A strong immune system can help you fight off infections, common colds, flus, and other bacteria or viruses. While there are certain lifestyle habits that contribute to healthy immune function, the key to enhancing immunity is your diet. The right foods won’t change the way your immune system operates overnight, but they provide your body with antiviral, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory compounds.
What Is The Immune System?
The immune system is an interactive network of organs, white blood cells, and proteins, all of which work together to protect the body from foreign substances. Working to neutralize bacteria, pathogens, and viruses that enter the body, the immune system works round the clock. A healthy immune system recognizes harmful substances from the environment and fights against cells in the body, which have been harmed or changed by way of an illness. An unhealthy immune system attacks certain cells, organs, or systems within the body, resulting in autoimmune disorders.
The innate immune system works as a general defense against pathogens. The adaptive immune system works to address specific pathogens that the body already is in contact with. These two systems work together to keep the body healthy, and you can enhance their function by eating the foods below.
Herbal healers in many cultures have relied on ginger’s ability to boost immune function. In Ayurveda, for example, the belief is that ginger breaks down the accumulation of toxins in the organs because it has a warming effect. Studies found that ginger works to cleanse the lymphatic system, helping the body eliminate toxins, waste, and other unwanted materials. Ginger essential oil also exhibits anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which may help treat infectious diseases.
Beta-carotene foods tend to be orange, but there are greens that are also great sources. Carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, papaya, apricots, red bell peppers, kale, collard greens, and spinach offer beta-carotene in droves. Research studies indicate that getting beta-carotene via food is much better than taking supplements. This is because foods contain carotenoids, which are antioxidant compounds that optimize immune function and fight free radicals.
There are many studies and articles that encourage the consumption of green tea. It contains powerful antioxidants that exhibit immunomodulatory properties. Researchers note that green tea works as an antiviral and antifungal agent that may benefit immunocompromised patients. Because green tea contains caffeine, you don’t want to drink it all day long, but a cup a day may help to enhance immune function.
Vitamin C Foods
It may surprise you to learn that citrus fruits are not the richest sources of vitamin C. There are many fruits that exhibit impressive levels of vitamin C. Bell peppers, black currants, cranberries, guavas, citrus fruits, honeydew, parsley, mangos, pineapples, and kiwis contain a lot of vitamin C. Studies show that getting enough vitamin C in your daily diet may help reduce symptoms of respiratory infections. Vitamin C may also work to shorten the duration of certain illnesses, including bronchitis and the common cold.
Most people don’t think of almonds as immune-boosting foods, but they offer a diverse mix of nutrients that benefit the immune system. Almonds are great sources of vitamin E, and although it takes a backseat to vitamin C, it does exhibit powerful antioxidant capabilities. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it needs fat for the body to properly absorb it. Fortunately, almonds contain lots of healthy fats, which help the body efficiently absorb and process the vitamin E.
Known for reducing inflammation, turmeric is the golden powder that is a key ingredient in many curries. It is a bright orange-yellow spice with a bitter flavor profile, offering potent anti-inflammatory properties that have a proven ability to benefit people with arthritis. Research shows that curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, may decrease exercise-induced muscle damage. It may also act as an antiviral agent, according to animal studies, so more human studies are necessary to confirm this.
Spinach didn’t just make the list because it is a rich source of vitamin C. It is rich in numerous antioxidants, including beta-carotene, which may help the body fight off infections. Similar to broccoli, spinach retains most of its nutrients in its raw state. Cooking spinach, however, makes it easier for the body to absorb the vitamin A. Cooking spinach a little also aids the release of other nutrients from the oxalic acid, an anti-nutrient.