The immune system is your body’s natural defense system. A strong one will provide a vital defense against disease-causing microorganisms and when it is impaired, we are more susceptible to illness. There are many lifestyle factors which can impact our immunity. Things like getting enough sleep, reducing stress, eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables and exercising regularly all contribute to optimal immune health. Unfortunately, there’s no magic pill when it comes to keeping our immune systems strong and healthy, but adopting these lifestyle changes will have a positive affect, as well as increasing our intake of certain ingredients which can support and bolster our defences. These are some of our favorite immune-boosting foods:
Ginger is filled with immune-boosting benefits. It’s antibacterial, antimicrobial (good for viral and bacterial infections), helps to relieve congestion and can help to prevent nausea and soothe an upset stomach. Ginger also contains an anti-inflammatory compound called gingerol that is known to relax blood vessels. Try it steeped in hot water with a little honey, or try adding it to soups and stews.
The main compound in turmeric which makes it so good for you is curcumin. This is what gives the root its bright yellow color. It’s a polyphenol with anti-inflammatory effects. The key, however, is to combine turmeric with the right foods to ensure this compound is bioavailable and therefore easily absorbed by the body so that you can reap the benefits. Curcumin’s best friend is the piperine found in black pepper, which has been found to enhance curcumin absorption in the body by up to 2000%. Luckily, both spices work well together in lots of dishes, especially vegetable curries.
In the winter months when sunshine is scarce, many of us lack vitamin D, which is an essential vitamin for good bone health. 40% of US adults are deficient, and this can result in bone and back pain, fatigue and getting sick often. If jumping on a flight to a sunny destination isn’t an option, there are other ways you can up your vitamin D intake - such as by eating organic wild-caught salmon. This oily fish is also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which contribute to healthy brain function, lowering blood pressure, good heart health and general well-being.
Thanks to its high level of vitamin C, watercress is a great immune-boosting addition to your diet. 80g of this green leafy vegetable gives you 50 mg of vitamin C, which is 10mg more than an orange of the same weight! So how does this benefit immunity? The vitamin C provides an energy source and also enables immune cells to kill bacteria and quickly recover. Watercress is a fabulous source of many other nutrients too, such as iron and vitamin A, so next time you make a salad, throw in a handful or two.
With its deep, rich, umami flavor, miso is rich in essential minerals and is also a good source of various B vitamins, vitamins E, K and folic acid. What’s more, if you’re purchasing good quality, unpasteurized organic miso, it’s a fermented food which will provide the gut with beneficial bacteria that help us to stay healthy. 80% of our immune system is located in the wall of our intestine, meaning the microbiota has an important role to play in our immune health, so keeping our gut health in tip top shape will have a knock-on effect on our immunity. Miso soup is the most well-known way of enjoying this fermented food, but you can also add a spoonful to dips and dressings.