9 foods that boost your immune system
As we approach the dreaded cold and flu season, it’s important to remember the role your immune system plays in keeping you healthy.
The immune system's goal is to protect your body from harmful substances, germs and cell changes that could make you ill.
Your immune system
A strong immune system helps fight infection. The immune system is made up of a complex network of organs, cells and protein that fight infection while protecting the body's own cells. The main parts of the immune system include white blood cells, antibodies, complement system, lymphatic system, spleen, bone marrow, thymus, the skin and mucous membranes.
An immune response can be activated by a lot of different things that the body doesn't recognise as its own. These are called foreign microbes, examples include bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi. Each part of the immune system plays an important role in recognising foreign microbes, communicating with other parts of the body and working to fight infection.
The immune system recalls every foreign microbe it has ever fought in types of white blood cells known as memory cells. This helps the immune system recognise and fight the microbe if it enters the body again. Some infections, like influenza, upper respiratory tract infections, and the common cold are fought numerous times because there are so many different strains of the same type of virus.
Ways to boost immunity
Your immune system is your first line of defence. Staying hydrated with plenty of fluids, regular exercise, low stress, quality sleep and a well-balanced diet of healthy foods can optimise the function of your immune system. Incorporating a wide variety of nutritious foods into your diet will help you feel your best.
Here are 9 immune boosting foods that not only taste great but can lead to an immune system boost:
A kitchen staple, garlic doesn’t just enhance the flavour in your dish, it’s also beneficial for immune health. Garlic can reduce your risk of heart disease, reduce blood pressure and boost your immune cell function. These amazing health benefits are due to the compounds, allin and allicin, which give garlic its unique smell and taste.
These compounds have been found to keep the immune system strong by boosting disease fighting properties of specific types of white blood cells in the body, when they encounter viruses, such as the common cold or flu.
When you have been struck down with a cold, increasing your vitamin C intake with citrus fruits has been proven to shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms. One of the citrus fruits well known for being full of immune-boosting vitamin C is the humble orange. One cup of pure orange juice contains 124 milligrams of vitamin C, the entire recommended daily intake for both men and women.
Your freshly squeezed orange juice also lowers levels of histamine, a unique chemical released by the immune system that is responsible for causing ‘stuffiness’ and a number of other cold and flu symptoms. Vitamin C strengthens our immune system function by assisting in producing white blood cells and boosting white blood cell function.
A delicious breakfast topper or great addition to your daily smoothie, yoghurt is not only a morning staple, but an immunity boosting superstar. Active cultures in yoghurt are a great source of probiotics or ‘friendly bacteria’, which strengthens your gut health, builds your immunity and strengthens your body's natural defenses. Yoghurt also contains another immune booster, zinc. Research has shown zinc can reduce the duration of cold symptoms.
In order to receive the numerous health benefits from this nutrient rich food, it is recommended to avoid yoghurts with added ingredients including sugar, flavours and preservatives.
Improved brain function, digestive health and reduced risk in diabetes and heart disease – ginger can offer a number of excellent health benefits. Ginger contains gingerol, a natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant which helps support the immune system through protecting your body from damaging free radicals. Increasing your intake of antioxidant rich-foods such as ginger, blueberries and kale may help fight inflammation and boost your immune system.
5. Sweet potato
Delicious baked whole, loaded with your favourite ingredients, or cut into fries, sweet potatoes are not only extremely versatile but also have immune boosting properties. Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, fibre and potassium and a number of other essential nutrients. This delicious vegetable is one of the richest natural sources of beta-carotene, a natural compound which is converted to vitamin A once digested.
Research has found Vitamin A is a key nutrient to a healthy immune system, whilst assisting in maintaining healthy mucous membranes which is beneficial for a healthy gut, forming part of a strong immune system.
Nuts are a delicious way to get some extra nutrients into your diet. Try adding them to your salads, breakfast muesli or simply enjoy a handful as a snack.
Nuts like pistachios, walnuts and almonds are a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin E and Zinc. Vitamin E found in nuts assists to destroy free radicals and boost immune function and improve immune response.
Those who choose a turmeric latte as their morning coffee may be onto something. Turmeric is deemed the superfood spice of choice due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin is an orange-yellow component of turmeric. This natural anti-inflammatory compound helps your body fight foreign bacteria and plays a role in repairing cell damage.
Curcumin is the main active ingredient found in Turmeric and has a number of incredible benefits. Research has found this immune boosting ingredient is also linked to improved brain function, reduced risk of brain disease, heart disease and may be useful in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
8. Green vegetables
Improved digestion, bone health and brain function – green vegetables are immune boosting foods supercharged with vitamins, minerals and nutrients that we need to keep healthy.
Researchers have also found another reason to eat your green vegetables. It turns out that green vegetables, from spinach to broccoli are the source of a chemical signal that is vital to a healthy functioning immune system.
In order to best release nutrients and boost antioxidant capabilities from green vegetables, it is recommended to lightly steam your vegetables rather than boiling or frying which can lead to nutrient loss.
Small, sweet and nutritious, blueberries are an immune-boosting superfood. Blueberries contain flavonoids, a natural compound that can assist in reducing damage to cells and boost the immune system. Researchers from Oregon State University analysed 446 compounds found in fruits for their ability to boost the natural immune systems in humans and results found two fruits stood out from the rest; blueberries and red grapes.
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