The food we eat is one of the most powerful tools we have to help prevent disease. Your immune system protects your body by defending against viruses and bacteria which can cause inflammation in the body, resulting in illness and disease. Certainly a healthy body begins with a healthy immune system.
Fruit and especially vegetables have many properties to heal, nourish and boost your immune system. ALL fruit and vegetables support a healthy digestive and immune system, however some are more immune supportive than others. So here is my top 10 fruits and vegetables to supercharge your immune system…
Citrus such as oranges, mandarins, grapefruit, lemons and limes are an excellent source of vitamin C which helps maintain the body’s defence against bacterial infections. Try to include the zest of citrus where possible (I always microplane zest from lemons and limes over salads or vegetables during winter – it makes them extra delicious). I love to make my Immune Boosting Lemon Jellies during winter.
2. Leafy greens
Their high level of nutrients coupled with many potent, immune enhancing phyto (plant) chemicals, results in much-needed virus protection at this time of year. There’s a reason why leafy greens are in season during winter! Home-made pesto is a delicious way to include greens. More on why greens are so vital and ways to include more in your diet here. My Best Basil Pesto and Coriander, Lime Pesto recipe here.
The bioflavonoid bromelain in pineapple is a proteolytic enzyme (meaning it breaks down proteins). It is thought to boost immune function and has anti-inflammatory properties which help to open up the airways. In nutritional medicine, bromelain is often used to support sinus conditions (reduces the swelling and mucus production) and helps to clear both upper and lower respiratory congestion. This Pineapple Lime smoothie is a favourite when anyone in our house is congested (with added turmeric and ginger).
Carrots contain vitamin A precursors called carotenoids (Beta carotene) that are essential for a healthy immune system. My Probiotic Carrot Sticks are immune supportive to boot.
Vitamin C and beta-carotene (which converts to Vitamin A) in papaya, are both needed for the proper function of a healthy immune system. Papaya may therefore be a healthy fruit choice for preventing such illnesses as recurrent ear infections, colds and flu. The enzyme papain found in papaya is anti-inflammatory and helps to reduce mucous production also.
The brassica family of vegetables includes broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts and turnips. They are rich sources of many detoxifying and potent immune boosting, protective phyto-chemicals. They’re also great sources of Vitamin C and bioflavonoids. This Cauliflower, Broccoli and Lemon Salad is a favourite on our table.
Rich in vitamin C, vitamin A and polyphenols that help promote healthy immune function.
8. Ginger and Turmeric
Ginger and Turmeric are my two favourite immune boosting herbs.
Studies have shown that ginger has potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It helps to boost immune function and combat cellular damage.
Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric, responsible for the distinct yellow colouring and the impressive list of health properties. Curcumin is anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, detoxifying and amazing for digestive health. Turmeric has been linked to the prevention of cancer cell growth and management of inflammatory conditions such as, asthma, eczema and inflammatory bowel disease. It is a nutritional powerhouse, rich in manganese, zinc, B group vitamins and iron.
All mushrooms, but especially Shitakes are amazing immune boosters. In herbal medicine, studies have proven their immune enhancing action. They are also very nutritious and you can buy them fresh from most farmers markets or dried in Asian (and regular) supermarkets. Use them like a normal mushroom. My Mushroom Omelette Wraps and Stuffed Mushrooms are so delicious.
Add garlic to everything you cook. Studies suggest that consuming garlic daily may prevent and also shorten the duration of colds. Include it where you can.
Lastly, remember to make sure protein is part of your diet daily along with plenty of water, a little sunshine and as much rest and relaxation as possible. Have a happy, healthy winter!