Load your diet with NUTRIENTS to fortify your immune system and choose foods that are easy to digest by incorporating these 10 tips in your weekly meal plan.
The MOTHER of all antioxidant rich foods are BEANS. They contain even more disease fighting antioxidants than the media promoted berries. You will get top benefits with the small red bean, red kidney bean, pinto bean. Try to get beans in your weekly diet around 2 times per week. These also include lentils, fava beans and chickpeas.
Second in line come berries in all forms and colors.
The problem with berries is that they are highly seasonal items so a way to keep them available all year round is to freeze them at home when they are in season.
- Buy in bulk
- There is some controversy if they should be washed before freezing or not. Personally I would wash, air dry them very well then freeze.
- Line the berries on a flat tray that fits into the freezer. Place in freezer.
- When frozen take out, fill them into air tight bags and place back in freezer.
- Best used in smoothies or fruit shakes. Will be safe for around 1 year and will retain their antioxidant power.
3. Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli. These are rich in antioxidants (especially glutathione) which will help keep our body’s cells healthy and fight off the free radicals that make us more prone to diseases. They also contain choline which is essential for the proper functioning of human cells and isocyanate which decreases damage to DNA (decreasing cancer risk).
4. Eggs. YAY most people I know are egg fanatics and they have a reason to be. Eggs are very rich in protein, zinc and selenium (an antioxidant). Egg yolk is also very rich in biotin which helps keep your DNA copying correctly to make new healthy cells and new healthy tissue. Biotin will also help regulate lipids (fats) in blood.
So yes the yolks are rich in cholesterol, but eating eggs in moderation (~2 eggs per week, if no family or personal history of cholesterol problems) will help body processes function correctly.
5. Fish is rich in selenium, lean protein and omega 3 fats to name just a few healthy benefits. Omega 3 fats help decrease inflammation and this was seen in several studies. In one study, people who ate more omega 3 in their diets were 44% less likely to die from inflammation related diseases. Seems like a small price to pay!
Add cold water fish (tuna, sardines, salmon) to your weekly menu and plant sources of omega 3 like walnuts, canola oil and flaxseed to your daily diet.
6. Mushrooms are also immune enhancers since they are rich in zinc and surprisingly vitamin D! People who consumed food low in zinc had less white blood cells (our body’s soldiers against viruses). You can also get zinc from red meat (choose lean cuts), chicken and fish.
Higher vitamin D levels are also seen to decrease inflammation. The glorious mushroom is the only non-animal source of vitamin D. Of course the best vitamin D source is skin exposure to the sun ~ 10-15 minutes per day.
7. Green leafy vegetables are rich in calcium as well as many antioxidants including vitamin C. These vegetables are also rich in folate which is needed for proper cell multiplication, meaning they decrease cancer risk.
8. Yogurt is another immune enhancing food especially due to the presence of the good bacteria = probiotics (Lactobacillus) in the yogurt. Probiotics will keep the bacteria in your gut and minimize its migration to other parts of the body where it can cause trouble.
- Cinnamon: antiviral, antifungal and antimicrobial. Will fight the pathogens that cause illnesses! Add to coffee, tea and maybe sprinkle some on fruits before eating.
- Turmeric: also enhances the immune response.
- Garlic: Rich in antioxidants and also contains the compound allicim which fights infection and bacteria. A study found that subjects that took garlic extract over 12 weeks were 2/3 time LESS likely to catch a cold! Stock up on the garlic!
10. Yes it’s true: Chicken soup. The amino acid Cysteine is released from the chicken during cooking. This amino acid chemically resembles the Bronchitis drug. Chicken broth also helps keep mucus thin (what cough medicines do). Adding freshly grated ginger or garlic will help boost its immune holding properties 😉
But, not only is it important to incorporate these foods in our diets, cooking methods play a big role in how much disease fighting power they contain. A study was done on a large group of people. Those who ate their vegetables raw, cooked on low heat or steamed had the lowest inflammatory markers 😀 I am sure a lot of you are wondering
What is the best method to cook food and retain their immune enhancing properties?
This study suggests that steaming is the best cooking method because it actually helps release some of the nutrients and we will be able to better absorb them.
The theory behind this is that high heat (grilling especially with direct fire on food and frying) cause byproducts in the foods that may trigger inflammation in the body. So you can still grill as long as you keep the heat on LOW.
If you look at the food items I just discussed, you will realize these are the components of a Mediterranean diet. Following this diet is healthy for you in so many ways, the fact that it gives you an immune boost is only one of them.
Prevent! It is within your reach.