The immune system is our internal network of organs, cells, tissues, and metabolic processes that work together to keep us healthy. It is the frontline of defense protecting us from harmful bacteria, fungi, viruses, and infections.
When our immune system is compromised, the flood gates are open, and we become susceptible to every germ and virus going around.
Our lifestyle can impact how well our immune system works. The immune system is vulnerable to dietary, environmental, and lifestyle insults. We can create habits to support our immune system, take precautions to stay well, and harness the power of nutrition as a tool for wellness.
What we eat matters, and studies show that poor nutrition wreaks havoc on our immune response. The good news is the more fruits and vegetables we eat, the better our immune system performs.
Top immune-boosting and wellness supporting foods you can add to your diet.
Garlic is one of nature’s oldest medicines.
Garlic contains a powerful compound called allicin. Allicin is activated when garlic is crushed, chopped, or sliced, and it is a super immune booster. Always let your garlic rest for 10 minutes after cutting to increase the allicin.
Onions have two significant compounds that support immunity: the antioxidant flavonoids anthocyanin and quercetin—and allicin. The potent anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties that help us stay well.
Ginger is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Ginger also has antimicrobial properties that can help to protect against infectious diseases.
Mushrooms have been used medicinally for centuries. They boost immunity and contain hundreds of health-supporting compounds that support wellness.
One tablespoon of nutritional yeast per day can reduce the recurrence of infections from the common cold by 25%!
Green tea contains compounds called catechins, along with the antioxidant quercetin and the amino acid L-theanine. Green tea supports a robust immune system helping the body fight viruses, such as influenza and many forms of gastrointestinal infections.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Eating dark leafy greens is a sure way to get the anti-inflammatory benefits of wellness boosting polyphenols. Polyphenols enhance the body’s defense against pathogens, especially when cooked.
Fermented Foods, probiotics, and prebiotics
Digestive health is crucial to a robust immune system.
Gut health depends on probiotics (the good bacteria in our gut) and prebiotics (which feed the probiotics).
Probiotics are available in supplements and fermented foods such as kombucha, yogurt, kraut, miso, and kefir.
Prebiotics are abundant in whole plant foods and contain fiber that nourishes probiotics.
Berries are high in antioxidants, which help prevent cell damage and inflammation. Berries contain large amounts of phytochemicals and fiber that support our immune system and benefit gut health.
Kiwi contains vitamin C, folate, potassium, and antioxidants, such as alpha-Tocopherol and lutein.
Eating citrus fruit provides high amounts of antioxidant vitamin C.
Eat the whole fruit vs. drinking juice, to get the most benefits from citrus fruit.
Apples contain beneficial soluble fiber, which prebiotics love! Eat an apple a day to support both your gut health and immune system.
Sweet red peppers contain vitamin E and beta-carotene, and twice as much vitamin C as citrus fruit.
Favorite Immune Boosting Supplements
Eating a healthy diet filled with fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, and whole foods is the best way to support wellness. However, several supplements deserve a place in your culinary pharmacy.
Low levels of vitamin D make us more susceptible to illness.
Taking a whole-food compounded vitamin D supplement can help protect against respiratory infections. Get outside each day and enjoy some sunlight to help the body synthesize vitamin D and try adding 3,000IU vitamin D daily.
Zinc a powerful antioxidant known to boost immunity.
Zinc supplements and lozenges are useful for shortening the duration and severity of colds. The general dose recommendation is 11-13mg per day for most adults.
The elderberry plant, with its anti-viral properties, is considered a potent natural treatment for preventing colds and influenza. Look for elderberry in teas, lozenges, and syrups.
Echinacea can be used to shorten the duration of the common cold and flu. Echinacea is also useful for reducing sore throat, cough, fever, and treating upper respiratory tract infections.
Oil Of Oregano
Traditionally used to help maintain immune defenses to keep us healthy. Potent antimicrobial and antibiotic properties make oil of oregano a stable of your culinary pharmacy.
Other Tips To Keep You Healthy During Cold And Flu Season
- Stay hydrated! Staying hydrated is essential to your health and wellbeing.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep is a superpower and the time when your body restores and recovers.
- Exercise. Staying physically active improves our immune system.
- Wash your hands often. Use chemical-free all-natural soaps and hand sanitizers to prevent germs from spreading.
- Avoid people who are coughing or appear unwell. It seems obvious to avoid sick people, but offices, public transportation, and schools become breeding grounds for germs when the weather turns cold, and we move indoors.
Get ahead of the cold and flu season by eating a healthy diet, staying hydrated, exercising, getting enough sleep, and taking the right supplements. Creating proper habits can keep you and your immune system healthy and happy.