins, minerals & nutrients to stay healthy. Your immune system relies on your circulatory and lymphatic systems to work so these need to be healthy and working well too.
Foods to Boost Your Immune System
For all the nutrients mentioned above these are the foods that contain those nutrients. You need to be hitting your daily RDA for each of these for your immune system to heal and be healthy.
Of course there are other factors you need to take into consideration too. Lifestyle factors can harm and reduce your immunity. Things such as stress, eating sugar, smoking, drinking alcohol, overworking or over exercising, lack of sleep, suppressing emotions…..
your mind and body are intrinsically linked. So all these things can have a huge effect on your physical health and wellbeing.
If you are eating the right foods and taking the right supplements and still getting sick that’s your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. Something you’re doing isn’t working. At that point you should be looking at your lifestyle elements and what positive change you can make there to support the health of your body.
Now let’s get back to the foods to boost your immune system all year long:
Spinach is packed full of vitamin C as well as numerous antioxidants and beta carotene.
Vitamin C helps build up your immune system by increasing your production of white blood cells, which are key in fighting infections. The antioxidants and beta carotene are able to increase the infection fighting ability of your immune system.
These little leafy greens are also full of Iron which is essential for your body to carry oxygen in your blood.
Shell fish is full of zinc. You need a big dose of zinc to help your bodies immune system function as it’s supposed to. Shell fish that contain high levels of zinc include crab, clams, lobster, & muscles.
If you are vegan or vegetarian zinc is still important for your immune health, but you will have to look at a liquid or capsule supplement instead.
You want to be taking your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of zinc each day. This is 8mg for women and 11mg for men. Taking more than your RDA can actually have adverse effects on your immune system!
Ginger is one of those wonderful products of nature that has both antibacterial and antiviral properties. You can add ginger to your food, or drink hot water with ginger and lemon juice as your hot drink instead of tea or coffee. On a morning this is a particularly refreshing and energising way to start the day!
If you aren’t a big fan of the taste of ginger you can opt for the capsule form. But for every nutrient you are best to eat the food as this is the way your body most easily absorbs what it needs.
Ginger also contains vitamin C, fibre, protein & a small quantity of iron. All of which work towards building your healthy immune system.
Garlic is the other root/bulb that is both antibacterial and antiviral. The easiest was to get more garlic in your diet is to add it to your food. But if you aren’t much of a garlic fan this too is available in capsule form.
Garlic is high in nutrients while having very few calories. It contains manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, selenium, and also traces of calcium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, iron, & vitamin B1!
Citrus fruits are well known as being full of vitamin C. Citrus fruits include oranges, lemons, grapefruits, limes, tangerines and clementines.
Vitamin C helps to increase your white blood cells, which are key for you to fight any infections.
Your body isn’t able to store vitamin C, so to keep your immune system healthy you need to try and consume vitamin C daily. Citrus fruits aren’t the only source of vitamin C however, you can also find it in things like red bell peppers, broccoli, and spinach.
For your daily allowance of vitamin C you want to be consuming 75mg a day. That’s only 1 lg orange a day (an orange contains about 100mg of vitamin C).
Turmeric is a root that is fast becoming known for its many healing benefits. You may have already read my previous posts on how turmeric can be used for many things, including in your pain relief.
Turmeric is anti-inflammatory, full of manganese and iron, as well as small doses of vitamin C and potassium.
Use Turmeric daily for its antiviral and antibacterial properties to help you fight infection. It also helps to flush out microbes that clog your respiratory tract, and it’s anti-inflammatory properties are wonderful in helping you fight the symptoms of cold and flu too.
You can take Turmeric as a herb to flavour your food, make turmeric milk drinks, or take as a supplement. Depending on the turmeric supplement you use will depend on the dosage you need.
Green tea is a huge antioxidant. One of those antioxidants is EGCG, which has been shown to enhance immune function.
By drinking green tea each day you can not only help boost your energy levels, but also decrease your chances of getting sick too!
Green tea also contains the amino acid L-theanine which helps in the production of germ fighting compounds in your T-cells.
Broccoli & Cabbage
Both broccoli and cabbage are leafy greens that are full of vitamin & minerals your body needs for healthy immunity.
Broccoli contains vitamins A,C, and E. As well as many antioxidants and fibre too. Cabbage is full of vitamins K & C, as well as large amounts of folate, manganese and vitamin B6.
Your body doesn’t produce vitamin B6, yet it is vital in the creation of red blood cells. All of the vitamins mentioned play a part in keeping your immune system healthy and strong.
The RDA’s for each of these vitamins are as follows:
-Vitamin A = 700mcg
-Vitamin E = 15mg
-Vitamin K = 60mcg
-Vitamin B6 = 1.3 – 1.7mg
Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds are full of essential oils, vitamins & nutrients. Almonds and sunflower seeds in particular are full of immune boosting nutrients.
Both Sunflower seeds and Almonds are full of vitamin E, as well as healthy fats. As vitamin E needs the presence of fats to be absorbed properly in your body. Making it the perfect way to eat your vitamin E. Sunflower seeds also contain phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin B6.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, and although mentioned less, is just as important as vitamin C in the workings of your immune system.
Other nuts and seeds you need to be aware of are walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seeds. All are full of fibre and vitamin E, as well as the important omega-3’s. Not to mention a host of other essential nutrients.
Your RDA’s for omega 3’s is between 250-500mg.
I think kiwi are pretty underestimated as fruits go. Especially when it comes to foods to boost your immune system. They are packed full of nutrients, and in fact one kiwi contains more vitamin C than one large orange!
As well as been a good source of protein, calcium, potassium, folate, and vitamin K that all keep the rest of your body working and functioning properly.
Mushrooms are one of the few food sources of vitamin D. Your body gets most of its Vitamin D from the sun, which it absorbs through your skin. So if you live in the northern part of the world it is highly likely that you are low on vitamin D.
Your body needs vitamin D to be able to absorb other vitamins and nutrients. It is also essential for regulating your immune system and boosting your body’s natural defences.
Your RDA of Vitamin D is 15mg. But in some instances, such as treating chronic pain, you can take a higher dosage.
Mushrooms also contain dozens of other nutrients including copper, potassium, magnesium, folate, zinc, & many B-vitamins.
A natural, plain Greek yogurt with no sweeteners or added sugar is what you want to look for. If you can find one with ‘live and active cultures’ even better.
The live cultures in natural yogurt can help to stimulate your immune system to fight germs, as well as ensuring your digestive system is healthy; and your gut and digestion are linked to the health of your whole body.
Many yogurts also have the added benefits of being fortified with vitamin D.
And last but not least: Fresh berries such as blueberries, raspberries, and goji berries are full of favanols which are a very effective source of antioxidants, especially dark berries. They are also another good source of vitamin C, in case you aren’t such a huge fan of oranges 😉
Try to mix your berries rather than just having one type. This way you are giving your body the best boost of vitamins and minerals you can.
And there you have it. There are of course other foods to boost your immune system that you can include in this list, but now that you have the list of essential vitamins and minerals that have a direct effect on boosting your immune system, you can have the fun of finding those for yourself.
Thanks for reading,