The tissues, cells, and proteins of the immune system work to fight pathogens (the viruses, bacteria and foreign agents that cause disease). When your body encounters a pathogen, it launches an immune response to destroy the threat. A healthy immune system can help you get sick less often, and spend less time under the weather when you do get sick. [This article, “10 best Foods To Boost Immunity” was originally published in News7Health]
While no particular food on its own can bestow you with healthy immunity, a diet rich in the right nutrients can play a large role in getting your immune system to where it needs to be. When combined with a healthy lifestyle incorporating stress management and adequate rest, these ten nutrient-dense foods can help you to spend less time sick in bed and more time doing the things you love. Keep reading to discover some of the best foods to boost immunity.
Foods to boost immunity with vitamin C
Vitamin C can support the production of infection-fighting white blood cells in your body, and it also strengthens the body’s barrier against pathogens. Deficiencies in this important nutrient result in increased susceptibility to infection, and high doses may shorten the duration of colds. As a potent antioxidant, vitamin C fights free radicals and even promotes healthy aging. Rich sources of vitamin C should be at the top of your list of foods to boost immunity.
Grapefruit is a low-calorie, nutrient-dense fruit that grows naturally in tropical regions. This delicious fruit is a rich source of vitamin C, and each one contains 60% of your recommended daily intake. Grapefruit also contains a healthy dose of immunity-supporting vitamin A. Vitamin A strengthens mucous barriers that protect your body from pathogens, and it also supports the function of pathogen-fighting white blood cells.
Broccoli is a great vegetable source of vitamin C. It also contains sulforaphane, a potent antioxidant that has been shown to help prevent the natural decline in immune function that occurs with aging. Sulforaphane acts on a protein called Nrf2, which can switch on hundreds of antioxidants and rejuvenate genes and enzymes. Broccoli definitely earns its place on your list of foods to boost immunity.
Foods to boost immunity with zinc
Zinc is a champion immunity booster also known for its wound-healing properties. This vital nutrient supports the healthy functioning of the thymus and bone marrow, where immune cells are produced. It also strengthens physical barriers that protect our organs from pathogens. Zinc lozenges are sometimes used to treat the common cold and may shorten your sick time by as much as a day. In addition, as an antioxidant, zinc protects the body against tissue-damaging free radicals.
Oysters are a popular salty seafood that is often consumed raw. They are rich in vitamins and minerals, including zinc and B12. One oyster contains 5.5 mg of zinc, or half the recommended daily allowance for this immunity-boosting nutrient. Oysters are low-calorie and high in protein, so that they can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet. They are also among the best foods to boost immunity.
4. WHEAT GERM
Perhaps the healthiest part of the wheat berry, the wheat germ is eliminated during the process that refines wheat into white flour, but you can find wheat germ at your local supermarket. Wheat germ is rich in zinc, magnesium, and manganese, all of which play a role in supporting a healthy immune system. Magnesium supports the activity of T cells, while manganese supports natural killer cells that destroy infected cells. A source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats, wheat germ can be enjoyed as a topping for cereal, yogurt, or ice cream.
Foods to boost immunity with probiotics
Sometimes called ‘good bacteria,’ probiotics are microorganisms that live in your body, helping you to digest food and fight cells that cause disease. It is well known that a healthy gut microbiome supports healthy immunity, and many cells that produce antibodies are located in the organs of the gut. Probiotics may secrete protective substances that activate the immune system and prevent disease-causing invaders from taking hold. Items that contain probiotics should be included in your list of foods to boost immunity.
Traditional dairy-based yogurt is made by fermenting milk with bacteria such as L. acidophilus or L. rhamnosus. Not only is it a great source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, but yogurt also contains probiotics to support your immune system and maintain a healthy gut microbiome. Rich in zinc, selenium, and magnesium, yogurt can help to support the function of immune cells and protect them against damage. Some varieties are fortified with vitamin D, another immune-boosting nutrient.
