Boost Your Immune System With Food
You can give your body a little boost against viruses and bacteria. Try to incorporate these top-10 immune boosting foods.
Broccoli: To get the most benefit, avoid boiling this vegetable. Raw, steamed or roasted broccoli has a powerful combination of vitamins A, C and the antioxidant, glutathione.
Citrus fruit: Oranges and grapefruit especially are great sources of vitamin C. We need that to keep our white blood cells strong and healthy.
Mushrooms: People with low levels of selenium often have more severe symptoms when infected with a virus or bacteria. In addition to lots of selenium, mushrooms also have several of the B-vitamins.
Sweet potatoes: A great source of beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in our bodies. It’s a nutrient that can increase the number and activity of white blood cells. Carrots, too!
Tea: All tea, whether it is green, black or oolong, has lots of disease fighting polyphenols and flavonoids. To get the most benefit, steep it yourself instead of drinking pre-made bottled teas.
Oysters: Zinc creates and activates white blood cells. Oysters have an amazing amount of zinc, with about 52 milligrams in a 3-ounce serving. However, if you can’t picture yourself slurping down oysters, have a 5-ounce portion of ground beef or a half-cup of roasted peanuts. Both have about 5 milligrams of zinc, and a recommended zinc intake is about 8-12 milligrams each day, depending on age and gender.
Yogurt: A healthy gut is a great barrier against disease-causing bacteria and microorganisms. Prebiotics from fruits and vegetables along with healthy probiotics from fermented dairy like yogurt help to keep your gut healthy.
Garlic: Sulfur compounds, specifically allicin, in garlic have strong germ-fighting powers. Allicin is produced when garlic is cut or crushed, so use fresh garlic for the most potential immune benefit.
Spinach: Not only is spinach a great source of beta-carotene (like the sweet potatoes), it also has lots of folate. Having low levels of folate has been linked to a weakened immune system.
Berries: From the more exotic acai berries or elderberries to the more common strawberries and blueberries, all are loaded with flavanols which are excellent antioxidants.
It doesn’t have to be fancy to be effective – this simple veggie recipe uses four of the 10 recommended foods above, and it can be paired with any lean protein for an excellent immune-boosting meal.
Recipe: Grilled (or Roasted) Vegetables
- ½ cauliflower head, cut into small florets
- ½ broccoli head, cut into small florets
- 2 zucchini, halved lengthwise then cut into ½-inch pieces
- 2 cups mushrooms, halved
- 2 red, orange or yellow peppers, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 sweet potato, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 red onion, cut into wedges
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven or grill to 400 degrees F if roasting. If grilling, prepare a hot fire.
- In a large bowl, toss together cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, onion, olive oil, garlic and thyme until well mixed.
- Spread the mixture on a baking sheet if using the oven, or in a grill basket if using the grill. You can use heavy-duty tin foil over the grill grates if you do not have a basket. Gently pour the vegetables directly onto the foil.
- If roasting, cook until the vegetables are tender and lightly caramelized, stirring occasionally, 30-40 minutes. Grilled vegetables may take less time.
Lauren Cornay, RD, LN, is a registered dietitian at Avera Heart Hospital.