Healthy Immunity through Food
Everywhere we turn we are reminded of “the virus”. Depending on where you live that could mean the “flu” or the Covid-19 virus, or something else altogether. I know there are people heavily affected and those that are frustrated with the situation altogether. That said, I’m sure everyone can benefit from doing what they can to better their immune health.
Our immune system is a network of cells, organs, and chemical messengers all working together to protect us from foreign invaders and viruses. What we eat or do not eat makes a difference. Food can either help or hinder the situation.
The immune system needs key nutrients to work properly. Additionally, the bacteria in the gut make up quite a lot of the body’s immunity, this bacteria is influenced by what you eat. Lastly, some foods directly attack white blood cells making it hard for them to do their job.
Foods that will boost your immune system:
- Mushrooms – boost white blood cell activity.
- Elderberry – contains high amounts of flavonoids that help fight free radicals. Elderberry is quite effective in protecting and treating infections of the upper respiratory tract. There are supplements made from pure elderberry that can be quite effective. It is found only in supplement form syrup or capsules.
- Salmon and Sardines – great for their Omega 3 content and are high in Vitamin D which is one of the most immune-boosting nutrients.
- Vitamin C – bell peppers, strawberries, citrus, spinach, cauliflower, sweet potato, kale.
- Plain Yogurt – fermented foods can help boost bacteria in the gut lending to a healthier immune system.
- Leafy greens – an abundance of antioxidants, Vitamin E and B which are all important factors in keeping the immune system healthy. Buy organic to omit pesticides that harm the immune system.
- Chicken and Broth – chicken contains high amounts of B6 which help the immune system stay strong. The broth, when homemade, has a wonderful source of collagen and minerals that also support the GI tract and in turn the immune system. Chicken soup with vegetables is still a great option! See my recipe below.
- Zinc – a powerful immune booster is found in nuts, seeds, seafood, red meat, beans and whole grains.
- Broccoli and Garlic are two of the most powerful and nutritious foods for the immune system.
- Asparagus – one of the highest sources of glutathione which helps the mechanisms of action within the immune system and is one of the body’s most important antioxidants.
- Water – drinking plenty of clean water will be one of the best and most important ways to fend off any illness. Without enough water the body has a hard time putting out the “fires” that it encounters.
Breakfast ideas: toast with avocado, fruit, and eggs with some greens added in, or nuts or seeds. Another example might include plain Greek yogurt with berries, elderberry syrup, and pumpkin seeds on top.
Lunch or dinner idea: a favored chicken soup recipe that includes many of the “power” foods.
Chicken Broth Soup
- 3 quarts filtered water
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 4-6 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 medium free-range organic whole chicken or turkey (change up the meats, grass-fed ideally for beef) (bone-in)
- 8 organic carrots, sliced
- 2 cups chopped kale
- 4 tbsp chopped garlic
- 4 inches of ginger grated
- 2-4 tbsp Celtic sea salt or “real salt” (brand at health food store)
- 1-2 sweet potatoes
- 1 large bunch of parsley
Place water and all ingredients into a crockpot and turn on low to medium for 8-10 hours. 30 minutes before the soup is done add the parsley. If using a whole chicken remove the chicken and take off the meat from the bone, put the meat back into the soup and discard the bones. Put over rice or quinoa if desired.
Food to limit or avoid:
- Sugar* – inhibits the white blood cells from being able to do their job.
*Athletes – for training purposes may choose to use sugar to enhance performance in key/longer workouts. The benefit of being an athlete in this situation is that you are using up those sugars quite fast so they likely won’t have the same effect on the immune system if you were sedentary and eating sugar. That said, do what you can to stay hydrated and fueled and eat lots of veggies and drink lots of water even as an athlete.
- Processed “flour” foods – whether it’s gluten or the refined carbohydrate, do your best to avoid simple carbs and gluten if you know it bothers you.
Megan Forbes is a Registered Dietician with over 14 years of experience in the nutrition field and has adapted to all of its changes with research and education. She is passionate about learning what is best for each person and focuses on finding the root cause of problems. Nutrition is a lifestyle and passion that Megan has grasped throughout her life. Her knowledge and experience are great assets to include in your quest toward reaching your goals.