10 Immune Boosting Foods

Boosting your immunity is important for coping with the cold and flu season which is upon us. Eating the following foods can help prevent you from getting sick.  My favourite wonder food is garlic, it works like magic!

But first I’d like to share with you some immune system drainers:

  • Avoid high-fat, high-sugar junk foods, as they can decrease the activity of the immune system.  Sugar actually suppresses the immune system.  Here’s an interesting fact, 1 teaspoon of sugar can paralyze your immune system for up to 4 hours.
  • It’s also best to avoid too much caffeine (pop, coffee, tea, chocolate) as caffeine can undermine your body’s immune system and act as a diuretic, which will deplete your body of water.
  • Don’t smoke! Smoking can impair your resistance as well as injure the respiratory tract, which makes you more susceptible to the flu.

My personal top 10 immune boosting foods!

sunflower seedsSunflower seeds

Two tablespoons give you more than a third of your daily requirement of vitamin E. This vitamin helps you resist the flu and upper-respiratory infections by boosting production of T-cells, a type of white blood cell that fights infection.

Good to know – with any nut or seed it best to store them in your fridge or freezer for a longer shelf life. Heat, light and air can turn the oil in nuts/seeds rancid.

Ideas for Use – by the handful raw, sprinkle them over a salad, your granola or on a yogurt parfait. Putting them in a smoothie is also tasty.

brazil nutsBrazil nuts

These nuts contain a healthy dose of cold-fighting mineral selenium. (A single Brazil nut has 95 mcg — nearly double the amount you need in a day.) Your body uses selenium to produce those infection-fighting T-cells, which in turn destroy bacteria and viruses. Studies show that this antioxidant instigates the good bacteria in our intestines to attack bad bacteria and parasites like E. coli.

Good to know – Too much selenium can be bad for your health; a small handful of nuts every few days is all you need.

Ideas for Use – by the handful raw, chop them up and toss them over a salad, your granola or on a yogurt parfait.

kaleKale

You might be surprised to know that, ounce for ounce, kale is a richer source of beta carotene than carrots or sweet potatoes, which makes it my top choice for fighting off colds and the flu. The liver converts beta carotene into vitamin A, which amps up the immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells, including ones that seek out and destroy foreign bacteria and viruses. Vitamin A also helps support the lining of your respiratory and digestive tracts, which are your first lines of defence against pathogens. This robust leafy green also has high levels of vitamin C, an antioxidant that’s important for immune function.

Good to know – Conventionally grown kale can contain high levels of pesticide residues, so choose organic kale when possible.

Ideas for Use – Fat-soluble beta carotene is better absorbed when it’s in the presence of dietary fat, so try gently sautéing kale in oil, incorporating it raw into salads with diced avocado, or making crispy kale chips.

kiwifruitKiwis

Kiwifruit takes the prize for vitamin C. Considered the go-to resource for staving off illness, C can help increase your resistance to disease and keeps your defenses strong. Vitamin C increases the body’s production of white blood cells and helps to prevent infection, especially if you’re feeling burnt out or stressed. Just don’t wait for the first sign of infection to start fueling up; studies show that taking large doses of C once a cold begins does not shorten its length or severity, but a regular dose of 75 to 90 mg per day might.

Good to Know –  Vitamin C is easily damaged by heat and water. Try to consume C-packed foods raw or barely cooked.

Ideas for Use – make a kiwi yogurt in a smoothie, try your hand at a kiwi mango salad, or kiwi dipped in raw cocoa is simply delicious!

garlicGarlic

My personal favourite. Regarded as one of the most potent cold and flu fighters, garlic combats an army of invaders, including bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses, thanks to the presence of polysulfides, a class of sulfur compounds. Ajoene, for instance, inhibits the growth of a broad range of microbes, including Staphylococcus aureus (a cause of staph infections) and E. coli. Garlic’s most dynamic compound, allicin, blocks enzymes that help viruses spread. Allicin lies dormant in a clove until it’s cut, chewed, or crushed. Although garlic is often enjoyed roasted, you can maximize its benefits by eating it raw.

Good to know – garlic is a natural antibiotic, is anti fungal and anti microbial.

Ideas for Use – raw or cooked, in salads, pastas, soups, the list is endless.

MushroomsMushrooms

The Chinese and Japanese have long used mushrooms as medicine– and for good reason. Mushrooms help boost the production of white blood cells, remove toxins from the body, and restore our bodies’ natural balance. The most potent cold and flu-fighting mushrooms are shitake, maitake and reishi.

Good to know – mushrooms are also a source of vitamin d, which is also effective in itself to boost the immune system.

Ideas for Use – toss into a salad with berries and pumpkins seeds, or use in a soup to create a tasty mushroom soup.

Yogurt

Yogurt

About 70 percent of our immune system resides in our gut – so a healthy digestive system makes for a healthy body. Probiotics are good bacteria that keep naturally occurring bad bacteria in check – kind of like a bouncer for the intestines. To keep a healthy population of good bacteria, choose a plain yogurt (sugar and sweeteners can suppress the immune system).

Good to know – sugar kills the effects of the probiotics, so purchase plain and add your own fruit.

Ideas for Use– put in smoothies or make a parfait with berries and my homemade granola.

pumpkin seedsPumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are brimming with the mineral zinc, which can help you fight colds and flu. Zinc plays a central role in immune function by increasing the production of various immune cells that are involved in the body’s response to viruses.

Good to know – with any nut or seed it best to store them in your fridge or freezer for a longer shelf life. Heat, light and air can turn the oil in nuts/seeds rancid.

Ideas for Use – Add to granola and top with yogurt or kefir; use in pesto instead of pine nuts; or toast in a dry skillet with sea salt and sprinkle over soups, salads, and roasted root vegetables.

ginger rootGinger

Ginger comes to the aid when we’re sick in some powerful ways. Besides soothing a scratchy throat, it has chemicals called sesquiterpenes that target rhinoviruses — which are the most common family of cold viruses — as well as substances that help suppress coughing.

Good to know – Ginger is also a natural pain and fever reducer and a mild sedative so you’ll feel more comfortable and be able to rest easier.

Ideas for Use – peel the skin and chopped into pieces place into  pot of water and boil, ginger tea can be very soothing.  Try it in a smoothie with kale and lemon.

Green tea leavesGreen Tea

Polyphenols, potent plant antioxidants, are what’s believed to give green tea its immune-boosting effects. One laboratory study suggested that a particular type of polyphenols called catechins may kill influenza viruses. To maximize benefits and reduce bitterness, use just-below-boiling water and steep green tea no more than a minute or two. A little lemon and honey can also help blunt the bitterness.

Good to know –  don’t add milk, because the proteins will bind to the polyphenols, making them ineffective.

Ideas for Use – drink by the cup, or add matcha to your smoothie. Make an iced green tea add lemon to flavour it and a touch of honey to sweeten.