We are constantly exposed to germs like viruses, bacteria, fungi, and toxins that can cause diseases and infections. With an ongoing pandemic, the risk is even higher and the focus to stay healthy and reduce our chances of getting sick has never been more important. Luckily for us, nature has equipped our bodies with natural defense mechanisms that normally kick in to protect us in the event that one of these pathogens attack us. Our immune system, though strong and capable of handling a lot of foreign invaders, works best when it’s boosted naturally with the right minerals and vitamins often found in our foods. Since all foods are not created equal, certain foods are considered superfoods because even in small portions, they contain just the right amount of nutrients and vitamins to boost our immune system naturally. Here are seven superfoods that you should consider adding to your list of immune-boosting foods:
Fish, including salmon is delicious, light, and a great source for healthy protein. Fish also contains omega-3 fatty acids which is one of the most scientifically-studied nutrients that has so many benefits for our body. Fish has not only been shown to only boost our immune system but can also improve sleep, help fight anxiety and depression, promote a healthy heart, improve eye health, prevent certain cancers, improve bone and joint health, and nourish our skin. Most fish have a ton of omega-3 but if you’re trying to get the best for your buck, then salmon should top your list of foods high in omega-3.
2. Leafy Greens
Leafy green vegetables are not only low in calories and high on fiber, they are also rich in vitamins and nutrients that play a critical role in keeping our immune system functioning at a higher capacity. Leafy greens like spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, arugula, and turnip contain minerals that are great for improving our cognition, preventing certain cancers, reducing our risk of heart disease, reducing stress, preventing abnormalities in developing babies, and reducing inflammation to boost our immunity. Spinach for instance packs a lot of antioxidants that boost our immune system to help our body fight germs and other opportunistic infections. It is also high in vitamin C, a vitamin that is essential in boosting our immunity and reducing the risk of infection from cold and related viruses.
You may already know that yogurt is packed with the right nutrients for our body. Look for yogurts with live and active cultures when possible as these cultures can help keep your body balanced to improve immunity and reduce risk of infections. Yogurt also has a lot of vitamin D which is not only great for bone health but is also good for improving our immune system. According to the National Institute of Health, low levels of vitamin D is a risk factor for increased infections with viruses such as cold and flu. So, add yogurt to your daily diet to boost your immune system especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and flu months.
Nuts like almonds, cashews, and walnuts contain a lot of vitamin E, an antioxidant which has been shown to significantly improve and boost our immune system. Since vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps our body get rid of toxic byproducts of our metabolism, a good healthy serving of nuts rich in vitamin E can reduce the risk of chronic diseases and certain cancers, as well as improve and slow down the aging process. Vitamin E also enhances our body’s defense mechanisms, boosting our immune system to protect us from several infectious diseases like cold, pneumonia, flu, and related viruses.
5. Green Cruciferous Veggies
Green cruciferous veggies like broccoli, broccoli sprouts, and Bok choy are rich in fiber, but are also packed with vitamin A, C, E and many other essential nutrients like zinc and selenium that have been scientifically proven to boost our immune system and protect us from harmful germs and pathogens. If you have to have one superfood in your daily diet, consider making broccoli your food of choice. Broccoli is so powerful that just half a cup of steamed broccoli provides almost 85% of our reference daily intake (RDI) of vitamin C, a vitamin well-known for boosting our immunity.
Berries like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, goji berries, grapes and acai berries are colorful, sweet, and sometimes sour. However, the benefits of berries go beyond their great taste and eye appeal because they are nutritionally dense and contain extremely powerful nutrients like fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and several many antioxidants. Aside from their proven role in boosting our immune system due to their high content of antioxidants, berries also improve our heart health, reduce cholesterol, maintain our weight, and prevent diabetes amongst many other benefits.
7. Whole Grains (Quinoa, Brown Rice, Oatmeal)
Whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, and whole grain oatmeal are rich in fiber, vitamins, protein, minerals, and antioxidants. They are known to lower the risk for diabetes, reduce the risk for certain cancers, support a healthy heart, and support healthy digestion. Since whole grains contain a good mix of antioxidant, vitamins, and minerals including zinc, iron, and the B vitamins, they play a major role as immune boosters to improve our immune system and reduce our risks of getting infections. Celiac patients and those with gluten sensitivity should continue to avoid whole grain but try other superfood options where possible.
There are many superfoods that can boost and improve our immune system and adding these seven food types to your diet, when possible, can go a long way with helping your overall well-being while keeping you safer and healthier.