Article written by Rhianna DeVries - bio on our Editorial Team.
From “an apple a day keep the doctor away” to “you are what you eat,” we’ve all heard countless sayings on how to maintain our health and protect ourselves from illness and infection. But now, more than ever, it seems especially pressing to take agency over our bodies and do what we can to protect them. We can do numerous things to boost our immune system, including getting sufficient sleep and eating the right foods. With that said, here are some of the best foods to boost your immune system.
Broccoli is one of the best veggies you can put on your plate, and it’s one of the immune-boosting basics. Packed with nutrients and vitamins that help boost your immune system and protect your body, broccoli is as versatile and yummy as it is good for you. It’s filled with Vitamin A, E, and C and the powerful antioxidant glutathione. Just remember: don’t cook it too much, or, better yet, try to eat your broccoli raw. Broccoli loses nutrients the more it’s cooked, so it’s best to minimize how much you cook this fantastic vegetable. If you find you prefer it cooked to raw, then make sure to steam it to maintain all of those immune-boosting vitamins and antioxidants. Broccoli is also a great food for anti-aging skin effects.
Garlic is so versatile that it is found in dishes all around the world. And not only is it delicious, but it’s also great for you. From slowing down the hardening of arteries to the possibility that it can lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, garlic has a lot to offer you. Garlic contains heavy concentrations of allicin and other compounds that contain sulfur. The properties of raw garlic can combat skin infections through its ability to fight fungi, bacteria, and viruses; however, this means you have to use the real stuff to reap the benefits. Garlic flavored seasoning or powder will not cut it if you want to get the bang for your buck on its health benefits. So, next time you’re cooking, keep an eye out for any opportunities to add raw garlic into the mix—it won’t just add flavor, but necessary nutrients as well.
Behold one of our earth’s superfoods. Spinach is densely packed with folate, which helps your body create new cells and repairs your DNA. It also has tons of fiber, is chock-full of antioxidants, is rich in vitamin C, and is filled with beta carotene. All of this combined can increase your infection-fighting ability. Much like broccoli, spinach is best eaten raw or lightly cooked so that it retains its nutrients. As an added benefit to lightly cooking spinach, the cooking process makes it easier to absorb Vitamin A and other nutrients.
Probiotics have been very popular recently, specifically in terms of kombucha. But if drinking kombucha isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other ways for you to reap the benefits of probiotics: yogurt, to start. Fermented products-like kombucha and yogurt- that contain probiotics may ease the severity of colds. The effectiveness of eating yogurt is directly impacted, of course, by the kind that you buy. To make the most out of your yogurt-eating, keep an eye out for labels indicating that the yogurt contains “live and active cultures.” Greek yogurt, specifically, is excellent for this, and it is also a great source of protein. Also, keep in mind that the plain variety of yogurts is better for you than the kind that is flavored or packed with sugar. Instead, opt to add your toppings and mix-ins, and consider adding fruits or nuts from this list to get double-duty for immune boosters. In tandem with these benefits, you can also seek out yogurt with added Vitamin D: studies have shown that people with low Vitamin D levels are more likely to get the flu or colds, so be sure to stalk up when you can.
White, black, and green tea are all hailed for their health benefits. All of these teas contain polyphenols and flavonoids (a type of antioxidant) that fight diseases and seek out free radicals that damage your cells and destroy them. But green tea is especially excellent at providing high levels of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is a powerful antioxidant and successful at enhancing immune function. The secret that sets green tea apart is in the tea-making process: since green tea is steamed and not fermented, the EGCG stays intact.
There’s some science to back-up reaching for the chicken noodle soup whenever you’re sick, and the power is in the poultry. The poultry in chicken soup could help lower inflammation, thus improving any symptoms you may have from a cold. This also applies to turkey, which, like chicken, is high in vitamin B-6, which is responsible for many of the body’s chemical reactions and helps form new and healthy red blood cells. You only need about 3 ounces of chicken or light turkey meat to reach about one-third of your daily recommended serving of B-6, maximizing the nutrients you get from your soup. You can boil chicken bones to create stock or broth containing gelatin, chondroitin, and other nutrients vital to immunity and gut health. As a bonus, chicken soup also contains carnosine, a chemical that can protect from the flu virus. If you don’t have the time to home-make your chicken soup, though, no need to worry—store-bought soups work just as well.