Reducing stress, strengthening social networks, specific foods and nutrients and a healthy mindset all have the ability to boost the immune system.
With cold and flu season just around the corner, I thought it would be nice to bring attention to key foods that we can eat everyday to keep our bodies immune defense in tip-top shape. I actually like to keep these foods in rotation throughout the year, especially if I plan to travel or be in a foreign country, simply due to the fact that the cold and flu bugs are definitely going to be new to my immune system. Furthermore, being a former teacher, as well as working with the public, I understand just how important it is to be preventative in terms of cold and flu season. If you are serious about your health, it is a good idea to get in the practice of introducing these foods into your weekly meal plans and better yet, start taking some of these foods and teas to work, so you can eliminate a headache or cold/flu bug before it grows worse. Below I provide my top foods for boosting the immune system, which also promote optimal health!
Top 10 Immune Boosting Foods
1. Chaga Tea
Chaga is an incredible wild mushroom with immune boosting, therapeutic properties. In fact, it actually grows on the sides of birch trees in colder climates like Siberia, Alaska and northern Canada and northern continental states in America. It has tremendously high antioxidant values and is so powerful it can even kill the tree in which is grows on, hence it’s ability to strengthen the immune system and fight/prevent cancer. The best part about this awesome fungus-like mushroom is it has a flavor that likens to coffee, so it is a wonderful substitute for that second cup in the afternoon, as it won’t send your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride, nor will it increase your stress hormones. In fact, chaga was actually substituted for coffee during World War I and II because it enhances energy and tastes so similar to coffee. Find it here.
2. Matcha Green Tea
Starting the morning off with a matcha latte is an incredible immune boosting gift to your body. Matcha has been reported to have up t0 137x more antioxidants than regular green tea, according to a 2003 study that was published in Pub Med by AJ Weiss. Basically, when you drink matcha it is estimated you are, “decreasing your age by one year with each cup.” Not only is this potent green powder gorgeous, it can actually make us gorgeous too by promoting anti-aging! Mother Nature certainly didn’t cheat us when it comes to foods that have the ability to heal, provide longevity, as well as vitality. Always choose organic, fair-trade varieties of matcha to steer clear of harmful pesticides. Find this amazing and potent Japanese tea here.
3. Adaptogen Herbs
Adaptogens are plants and herbs found in nature that equip the body with resistance to stress, allowing it to adapt to the physical, emotional and environmental circumstance. Basically, adaptogens are plants that have evolved with time and adapted to their environment and continue to thrive and prosper. I wish I had known about these powerful herbs in my early twenties, as they can provide a tremendous amount of relief from depression and anxiety. Adaptogens not only help the body adapt to stress and exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes. Even greater, these herbs help the body cope with external stressors, such as toxins in the environment and internal stressors like free radials, impaired digestion and depression. In certain cultures, (like Indian) adaptogen herbs like ginseng and ashwagandha, are actually used to cook with on a regular basis. Read more here.
Garlic is one of the most powerful cold and flu-busting foods ever. It has long been known that garlic is an infection fighter, due to its antimicrobial properties. In fact, garlic is referred to by some as “Russian penicillin.” This is largely due to its compound–allicin. Colds, flus, stomach viruses and candida stand no chance against garlic’s powerful allicin compound. In fact, allicin is so strong, it will also eliminate pathogenic microbes like tuberculosis and botulism. (Murray, 2005) Because garlic is full of vitamins, especially vitamin C and trace minerals, it is not a bad idea to have garlic on hand all year around. It should be noted that freshly chopped or crushed garlic, allows the allicin to be more bioavailable. Find out more here.
