Whether it’s flu season or there’s a cold going around the office, there are ways to keep your immune system strong by eating certain foods. You don’t need to buy pricey supplements to keep yourself healthy. Vitamins and minerals in whole foods tend to be absorbed better than those in supplements. You’re also less likely to get a toxic mega dose of any vitamin from a whole food.
1. Yogurt and Probiotics
Yogurt contains probiotics, which are healthy bacteria that reside in our digestive tract. 70% of our immune system is located in our gut. Adequate intake of probiotic foods can keep the immune system strong by making sure there is no room for harmful bacteria. Other probiotic rich foods include kimchi and kombucha.
Garlic has been used as a natural healer since ancient times. It’s full of sulfuric compounds, which act as antiseptics. These compounds may also have antifungal and antiviral functions. Tip: Try to include raw or lightly cooked garlic if you can, as high heat may deactivate these compounds.
3. Fatty Fish
Fish with high fat content have two nutrients that help with immunity: Omega-3 fatty acids and selenium. The omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation in our body, which can help to prevent various diseases. Selenium helps to boost the immune system. Consuming two servings of fatty fish like salmon per week can help provide you with numerous health benefits.
4. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc, which is an immune-boosting mineral. Zinc has become popular as a cold-fighting supplement. However, too much zinc can actually suppress your immune system (it’s all about balance). Get zinc from whole foods rather than supplements to make sure you get just the right amount. Cooked oysters, lean red meat and cooked spinach are also good sources.
Oatmeal contains a kind of fiber called beta-glucans. This type of fiber increases the strength of our immune system by boosting white blood cells (defender cells). In addition, you get all the benefits of fiber, which include lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and improved digestion.
Ginger contains compounds called gingerols, which are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties. If you’re already sick, consuming ginger may also help with nausea and vomiting. Tip: Steep ginger pieces in hot water for 4-5 minutes to make a tea.
This blog was originally published on March 12, 2014. It was last updated on October 18, 2016.