Eating for Immune Health

Many people don’t realize just how much the strength of our immune system depends on our diet and now is the perfect time to be adding in foods that will help to provide an additional layer of health and protection.

Eating a diverse diet with lots of color will ensure a variety of antioxidants and nutrients, but there are a few foods that you can start to easily incorporate more of into your daily diet to help boost your immune system superpowers because you’re probably already eating them.

Start eating more of the following foods to help support immune health:

  1. Onions – Actually any member of the allium family (garlic, leeks, chives, red onions, yellow onions, scallions, shallot, etc.) are going to be a huge boost to the immune system and may help ward off pathogens. Historically, garlic has been used for centuries for everything from digestive distress to the common cold and has much research supporting its claims to be of medicinal value. The next time you are out pick up some extra alliums to use in soups and salads. These can also be easily planted in a small garden with minimal effort.
  2. Mushrooms – Sauté some of your onions with mushrooms and give your immune system an even bigger boost. Shiitake mushrooms, specifically, have been studied for their antiviral capacity and have shown that an intake of 5-10g of mushrooms a day may improve immune function and lower inflammatory markers (1). Chaga mushrooms, which were the highlight of our Season’s Top 3 Warming Superfoods , comes in very strong as another immune system enhancing nutrient which can help your body ward off toxins, viruses, and bacteria. Chaga has also been shown to help with various types of cancers (2).
  3. Citrus – Oranges, tangerines, and grapefruit are widely accepted as food sources that help boost the immune system with their concentrated abundance of Vitamin C. Long ago when citrus was unavailable to those living in the north, the rare orange was considered a “miracle fruit” because of the Vitamin C, and the abundance of other macronutrients and phytochemicals available in one foodsource. Citrus has shown to increase white blood cell count and to help the immune system combat illness. Also, which may be helpful in a time of social-distancing and uncertainty, citrus has also been shown to have antidepressant effects so picking up citrus fruits and eating them daily may not only have immune protective support but neuroprotective as well (3).
  4. Ginger – A spice that has been used for thousands of years for soothing upset stomachs, may also inhibit the growth of fungi, bacteria, and viruses (4). This, along with its strong antioxidant components and anti-inflammatory effects make ginger a great food source for boosting the immune system. Try making a cup of ginger tea which can help relieve tension and support immunity for up to 12 hours.
  5. Dark leafy greens – Dark greens like kale, spinach, swiss chard and arugula are powerful additions to a diet and contain several nutrients essential to the human body. Loaded with macro- and micro- nutrients, and innately supporting the body in fighting against many diseases, the immune system is naturally stronger with these foods as a regular part of the diet.

One way I like to get many of these powerful immune boosting foods into my diet at one time is to make an immune boosting smoothie and drink it regularly. Give the following recipe a try!

Orange Immune Boosting Smoothie

  • 1 cup Pureed Pumpkin
  • 1 Banana (frozen)
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsps Ginger
  • 1 tbsp Ground Flax Seed
  • 3/4 cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • 2 Navel Orange (peeled and sectioned)
  • 1 tbsp Maple Syrup

Throw all ingredients into a blender and blend until very creamy. Pour into two glasses and enjoy!
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Stephanie Wharton is a Board Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and part of the Lending Hearts Up Street team. You can learn more about her at www.thewellsideoflife.com