Echinacea is a flower that grows in North America that was readily used by Native Americans, due to its amazing therapeutic benefits. Greatly studied for its immune boosting capabilities, the University of Connecticut determined echinacea can reduce the chance of contracting a cold by 58%, as well as reduce the duration of a cold by one and a half days! On top of this, the properties of echinacea have even been found to be beneficial for reducing pain and inflammation, improving skin issues, relieving respiratory issues, fighting infections, as well as reducing tumor growth, according to the National Institute of Health. (Axe)
Ginger has long been apart of traditional healing in India and China. In fact, Confucius wrote that he never ate a meal without ginger. And it’s no wonder why, due to its many varied therapeutic properties. Well-known for its curative effects on digestion, nausea and soothing benefits during cold and flu season, these are just a few gifts ginger has to offer. (Krishan, 2011) And there are so many more! The following benefits are just some of the amazing ways ginger can strengthen and improve the body by incorporating it into your life regularly: reduces inflammation, improves migraine headaches, reduces symptoms of acid reflux, reduces flatulence and even supports a healthy sex drive! These are just a few ways ginger is rockin’ for the body. Find out more here.
A deep vibrant orange root, turmeric is usually found in curry dishes due to its peppery, warm flavor and distinctive color. Used widely in traditional cultures and Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric has recently come to the forefront of the medical and nutrition world for its anti-inflammatory and pain killing properties. Another awesome benefit researched about curcumin is its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help to balance free radicals in the body, which cause disease. Free radicals accumulate in the body from our environment: pesticides, exposure to UV light, cigarette smoke, pollution, stress, EMF’s (electromagnetic frequencies) and car exhaust. Antioxidants can help minimize the aforementioned, as well as protect against cancer and other diseases. In fact, it is necessary to continually generate antioxidant activity in the body to bolster the immune system and one great way is by eating lots of antioxidant-rich foods like turmeric! Read more here.
8. Vitamin C Rich Foods
Orange, red and yellow foods of all kinds (found directly from nature) are incredibly healthy for the body and pack a tremendous amount of vitamin C, which is a vitamin critical to immune support, adrenal support and ultimatley reducing stress. Foods such as red and yellow bell peppers, sweet potato, pumpkin, ginger, pineapple, raspberries, oranges, tangerines, lemons, rosehip, acerola cherries, camu camu, amla berry, as well as papaya and mango, are incredible foods for supporting optimal health during cold and flu season. One of my favorite recipes in the fall and winter is stuffed bell peppers, as red bell peppers are literally one of the highest food sources of vitamin C. Find my recipe here.
9. Leafy Greens (Green Powders)
Leafy greens are phenomenal foods to incorporate into the diet on a daily basis. Not only are they almost calorie free, but they pack an immense amount of nutrition and hard to obtain trace minerals, like magnesium, which help support our mitochondria and immune function. More specifically, greens are loaded with fiber, plant protein, essential omega 3’s, chlorophyll and antioxidants–all wonderful reasons to fill your plate with giant heaps of organic leaves. In fact, one can eat leafy greens to their heart’s content to feel fit, fine and fabulous! Hence, the inspiration for the name of my blog: Eat Your Greens Out! Basically, it alludes to the idea, “Yeah, look at me! I’m a health nut. I eat tons of plants, I love it and I look and feel amazing!” One should consume at least 3-4 servings of greens per day (more if chronically ill) to achieve the daily recommended values of vitamins and minerals. Find out more here.
10. Grass-Fed Collagen/Gelatin/Bone Broth
Organic, grass-fed collagen, gelatin and bone broth have gut stabilizing effects (help heal the gut) and therefore the gut-brain connection. Without proper digestion and gut function, the gut-brain communication is disrupted and optimal health is impossible. On top of this, our gut is actually known as our second brain and is the place where we take in, break-down and utilize important nutrients (including protein) for all functions in the body, including our immune system. Moreover, because grass-fed collagen/gelatin/bone broth foods are high in glycine (a calming neurotransmitter/amino acid), they also become wonderful mechanisms for healing and repair. Lastly, these foods are great for anti-aging, hair loss, cellulite, skin and are a good source of protein. Find a good brand of collagen here.
In divine health,
Singh Khalsa, Karta Purkh, and Michael Tierra. The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs: Ginger. 1 USA: Lotus Press, 2008
Murray, M. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. “Garlic.”NY: Atria Books
Dr. Axe. (2015). 9 Echinacea Benefits from Colds to Cancer. retrieved from: https://draxe.com/echinacea-benefits/