10 Natural Foods That Boost the Immune System

Immune-Boosting Foods to Eat On Repeat

If you are unlucky enough to get ill, you need to be strong enough to beat it. There is one extremely strong defense against it and you control that lever. It is your immune system. It can fight back against any virus or bacteria. Put it in overdrive with these 10 foods.

These foods are known to supercharge your immune system, which is your body's defense against infection and illness. It works by recognising cells that make up your body and will fight off anything unfamiliar. It destroys germs (bacteria and viruses) and parasites. Eat these to bolster your white blood cells and the supporting teams that keep them ready for battle. Healthline and The BEET compiled the list that we've given you our top 10 below. 

 

1. Citrus for Your Cells and Healing

Your body does not produce vitamin C, which means you need to get it daily to have enough to create healthy collagen (the building blocks for your skin and healing). Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient found in leafy greens and citrus, especially grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes, and clementines. It acts as an antioxidant that contributes to the normal function of the immune system.

 

How much do you need a day: The recommended daily amount to shoot for is 65 to 90 milligrams a day, which is the equivalent of one small glass of orange juice or eating a whole grapefruit. Almost all citrus fruits are high in vitamin C. With such a variety to choose from, it's easy to get your fill.

2. Red Peppers to Pump Up Skin and Immunity

Want even more vitamin C, add red bell peppers to your salad or pasta sauce. One medium-sized red bell pepper contains 152 milligrams of vitamin C, or enough to fulfill your RDA.
Peppers are also a great source of beta carotene, a precursor of vitamin A (retinol). Vitamin A is important for healthy skin, your mucous membranes and your immune system. Beta carotene helps keep your eyes and skin healthy, as well. One cooked pepper has 19 percent of your daily recommended amount of beta carotene.
How much beta carotene do you need a day: You should try to get 75 to 180 micrograms a day which is the equivalent of one medium bell pepper a day. But a red pepper has more than two and a half times your RDA for vitamin C so eat them all winter long.

Broccoli may be the most super of superfoods on the planet. It's rich in vitamins A and C as well as E. The phytochemicals in it are great for arming and strengthening your immune system.

Broccoli is a good source of lutein, a powerful antioxidant, and sulforaphane, another potent antioxidant. It contains additional nutrients, including some magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and iron.  The key to keeping its powerful nutrients intact and ready for helping the body's immune response is to cook it as little as possible — or even eat it raw.

Lutein is one of 600 known naturally occurring carotenoids and is found in high quantities in green leafy veggies such as spinach and kale.

How much lutein should you eat in a day: There is no RDA for lutein, but experts say get at least 6 milligrams.

 

4. Garlic, Eaten By the Clove

Garlic isn't just a great flavor-enhancer, it's essential for your health. Ancient humans valued garlic as an infection fighter, which is why so much of our traditional diets include it as a first ingredient (making pasta sauce for instance). Value it and use it liberally for fighting infections.
Garlic’s immune-boosting properties are tied to its sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin. Allicin is thought to improve your immune cells' ability to fight off colds and flu, and viruses of all kinds. Garlic also has anti-microbial and anti-viral properties thought to fight off infections.
How much should you eat in a day: The optimal amount of garlic to eat is more than most of us can fathom: Two to three cloves a day. While that may not be doable, realistically, some people take garlic supplements to get 300-mg dried garlic in a powdered tablet.

5. Ginger is a Power Player

Ginger is another ingredient that has super properties when it comes to fighting off illness. It has been shown to decrease inflammation, which can help if you get swollen glands or a sore throat or any inflammatory ailment.

Gingerol, the main bioactive compound in ginger, is a relative of capsaicin, can be used in sweet or spicy dishes. It has been found to alleviate pain and fight nausea, which is the reason ginger ale was given for upset stomachs, back when it contained actual ginger. Make your own ginger tea. Gingerol is responsible for much of its medicinal properties. It has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.

How much should you eat a day: Most recommendations land on 3–4 grams of ginger extract a day, or up to four cups of ginger tea, but no more than 1 gram a day if you are pregnant. Some studies have linked high dosages to an increased risk of miscarriage.

 

6. Spinach, Wilted, Not Steamed

Spinach is not only packed with vitamin C but also antioxidants and beta carotene, both of which give your immune system the healthy boost it needs to fight off invaders.

Don't overcook your spinach, since the more it's cooked the less active the antioxidants will be. If you eat it raw or lightly steamed you'll keep more of the nutrients intact. 

How much should you eat a day: Aim for 1 cup fresh spinach or 1/2 cup cooked per day, but this is the right moment to try the raw or slightly wilted approach. Order warm or wilted spinach salad when you go out, or make it yourself with olive oil, pine nuts, and vegan parm.

 

7.  Almonds for the Win

Vitamin E in almonds will help ward off colds and flu and is key to your immune system humming along. It’s a fat-soluble molecule, meaning it requires the presence of fat to be absorbed, so nuts are the perfect package for E to make it into your system.

How much should you eat in a day:  A half-cup serving, or 46 whole, shelled almonds, provides almost 100 percent of your RDA of vitamin E. Almonds are great for you but they don't come with a  "free" pass, since 1/4 cup is a serving and has 162 calories, so double that for your RDA and you're eating about 325 calories. Throw them into smoothies instead.

8. Turmeric to Fight Inflammation

If you ever feel healthier for eating curry, it is probably because of the Turmeric, which is an ingredient that gives it its burnt orange colour. But this highly pigmented spice is known for its anti-inflammatory qualities. The ingredient curcumin has been found to decrease muscle soreness after a hard workout. How it helps immunity? decrease exercise-induced muscle damage.

Turmeric bolsters the immune system by stimulating antibody formation and people with auto-immune diseases are told by their doctors to take 500 mg of curcumin daily to reduce inflammation and stave off soreness.

How much should you eat in a day: Try adding extra Turmeric to your diet during periods of stress or during flu season. Or take 500-2,000 mg of curcumin to help fight inflammation and power up your immune system.

 

9. Green Tea by the Gallon

Whether you prefer green tea or black tea, you will benefit from the compounds called flavonoids, powerful antioxidants. Green tea has high levels of EGCG, (epigallocatechin gallate) another hard-working antioxidant.

EGCG is known to boost immune function, and originally all tea leaves contain this anti-oxidant, but when black tea is fermented it deactivates most of the EGCG. Green tea is steamed so the EGCG is still active when you drink it.

Green tea also contains L-theanine, an anti-oxidant which appears to help in the production of T-cells in your body, the killer  L-theanine may aid in the production of germ-fighting compounds in your T-cells.

How much green tea should you drink in a day: The optimal amount is three to five cups in a day, but most people won't get to that level. Any amount is better than nothing. Swap out a usual beverage daily for green tea could improve your health.

 

10. Papaya, The Tropical Healer

Papaya delivers over twice your recommended daily amount of vitamin C in one fruit -- though you're likely to eat a few slices on a salad or in a smoothie. It also contains an enzyme called papain that has anti-inflammatory effects -- and inflammation is one factor in most illnesses, so avoiding it can help your body fight off bacterial infections like sinusitis.

Papayas contain potassium, vitamin B, and folate, which is a powerful cell rebuilder. Exactly how folic acid works to build immunity is linked to its role in protein synthesis, and researchers think that any mechanism in which cells proliferate can be affected (which is why it's critical for pregnant women). People who are folate-deficient have compromised immune systems.

How much folate should you eat a day: Whether you are pregnant or not, folate (vitamin B9) is a great vitamin to keep your cells healthy and strong. The recommendation is 400 micrograms a day, or get it from legumes, spinach, papayas, and avocados.

 

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