Long term research shows that what foods boost your immune system. Here are five key immune-boosting foods to keep in your kitchen at all times.
Our immune system is the powerhouse responsible for keeping our body functioning at an optimal level. Our immune system zaps colds and viruses. It also prevents us from getting sick and helps repair old and damaged cells.
This whole-body system is working around the clock to ensure we feel our best! Yet, there’s a lot we can do to support it! Further, lifestyle factors influence our immune health through the food we eat, how much sleep we get, and how often we exercise.
One of the best ways we can improve our immune system is to focus on nutrient dense foods! These options are high in vitamins and minerals that play a direct role in immune support.
Let’s take a look at exactly which foods boost your immune system!
1. Bell peppers for Immune Health
This crunchy veggie is more than a stir-fry superstar (although we love it there too). Bell peppers have nearly three times the Vitamin C as a navel orange. This is a huge nutrition factor for foods that boosts your immune system! Additionally, red bell peppers are the most potent sources of vitamin C. You absorb the most bang for your buck when you eat them raw!
Vitamin C is crucial for immune health. Actually, loads of research shows this vitamin is helpful for everything from immune health to better skin health.
These peppers are packed with antioxidants – especially red bell peppers! Vitamin C works as an antioxidant. It benefits the immune system by helping remove harmful, damaged cells. When cells get damaged, or oxidized, they become potentially cancerous.
Vitamin C works directly at the cellular level to heal these damaged cells and neutralize their cancer-promoting properties!
Bell peppers can prevent Vitamin C deficiency! Vitamin C deficiency has been shown to cause impaired immune function and increase infections! This means, without enough Vitamin C, you are more likely to get sick and take longer to heal!
This crunchy vegetable has the added benefit of helping with iron absorption! Vitamin C in bell peppers increases how well our body digests and absorbs iron in our diet!
Chicken stir fry anyone? The peppers in the stir fry will increase the iron absorbed from the chicken!
Other veggies and fruits are packed with Vitamin C, too! Choose bright orange/red varieties to get the best source of vitamin C. Produce like tomatoes, carrots, oranges, grapefruit, and strawberries are all wonderful sources!
Rotate these orange-hued produce into your weekly routine, and you are well on your way to better health!
2. Shellfish Boosts Immunity
This saltwater staple has some serious immune boosting benefits! Specifically, shellfish is high in minerals like zinc that support immune health. Shellfish that are high in zinc include crab, oysters, clams, crawfish, lobster, and shrimp.
Oysters are by far the greatest source of zinc from shellfish – providing a nearly 675% of your average daily value in just 3 ounces! The concentrated zinc in oysters make them a food that boosts your immune system!
Zinc is imperative for immune health. In fact, zinc has a powerful effect on apoptosis. Apoptosis is the body’s ability to remove threatening cells. Adequate zinc increases the body’s ability to remove these threatening cells.
In general, shellfish is packed with nutrients and healthy fats! Shellfish is low in total fat – making a lean protein source! Yet, it is high in heart healthy fats like Omega-3 fatty acids.
Additionally, these fats further benefit the immunity by decreasing inflammation!
Similarly, like with Vitamin C, research shows zinc also works as an antioxidant. It boosts the immune system by helping to eliminate harmful and damaged cells. Vitamin C and zinc work together to heal these damaged cells and neutralize their oxidation properties.
Eating shellfish regularly helps avoid developing zinc deficiency. Zinc deficiency can create a host of issues ranging from poor hair, skin and nail health to diarrhea and unintentional weight loss. Notedly, these symptoms are serious, and often go unnoticed at first.
Other types of seafood can have a positive impact on your immune wellbeing too! Fatty fish like salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel all contain heart healthy fats and fish oils that decrease inflammation and improve the immune function!
In conclusion, choose seafood twice a week for good health, and sneak shellfish in when you can to increase your zinc absorption!
3. Raw Honey Increases Immune Function
This naturally sweet food is a huge player in immune health. Specifically, raw honey is famous for its antimicrobial properties! The phytonutrients in raw honey are associated with increased antimicrobial properties in the body!
Honey is also high in antioxidants and prebiotics – a type of nutrient that works as fuel for a healthy microbiome. Prebiotics can also boost your immune system by improving the anti-inflammation response in the body.
Further, one of the reasons honey is considered a superfood is that it is packed with a range of vitamins and minerals! Honey contains vitamin C, many B vitamins, and traces of minerals like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus!