Miso is a traditional Japanese condiment made from fermented soybeans, and it is an ingredient in miso soup. Miso contains protein, manganese, and zinc, as well as a healthy dose of probiotics. A. oryzae, the main probiotic strain found in miso, may ease digestive symptoms such as those associated with inflammatory bowel disease. Like many probiotic foods, miso may reduce your chances of getting sick and shorten the duration of colds if consumed regularly.
Mushrooms: the superfood that boosts immunity
Mushrooms are enjoying a moment as a potent superfood with multiple health benefits, including reduced inflammation, improved blood sugar control, anti-tumor effects, and improved immune function. Many varieties are edible and can be baked or stir-fried as part of a delicious meal. Also enjoyed for their medicinal properties, many mushrooms are available in supplement form.
7. SHIITAKE MUSHROOM
Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) is a savory mushroom cultivated in China for over 1,000 years. It is rich in immune-boosting polysaccharides and copper. Copper helps the innate immune system to function properly, and deficiency can increase susceptibility to bacterial infection. Beta-glucans are a type of polysaccharide found in shiitake that are well-known for their capacity to activate immune cells, and may even inhibit tumor growth.
8. WHITE MUSHROOMS
White mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) are the most commonly consumed mushroom in the United States. A rich plant source of vitamin D, white mushrooms also contain vitamin C and selenium, which increase the production of natural killer cells. In addition, the polysaccharides in white mushrooms may serve as prebiotics, supporting a healthy gut microbiome.
9. MAITAKE MUSHROOM
Maitake (Grifola frondosa) is another meaty mushroom filled with polysaccharides. D-fraction is a polysaccharide found maitake that stimulates the production of lymphokines and interleukins, proteins that are part of the immune response. This healthy mushroom is also rich in vitamin D, which binds to receptors on immune cells, modulating their activity. ‘Maitake’ means ‘dancing mushroom’ in Japanese, and this mushroom got its name after its discoverers were said to dance with joy over its healing properties.
Troop Mushrooms offers functional mushrooms in the form of delicious gummies, and you can find a healthy dose of maitake in their Super Troop mushroom blend. This healthy mushroom supplement also contains reishi, cordyceps, lion’s mane, and turkey tail for enhanced mental clarity, energy, digestive health, and immunity. If you prefer to enjoy the many health benefits of mushrooms with a supplement, then Troop Mushrooms can provide you with a source of organic products made with the highest quality ingredients.
Enjoy a cup of green tea to boost immunity
10. GREEN TEA
Green tea lovers enjoy this healthy beverage not only for its pleasant taste but also for its epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) content. EGCG boosts the production of T cells, which modulate the immune response and help to prevent the immune system from attacking healthy tissues. It also acts as a potent antioxidant, protecting the body from the effects of free radicals. (Free radicals from cigarette smoke, environmental pollutants, or UV rays can damage tissues and weaken the immune system.) L-theanine, an amino acid found naturally in green tea, also has immunity-boosting properties as it supports the activity of T cells. With under 50 mg of caffeine per serving, you can enjoy green tea for a light energy boost.
Foods to boost immunity as part of a healthy diet
While no single food can support your immune system on its own, a healthy diet that provides the right nutrients like vitamin C, zinc, probiotics, and vitamin D can help you balance your immune system so that you get sick less frequently and spend less time in bed when you do get sick. Mushrooms are a superfood that rank among the best foods to boost immunity and may be consumed as part of a delicious meal or in supplement form. When you eat well, you can also live well, and a healthy immune system is a great place to start.
Mayo Clinic: Fight off the flu with immune-boosting nutrients
Live Science: Which foods boost the immune system?
Important Note: The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be construed as health or medical advice, nor is it intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease or health condition. Before embarking on any diet or program of nutritional supplementation, it is advisable to consult your healthcare professional in order to determine its safety and probable efficacy in terms of your individual state of health.