Healthy Immune System – Part II – A Dozen Strengthening Foods

A Health Coach Friend of mine in California started her recent newsletter this way: What a stressful year this week has been!

That’s a pretty good way to say that it’s been a week of lots of interruptions and reshaping priorities, activities, work, and life for everyone, and I, for one, have appreciated the opportunity to add in  a little more sleep most nights to stay ahead of the stress of it all.

I mentioned adequate sleep in my last newsletter. It’s one of the important components of a healthy immune system – one that can help you withstand aggressive attacks, such as the one we are witnessing in Covid-19. If you missed all that, click here.

Another very important component in maintaining a healthy immune system is making sure to eat lots of healthy foods.

What is needed are lots of fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens, and cutting out processed foods and others that are inflammatory in the body like wheat and dairy.  You can see more about both  inflammatory and non-inflammatory foods here, and then work to eliminate them or, at least, greatly reduce them. This is the time, if there ever was one, to keep your body’s immunity in top shape.

Like any fighting force, the immune system army marches on its stomach. Those immune system warriors need good, regular nourishment.  Scientists have long recognized that people who live in poverty and are malnourished are more vulnerable to infectious diseases. However, there are still relatively few studies of the effects of nutrition on the immune system, and fewer that tie the effects of nutrition directly to the development of diseases.

There are some foods that are thought to have particular warrior-like properties to keep the immune system functioning optimally.

Making sure to include this dozen of them  in a healthy diet may provide additional strength through this wicked coronavirus we now are experiencing.

1. Blueberries, good for so many reasons, have anti-oxidant properties (flavonoids) that play and essential role in the respiratory tract’s immune defense system. Researchers have found that people who ate foods rich in flavonoids were less likely to get upper respiratory tract infections, or colds, than those who did not.

2. Turmeric is used by many in cooking these days, and it is also present in some alternative medicines. It may improve a person’s immune response, due to the curcumin it contains.

3. Broccoli is a great source of vitamin C, and also contains potent anti-oxidants. Always an excellent choice in disease-fighting, it’s a good one to include often these uncertain days.

4. Sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotene, which gives their skin their orange color. Beta carotene is a good source of vitamin A, which helps to make skin, eyes and other parts of the body strong and healthy.

5. Spinach, as well as other dark leafy greens contain many essential nutrients and antioxidants, such as flavonoids, carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin E, and several important minerals. Vitamins C and E are thought to be particularly helpful to the immune system.

6. Ginger has anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties and likely offers health benefits. More research needs to be done to confirm whether or not it can effectively prevent illness.

7. Garlic has long been an effective home remedy for colds and other illnesses. One of its components, allicin, was studied as a possible flu and cold preventative. Those who took the placebo had more than double the number of colds than the garlic takers, but research is still ongoing.

8. Green tea, with less damaging caffeine than coffee, may strengthen the immune system. Like blueberries, green tea contains flavonoids which may be warriors against viruses.

9. Sunflower seeds, inexpensive, protein and fiber rich, are also a good source of vitamin E, an antioxidant which improves immune function. It fights free radicals, which can damage cells, keeping them from doing their protective work.

10. Almonds are another good source of vitamin E, and also contain manganese, magnesium and fiber. A quarter of a cup of almonds is a healthful snack which could well benefit the immune system. Go for the rawest ones you can find, without roasting, salt, or oils.

11. Oranges, lemons, and kiwis are good sources of vitamin C, which is good to load up on when there are virus bugs in the air. Again, scientists are still not sure exactly how it helps, but vitamin C may reduce the duration of colds and flu and improve the function of the human system. It is at its best in the whole fruit, rather than in juices or supplements.

12. Red bell pepper is also a good source of vitamin C, with less sugar content than fruit.

Enjoying these immune-supporting foods may well strengthen your immune system and improve your ability to fight off Covid-19. Still, the immune system is complex. Eating a healthful, balanced diet is just one of a few ways to support immune health.

It is also essential to be mindful of the other lifestyle factors that may affect immune system health, such as exercising, not smoking, drinking alcohol only moderately, getting adequate sleep, and minimizing stress.

More on minimizing stress next time. Meanwhile, stay home, wash your hands, get outside to exercise when you can, and eat the best food you can find.

I wish you and yours good health and peaceful hearts during this crazy, scary, challenging  time.

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