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What Are the Best Foods to Boost Your Immune System?

Are you feeling run down and catching every bug going around? The strength of the immune system varies greatly between individuals and can be affected by lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, and stress levels.

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Your immune system is your first line of defense against infection and illness. But your immunity suffers when daily stressors, lack of sleep, and poor diet choices wear it down. While some aspects may be out of our control, there are steps we can take to support a healthy immune system.

The good news is several foods can give your immune cells the upper hand against pathogens. Let’s look at the top foods to boost your immune system and stay healthy year-round.

The Immune System

Our immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defend the body against infection. The immune system remembers germs it has fought before. If the same germ tries to enter the body again, the immune system can recognize it and get rid of it quickly.

Around 70% of our immune system lives in the gut, so maintaining a healthy gut is key to a robust immune system. Eating beans, legumes, whole grains, yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut helps the growth of healthy gut bacteria.

Citrus Fruits Offer a Vitamin C Boost

Citrus fruits pack a punch for Vitamin C! This vitamin aids the formation of antibodies that fight off infections.

Thanks to high vitamin C content, oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, and their juices are immunity all-stars. Enjoy citrus fruit whole or juiced for the following benefits:

  • Increase the production of white blood cells
  • Counteract inflammatory free radicals
  • Support healthy collagen formation
  • Tissue growth and repair
  • Optimal function of the nervous system

Adding citrus fruits into your diet can go a long way in fortifying your immune system. Their rich vitamin C content makes them essential to a balanced diet.

Red Bell Peppers Pack the Most Vitamin C

We all know citrus fruits are great for their Vitamin C content. But they fall short compared to red bell peppers. A single red bell pepper fulfills 169% of your daily vitamin C requirements!

The Vitamin C found in red bell peppers stimulates the production of infection-fighting white blood cells. This antioxidant helps wounds heal faster, promotes new cell growth, and keeps skin and joints healthy. They’re vital for skin health, acting as a protective barrier against harmful pathogens.

Broccoli and Leafy Greens Fuel Up Immune Cells

Broccoli, kale, spinach, arugula, and other leafy greens deliver a hefty dose of antioxidants like vitamin C, beta carotene, zinc, and selenium.

These nutrients enable your immune cells to carry out their pathogen-fighting duties. Greens also provide fiber, which:

  • Feeds healthy gut bacteria linked to immune function
  • Lowers inflammation
  • Supports healthy elimination of toxins

Aim for 1-2 cups of cooked or raw leafy vegetables daily. More variety equals better results!

Yogurt with Live Cultures Replenishes Healthy Gut Bacteria

Your gut is home to approximately 70% of your immune system. Your gut contains a variety of helpful bacteria that safeguard against infection.

Consuming probiotic-rich foods like yogurt helps maintain diversity in your microbiome. Look for labels listing live and active cultures. Aim for a 6-ounce serving 2-3 times per week.

Bonus: yogurt provides bone-strengthening vitamin D and calcium.

Ginger, Garlic, and Onion Add Immune-Boosting Phytonutrients

Boost your meals with garlic, onions, shallots, leeks, chives, and ginger. They’re a treasure house of antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory benefits.

These pungent foods have sulfur compounds that help with detoxification, circulation, and respiratory health.

Ginger also eases nausea and vomiting related to flu bugs or food-borne illnesses. Both fresh and dried forms work well.

Mushrooms Bolster Immune Cells and Gut Health

Mushrooms have tons of essential nutrients and antioxidants. They support nearly every aspect of your immune response. They are a significant source of:

  • Zinc to facilitate immune cell communication
  • Selenium to enhance natural detox processes
  • B vitamins to fuel metabolic energy

Medicinal mushrooms like reishi and turkey tail contain polysaccharides modulating immune activity. Sauté mushrooms or add them to soups and sauces.

Nuts and Seeds Provide Healthy Fats and Vitamin E

The healthy monounsaturated and omega-3 fats in nuts and seeds benefit your entire body, including immune cells.

Vitamin E is your critical first line of defense. Just one ounce of sunflower seeds meets half your daily vitamin E needs. Other great options are almonds, walnuts, flax, chia, and hemp seeds. Enjoy a handful as a snack or sprinkle on salads.

Add Shellfish for Zinc and Selenium

Oysters top the charts for zinc, with other mollusks like mussels and clams not far behind. Just 3 ounces of oysters provide almost 500% of your daily zinc needs.

Zinc supports wound healing and keeps your immune cells active and communicating well. Selenium and vitamin E in shellfish enable the proper function of antibodies.

Aim for 2-3 servings of oysters or other shellfish per week. Check for sustainable sources.

Sweet Potato Provides Vitamin A and Fiber

This root vegetable doubles as an immune booster and comfort food. Baked sweet potato bursts with beta carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A.

Vitamin A maintains mucosal tissue health to create a barrier against invaders. The fiber in sweet potatoes also feeds healthy gut bacteria.

Enjoy baked, mashed, roasted, or added to soups. Leave the skin on for extra nutrients.

Bone Broth Heals a Sensitive Gut

Warm and soothing, bone broth made from beef, chicken, or fish provides vitamins, minerals, and amino acids to fuel your immune cells.

Boiling bones and connective tissue releases collagen, proline, and glycine that can heal a leaky gut. Use it as a snack or as a base for soups and stews. It improves your resistance against pathogens that sneak through a permeable intestinal lining.

Find Foods to Boost Your Immune System

So, the secret to a strong immune system lies not in a magical pill but in the grocery aisle. Incorporating a variety of foods to boost your immune system into your daily diet can make a big difference.

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