Top 5 Foods to Boost Your Immune System
During cold and flu season, it can seem inevitable that you are going to get sick. However, did you know that there are actually no more germs during this season? The reason that we tend to get sick more often is that we run ourselves down and stop taking care of ourselves during the holiday season. This depletes our immune system and makes us more susceptible to cold and viruses.
The most important thing is to remain consistent with your self-care. That means make sleep a priority, stay consistent with your exercise and wash your hands often. In addition, here are 5 foods to help keep your immune system strong during this cold and flu season.
There is a reason that your grandma always gave you chicken soup when you were sick. The chicken contains an amino acid cysteine, which helps break down the mucus in a similar way to over the counter cold remedies. The actual broth is dense in immune boosting minerals as well as collagen. Collagen helps the integrity of your gut, which houses the majority of your immune system.
When a virus hits our system, we have antibodies that surround the virus and destroy it. Garlic helps with the antibody production so we have greater immune defenses. There is one catch – these immune boosting benefits are strongest when the garlic is raw! Some are tough enough to cut the clove in half and take it like a pill. I am not one of them! Instead, I like chopping it into a salsa or blending it into a pesto and using it as a spread. Try this Fresh Garlic Salsa recipe.
Zinc is one of the most important minerals for the immune system and one of the minerals most Americans are deficient in. Zinc plays an important role in the function of the T cells, natural killer cells and lymphocytes, which are some of the power houses of your immune system. Zinc is found in grass fed beef but 1 cup of chickpeas contains almost ½ of your RDA of zinc. Try this Spicy Oven Toasted Chickpea recipe.
Mushrooms have been used as medicine for centuries in other cultures. In fact, some of our most used antibiotics are derived from mushroom extracts. In addition to high levels of B-vitamins, mushrooms have both anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties which help them fight viruses and bacteria. Try this 7-minute Healthy Shiitake Mushroom recipe.
As I mentioned when we discussed bone broth, the majority of our immune system is in our gut. So a healthy gut typically equates to a healthy you. Fermented foods have the beneficial bacteria called probiotics that helps our digestive tract maintain its integrity and defend against pathogens. Probiotics also help produce antibodies, thus increasing our body’s immune response. Fermented foods include (but are not limited to) miso, yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, kombucha, kimchi and tempeh.
Sarah Rush, RD
I am a Certified Registered Dietitian. Living in different countries around the world with my husband and 3 children has shown how much of an impact, culture, advertising and food availability has on the way we eat.
I firmly believe the way forward must be a more sustainable food system with a holistic approach to eating and health.