Boost your Immunity this Winter with Essential Foods
Hippocrates, the Father of Modern medicine, has been accredited with the statement, let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.
In other words, he realized well before current nutrition knowledge that what we eat has an impact on our health in both a preventative and causative way. With cold and flu season quickly approaching it may be time to begin thinking of ways we can improve our immune systems through the foods we eat.
Foods contain many compounds that may improve our immunity. These include well-known nutrients like vitamin C and potassium to lesser-known elements such as phytonutrients. Each of these work at antioxidants in the body to help rid it of free radicals, reduce damage by these toxins, and to help strengthen our overall health and body’s ability to fight germs and sickness.
Immune Boosting Nutrients
Cysteine Containing Foods
Chicken soup is a popular food to turn to when you are feeling under the weather. It is effective for more reasons than the love your mom puts into making it. Chicken contains an amino acid known as cysteine which may work to reduce the symptoms associated with sickness and may improve our immunity to the germs that cause the illness.* It works by breaking up mucus, acting as an antiviral and reducing inflammation. Each of these aspects might help to mitigate cold and flu symptoms and speed up recovery.*
Polyphenols, carotenoids, lignans, isoflavones, and flavonoids are plant compounds, specifically fruits and vegetables, that give them their colors and protective benefits known as phytonutrients. These compounds work in foods to keep them safe from elements and process the nutrients they need such as light and water. When we ingest them, they work in our bodies to bring benefits as well.
Foods that contain many phytonutrients include bell peppers, carrots, berries, and grapes. Making a large pot of vegetable soup with chicken broth can be a very effective means of helping improve your immune system during the winter months.* Hot teas also contain a fair number of polyphenols, a class of phytonutrient, which act as antioxidants in the body.
Foods that provide vitamin D include: fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel and salmon.
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Immune Boosting Foods
Our bodies need certain nutrients to be adequately fueled. Going into any season, whether flu or otherwise, should lead us to consider how we can use our diet to improve our health and prevent sickness. By adding in these foods just a few times a week, once or twice a day, you might give your body a much-needed head starts to avoid sickness this winter.*
It is no secret that citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C and may be known to improve immunity. What is not always clear is how this vitamin is so impressive in this area. Vitamin C increases white blood cell production which are essential for fighting sickness and infections.*
Foods high in vitamin C include oranges, limes, clementine’s, and grapefruit. Daily vitamin C consumption is necessary for health because the body doesn’t store this vitamin meaning it is lost daily.
Garlic & Ginger
These two common household spices can be easily added to just about any recipe and are great for immunity. Ginger can help decrease inflammation, the root cause of sore throat and sinus issues.* The Sulphur content of garlic gives it many benefits in the way of immunity and chronic illnesses.
While spinach contains a high dose of vitamin C, which we know is important for immunity, it also contains antioxidants such as beta carotene, which can play a role in immune health.* The vitamin benefits of spinach are released and more easily absorbed by the body when it is lightly cooked, much the same with broccoli.
Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables to keep your immune system stronger.
Final Thoughts of Food and Immunity
It is not uncommon to hear the excuse that healthy foods are more expensive. This may be the so in some cases but when you are sick you may miss work, pay for doctor visits, and fill prescriptions. These expenses, and others, add up quickly and often outweigh spending a little extra on immune boosting foods to prevent these illnesses.
Not only will you potentially avoid sickness this winter, but you will feel and see the effects of eating a more balanced diet during this time. It may lead to a long-term healthy diet pattern that you enjoy. Make it fun by finding new ways each week to integrate some of these immune boosting foods.