When it comes to the common cold and flu, prevention is the best medicine.
The truth is we’re all likely to come in contact with the viruses that cause these unpleasant illnesses. However, if your immune system is strong, it can defend your body against these pesky pathogens. And prevent you from getting sick–despite your exposure.
This is why eating a nutrient rich diet is so important. The nutrients in whole foods give your immune system the boost it needs to successfully deter infectious germs. And while your body needs a variety of whole foods and nutrients, some play a bigger role in immune health than others.
Below is a list of five essential immune boosting foods to effectively help you and your loved ones ward off cold and flu viruses this season.
Oysters are one of the best sources of zinc, a mineral well-known to play many important immune-related roles. In fact, zinc deficiencies have been shown to negatively impact the health of various types of immune cells, including neutrophils and macrophages as well as T and B cells.
The bottom line is your body needs zinc to effectively prevent and attack pathogens before they cause an infection. And this process naturally generates free radicals and inflammation. However, fortunately for all of us, zinc is also a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.
You can eat oysters raw, baked, and even buy them in a can. However, if you’re not a fan of oysters, other great sources of zinc include:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Grass-fed beef and lamb
- Plain yogurt
And you’ll conveniently find these foods in a variety of our Pure Plates meals.
Mushrooms are packed with zinc. But zinc is not the only reason why mushrooms have been used to promote immune health for centuries.
Mushrooms are packed with many other vitamins and minerals as well as powerful plant compounds. This synergistic group of nutrients has been shown to positively impact how the immune system responds to threats.
In addition, the nutrients in mushrooms give them many other health promoting properties, such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and detoxification to name a few.
For this reason, we believe mushrooms should be a staple in everyone’s diet. In fact, you can find them in many of our meals, including:
- All American Breakfast
- Bruschetta Chicken
- Fajita Zoodle Bowl
- Vegetable Lasagna
- Vegetarian Chili Rellenos
Garlic is an herb that has been used historically to prevent (and treat) infections. It’s a great source of manganese and vitamin B6. And while vitamin B6 does play an important role in your immune response, it’s sulfur containing compounds in garlic that contribute most to its protective (and healing) powers.
These sulfur compounds are responsible for garlic’s pungent aroma, but they also act as antioxidants and effectively reduce inflammation. Two key properties necessary to keep the immune system functioning at top speed.
We always keep garlic in our kitchen at home and add it to many recipes, especially roasted veggies. Garlic is great in pesto and salad dressings. It’s a delicious addition to almost any sauce or marinade. And we include garlic in many of our Pure Plates meals.
Ginger is a bit like garlic. Its phytonutrients give it antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers, which strengthen the immune system.
You see, cellular damage and inflammation keep your immune system in overdrive. Thus, when faced with a virus, it’s too busy to notice.
On the other hand, when your cells are healthy and inflammation is under control, your immune system is ready and able to attack.
Two very popular Pure Plates meals with ginger include:
This time of year we also love to sip on ginger tea, which boosts your immunity as well as your digestive health. And it’s worth noting that these two are closely linked. Anything that promotes gut health will also support your immune system. Because a majority of your immune system actually resides within your gut.
Probiotics AND Prebiotics
Probiotics are bacteria that play many beneficial roles in human health. From digestion to mood. And gut health to immune health. Don’t underestimate these microscopic organisms. Without them, humans would not exist.
The bacteria is your gut can actually stimulate (or not) your immune system to fight against foreign invaders. Therefore, it’s important to maintain a healthy gut microbiome.
One way to support your gut flora is to consume probiotic rich foods. This includes plain yogurt, raw sauerkraut (in the refrigerated section), kombucha, kimchi, and other fermented veggies.
However, it’s also important to feed your gut bacteria with prebiotics so they can flourish. And soluble fibers found in plant-based foods are a great source of food for your friendly bacteria.
This is just one more reason why eating lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and/or legumes is essential to good health.
To Sum it Up…
Eating nutrient rich whole foods is essential for optimal immune health. And when your immune system is performing optimally, you’re less likely to catch a cold or the flu–even if you’re exposed.
Therefore, this cold and flu season, avoid processed foods as much as possible. These foods are void of immune boosting nutrients. Instead, they’re packed with ingredients (i.e., sugar and refined grains to name a few) that actually work against your immune system.
And don’t forget about sleep, movement, and stress management. These are all equally important when it comes to immune health.
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Mashhadi, N. S., Ghiasvand, R., Askari, G., Hariri, M., Darvishi, L., & Mofid, M. R. (2013). Anti-Oxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Ginger in Health and Physical Activity: Review of Current Evidence. International Journal of Preventive Medicine, 4(Suppl 1), S36–S42.
Prasad, A. S. (2008). Zinc in Human Health: Effect of Zinc on Immune Cells. Molecular Medicine, 14(5-6), 353–357. http://doi.org/10.2119/2008-00033.Prasad
Schäfer, G., & Kaschula, C. H. (2014). The Immunomodulation and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Garlic Organosulfur Compounds in Cancer Chemoprevention. Anti-Cancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry, 14(2), 233–240. http://doi.org/10.2174/18715206113136660370
Valverde, M. E., Hernández-Pérez, T., & Paredes-López, O. (2015). Edible Mushrooms: Improving Human Health and Promoting Quality Life. International Journal of Microbiology, 2015, 376387. http://doi.org/10.1155/2015/376387