Research shows that royal jelly has a positive impact on reproductive health, neurodegenerative disorders, and aging. Amazingly, a tablespoon serving of honey is a serving, and can influence everything from your immune system to reproductive health. That is quite the boost!
However, while quite nutritious, honey is also packed with natural sugars! You’ll want to limit the total amount of honey you consume to prevent overeating empty calories from sugar in your diet!
Interestingly, honey is actually slightly lower on the glycemic index scale than sugar. In other words, honey raises your blood sugar slower than table sugar does.
A Word on Pasteurization
Pasteurizing honey became popular after the discovery of Clostridium Botulinum spores – aka the botulism toxin – in honey products. Thus, infants should not consume honey for this reason!
Raw honey has more nutrients and immune-supporting benefits than pasteurized honey. Heating and pasteurizing honey reduces the total nutrition value of honey.
However, for the rest of us, the risks often do not outweigh the rewards of raw honey! Researchers have found hundreds of beneficial compounds in raw honey – one of the reasons they are a food that boosts your immune system!. Propolis and royal jelly are two main components of honey that researchers are focused on right now.
Add honey into your diet by drizzling over peanut butter toast, in hot tea, on top of yogurt, or simply by the teaspoon!
4. Turmeric is Immune-Boosting
Turmeric root has tons of research on its role on immune health. This root-shaped spice is well known for its vibrant yellow color. Often, you can pick out which dishes use turmeric as they are quite colorful. Curry and mustard dishes are made with turmeric root!
Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, curcurmin is the active compound in turmeric. These anti-inflammatory properties are known for improving everything from joint pain to brain health! However, curcurmin is actually only a small portion of the turmeric root, but it is responsible for a significant amount of its health benefits.
Curcurmin reinforces the anti-inflammatory response by helping the body attack unwelcome invaders. This compound can help fight colds, viruses, and other infections. Also, it promotes good health by assisting in improving our inflammatory markers for chronic disease.
Black pepper assists in the absorption of turmeric. Coincidentally, black pepper increases the bioavailability of turmeric. In other words, you do not reap the full benefits of turmeric root unless you consume it with pepper!
Further, in research, turmeric alters the BDNF protein that can support memory function and may play a role in preventing memory disorders.
An easy way to increase your turmeric is to drink it! Consider this simple recipe that combines two foods that boost your immune system: honey and turmeric!
- one cup Coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon Turmeric (powder)
- 1 tablespoon Honey
- Dash of cinnamon, pepper, and salt
This earthy drink is delicious hot or cold. To make it, heat up the milk on the stove and slowly whisk in the other ingredients until they are incorporated. Pour into a mug and serve warm, or let cool and set in the fridge for later!
Note, however you choose to get turmeric in your diet, your immune system will thank you!
5. Chia seeds are Immune Friendly
Chia seeds are a key player for a strong immune health game. These morsels have nutritious properties that play an instrumental role in the immune system.
Chia seeds affect everything from digestion to immune function! They are high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, heart healthy fat, and protein to boot!
The American diet is consistently lacking in Omega-3s. We often get a variety of fats from plant and animal sources, but we miss out on the immune-boosting benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3s are high in foods like chia, flax seeds, and fatty fish. Getting enough of these in our diet can be a challenge! Omega-3s help the immune system by fighting inflammation. These fatty acids neutralize free radicals or harmful cells in the body.
The reduction in inflammatory processes de-stresses the immune system. Further, omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in autoimmune conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Oftentimes, these conditions involve an immune response where the immune system attacks the body’s natural tissue instead of an invader.
Autoimmune conditions are on the rise, and chia seeds are one diet change that can pack a powerful punch to help you prevent or manage autoimmune disease!
Interestingly, the omega 3s are associated with an increase in phagocytosis. This biological process occurs when the immune system tells cells to engulf suspicious cells. Omega 3s actually help the body “eat” and destroy harmful cells.
Other sources of immune-supporting Omega 3s include salmon, mackerel, flaxseeds, walnuts, tuna, and fortified eggs!
Boost your immune system by sprinkling chia seeds on oatmeal, adding them to peanut butter toast, or tossing into yogurt!
If immune health is the name of your game, these superfoods are your star players! Focus on getting high quality, nutrient dense foods for your immune system!
Lastly, if you are looking for more ways to change your lifestyle for the better, check out these ways you can add exercise every day! Exercise improves your immune system by getting your heart rate up, improving blood flow, and helping maintain a healthy weight.
Read more about the types of exercise you need every week, and let us know what you think!