Known as the “meat” of the vegetable world, mushrooms used to get overlooked as a health food, but they pack a flu fighting punch with selenium, which helps white blood cells produce cytokines that clear sickness, and beta glucan, an antimicrobial type of fiber, which helps activate “superhero” cells that find and destroy infections. Mushrooms are also the only fruit or vegetable containing a significant source of vitamin D. Mushrooms promote the maturation of immune system cells–called dendritic cells–from bone marrow. According to the researchers, this may help enhance the body’s immunity leading to better defence systems against invading microbes.
Mushrooms also boost the immune system and help with cancer prevention. Many mushrooms are also good sources of selenium, an antioxidant mineral, as well as copper, niacin, potassium, phosphorous, protein, vitamin C, fiber and iron. Because their cells walls are indigestible unless exposed to heat, you must cook mushrooms to get their nutritional benefits.
Garlic belongs to the Allium family of vegetables which also includes onions, chives, shallots and leeks. Garlic contains phytochemical allicin, an antimicrobial compound. Allicin is quite powerful as an antibiotic and a potent agent that helps the body to inhibit the ability of germs to grow and reproduce. A British study found that people taking allicin supplements suffered 46 percent fewer colds and recovered faster from the ones they did get. In fact, it’s said that 1 milligram of allicin has a potency of 15 standard units of penicillin.
In a recent study, participants with the lowest levels of vitamin D were about 40 percent more likely to report a recent respiratory infection than those with higher levels of vitamin D. Increasing your intake with a 3.5-ounce serving of salmon provides 360 IU, and some experts recommend as much as 800 to 1000 IU each day. Wild salmon is loaded with protein and the two blockbuster omega-3s, DHA and EPA, that make us happy, smart and pain-free. As the body can’t make omega-3 fatty acids, the best way to obtain them is through the food we eat. Sufficient vitamin D is crucial to maintaining optimal health. A deficiency of this essential vitamin has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and type-1 diabetes. One can of salmon, for example, contains a day’s worth of vitamin D.
Eating salmon makes you smarter and happier, increases your cardiovascular health, protects your eyes, helps build children’s brains and helps you sleep. A dream come true!
Researchers at Harvard University found that drinking five cups of black tea a day quadrupled the body’s immune defense system after two weeks, probably because of theanine. Tea also contains catechins, including ECGC, an antioxidant that boosts the immune system. Vitamin H, also known as biotin, is present in teas and also assists with a healthy immune system.
The digestive tract is one of your biggest immune organs, so keep disease-causing germs out with probiotics and prebiotics, found in naturally fermented foods like yogurt. Probiotics are “friendly bacteria” that are naturally present in the digestive system. Live strains of these “good bacteria” are also found in many yogurt products. While more research needs to be done, there’s some evidence that some strains of probiotics can help boost the immune system and promote a healthy digestive tract. One serving a day labeled with “live and active cultures” will enhance immune function according to a study from the University of Vienna in Austria.
Yogurt may also help prevent osteoporosis and may reduce the risk of high blood pressure.
Nutrition experts agree that dark chocolate deserves a place in healthy diets, and a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition says it can boost your immunity, too. High doses of cocoa support T-helper cells, which increase the immune system’s ability to defend against infection. Studies show that eating a small amount of dark chocolate two or three times each week can help lower your blood pressure. Dark chocolate also contains several chemical compounds that have a positive effect on your mood and cognitive health. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), the same chemical your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. PEA encourages your brain to release endorphins, so eating dark chocolate will make you feel happier. The flavonoids in dark chocolate also help reduce insulin resistance by helping your cells to function normally and regain the ability to use your body’s insulin efficiently. Dark chocolate also has a low glycemic index, meaning it won’t cause huge spikes in blood sugar levels.
Zinc is found in cells throughout the body. It is needed for the body’s defensive (immune) system to properly work. It plays a role in cell division, cell growth, wound healing, and the breakdown of carbohydrates. One medium oyster provides nearly all of the zinc you need for a day, while a portion of six gives you over five times the recommended amount. Oysters contain more zinc than any other food.Oysters are heart healthy and are high in omega – 3 fatty acids, potassium and magnesium which can help reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and lower blood pressure.
Oysters are low in calories, low in fat and a good source of protein which makes you feel fuller after eating. They are a good source of other essential nutrients such as vitamins A, E, and C, zinc, iron, calcium, selenium, and vitamin B12. Oysters can also help lower your cholesterol. A study done by the University of Washington found that eating oysters can help raise the HDLs (good cholesterol levels) and lower the LDL’s (bad cholesterol levels).
Almonds are actually stone fruits related to cherries, plums and peaches. Heart-healthy almonds provide the immune-boosting antioxidant vitamin E, which can reduce your chance of catching colds and developing respiratory infections. The only catch is you’ll need more than a serving of almonds for your daily dose though, so try fortified cereals, sunflower seeds, turnip greens and wheat germ, too. Almonds also lower the rise in blood sugar and insulin after meals.
Even though vitamin C-rich foods such as oranges are probably the first thing you think of when you feel a cold taking hold, one cup of strawberries provides 160 percent of your daily needs. Strawberries contain anthrocyanin, which is a powerful antioxidant that protects us from the damaging effects of our environment, especially the sun. The antioxidant power of the anthrocyanins found in strawberries lasts up to 24 hours after consumption; this makes them a great defence against free radical damage!
Beta-carotene improves your body’s defenses. It’s instrumental in the growth and development of immune system cells and helps neutralize harmful toxins. Sweet potatoes and other orange foods like carrots, squash, pumpkin, egg yolks and cantaloupe are top sources. Sweet potatoes are healthy for the digestive tract. Being rich in digestive fiber, especially when the skin is also consumed, it helps to relieve constipation and may prevent colon cancer. Packed with important vitamins and other nutrients, eating sweet potatoes can boost immunity by supporting the needs of the body.