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How To Boost Your Immune System With Common Foods

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Most people turn straight to vitamin C after they’ve caught a cold. That’s because it helps build up your immune system.

Vitamin C is thought to increase the production of white blood cells, which are key to fighting infections.

Almost all citrus fruits are high in VitC. With such a variety to choose from, it’s easy to add a squeeze of this vitamin to any meal.

Because your body doesn’t produce or store it, you need it daily, for continued health. The recommendation for most adults is:

  • 75 mg for women
  • 90 mg for men

If you opt for supplements, avoid taking more than 2,000 milligrams a day.

Red bell peppers

If you think citrus fruits have the most vitamin C of any fruit or vegetable, think again. Well, red bell peppers contain almost 3 times as much vitamin C  as an orange (45 mg). They’re also a rich source of beta carotene.

Besides boosting your immune system, vitamin C may help you maintain healthy skin. Beta carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A, helps keep your eyes and skin healthy.

Broccoli

Broccoli is supercharged with vitamins and minerals. Packed with vitamins A, C, and E, as well as fiber and many other antioxidants. This green “super flower” is one of the healthiest vegetables you can put on your plate.

The key to keeping its power intact is to cook it as little as possible — or better yet, not at all.

 

Garlic

Garlic is found in almost every cuisine in the world. It adds a little zing to food and it’s a must-have for your health.

Early civilizations recognized its value in fighting infections. Garlic may also slow down hardening of the arteries, and there’s weak evidence that it helps lower blood pressure. Also, for this reason, to lower cholesterol.

Garlic’s immune-boosting properties seem to come from a heavy concentration of sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin.

Ginger

Ginger is another ingredient many turn to after getting sick. It may help decrease inflammation, which may reduce a sore throat and inflammatory illnesses. It decreases chronic pain and might even possess cholesterol-lowering properties, and relives nausea as well.

The spicy root packs some heat in the form of gingerol, a relative of capsaicin.

Spinach

Spinach made our list not just because it’s rich in vitamin C — it’s also packed with numerous antioxidants and beta carotene, which may both increase the infection-fighting ability of our immune systems.

Similar to broccoli, spinach is healthiest when it’s cooked as little as possible, so that it retains its nutrients.

However, light cooking makes it easier to absorb the vitamin A and allows other nutrients to be released from oxalic acid, an antinutrient. Check out some spinach recipes here.

Yogurt

yogurt topped with seeds and granola and placed in a small white and blue floral bowl

Look for yogurts that have the phrase “live and active cultures” printed on the label, like Greek yogurt. These cultures may stimulate your immune system to help fight diseases.

Try to get plain yogurts rather than the kind that are flavored and loaded with sugar. You can sweeten plain yogurt yourself with healthy fruits and a drizzle of honey instead.

Yogurt can also be a great source of vitamin D, so try to select brands fortified with this vitamin. Vitamin D helps regulate the immune system and is thought to boost our body’s natural defenses against diseases.

Clinical trials are even in the works to study its possible effects on COVID-19.

Almonds

unroasted almonds in a dark-colored bowl on top of beige fabric

When it comes to preventing and fighting off colds, vitamin E tends to take a backseat to vitamin C. However, this powerful antioxidant is key to a healthy immune system.

It’s a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it requires the presence of fat to be absorbed properly. Nuts, such as almonds, are packed with the vitamin and also have healthy fats.

Adults only need about 15 mg of vitamin E each day. A half-cup serving of almonds, which is about 46 whole, shelled almonds, provides around 100 percent of the recommended daily amount.

Note: In order to unlock all the enzymes from nuts/seeds/grain, make sure you soak them according the chart bellow:

Soak Time For  Seeds, Nuts, Beans and Grains

Nut / SeedDry AmountSoak TimeSprout TimeSprout LengthYield
Alfalfa Seed3 Tbsp12 Hours3-5 Days1-2 Inches4 Cups
Almonds3 Cups8-12 Hours1-3 Days1/8 Inch4 Cups
Amaranth1 Cup3-5 Hours2-3 Days1/4 Inch3 Cups
Barley, Hulless1 Cup6 Hours12-24 Hours1/4 Inch2 Cups
Broccoli Seed2 Tbsp8 Hours3-4 Days1-2 Inches2 Cups
Buckwheat, Hulled1 Cup6 Hours1-2 Days1/8-1/2 Inch2 Cups
Cabbage Seed1 Tbsp4-6 Hours4-5 Days1-2 Inches1 1/2 Cups
Cashews3 Cups2-3 Hours  4 Cups
Clover3 Tbsp5 Hours4-6 Days1-2 Inches4 Cups
Fenugreek4 Tbsp6 Hours2-5 Days1-2 Inches3 Cups
Flax Seeds1 Cup6 Hours  2 Cups
Garbanzo Beans
(Chick Pea)
1 Cup12-48 Hours2-4 Days1/2-1 Inch4 Cups
Kale Seed4 Tbsp4-6 Hours4-6 Days3/4-1 Inch3-4 Cups
Lentil3/4 Cup8 Hours2-3 Days1/2-1 Inch4 Cups
Millet1 Cup5 Hours12 Hours1/16 Inch3 Cups
Mung Beans1/3 Cup8 Hours4-5 Days1/4-3 Inches4 Cups
Mustard Seed3 Tbsp5 Hours3-5 Days1/2-1 1/2 Inches3 Cups
Oats, Hulled1 Cup8 Hours1-2 Days1/8 Inch1 Cup
Onion Seed1 Tbsp4-6 Hours4-5 Days1-2 Inches1 1/2-2 Cups
Pea1 Cup8 Hours2-3 Days1/2-1 Inch3 Cups
Pinto Bean1 Cup12 Hours3-4 Days1/2-1 Inch3-4 Cups
Pumpkin1 Cup6 Hours1-2 Days1/8 Inch2 Cups
Quinoa1 Cup3-4 Hours2-3 Days1/2 Inch3 Cups
Radish3 Tbsp6 Hours3-5 Days3/4-2 Inches4 Cups
Rye1 Cup6-8 Hours2-3 Days1/2-3/4 Inch3 Cups
Sesame Seed,
Hulled
1 Cup8 Hours  1 1/2 Cups
Sesame Seed,
Unhulled
1 Cup4-6 Hours1-2 Days1/8 Inch1 Cup
Spelt1 Cup6 Hours1-2 Days1/4 Inch3 Cups
Sunflower, Hulled1 Cup6-8 Hours1 Day1/4-1/2 Inch2 Cups
Teff1 Cup3-4 Hours1-2 Days1/8 Inch3 Cups
Walnuts3 Cups4 Hours  4 Cups
Wheat1 Cup8-10 Hours2-3 Days1/4-3/4 Inch3 Cups
Wild Rice1 Cup12 Hours2-3 DaysRice Splits3 Cups

Sunflower seeds

sunflower seeds in a clear jar on top of a turquoise table

Sunflower seeds are full of nutrients, including phosphorousmagnesium, and vitamins B-6 and E.

Vitamin E is important in regulating and maintaining immune system function.

The seeds are also incredibly high in selenium. Just 1 ounce contains nearly half the selenium that the average adult needs daily. A variety of studies, mostly performed on animals, have looked at its potential to combat viral infections such as swine flu (H1N1).

Turmeric

turmeric powder, turmeric roots, and turmeric supplements on top of a turquoise and white plate

You may know turmeric as a key ingredient in many curries. This bright yellow, bitter spice has also been used for years as an anti-inflammatory in treating both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

High concentrations of curcumin, it can help decrease exercise-induced muscle damage and boost immunity

Green tea

loose leaf green tea in a white mug on a wrought iron table

Both, green and black teas are packed with flavonoids, a type of antioxidant.

Where green tea really excels is in its levels of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg)

In studies, EGCg has been shown to enhance immune function.

The fermentation process black tea goes through destroys a lot of it. 

Green tea, on the other hand, is steamed and not fermented, so the enzyme is preserved.

The tea is also a good source of the amino acid L-theanine, that aid in the production of germ-fighting compounds in your T cells.

Papaya

two large papaya halves on a dark wood table

Papaya is another fruit loaded with vitamin C.

You can find double the daily recommended amount of vitamin C in a single medium fruit.

Papayas also have a digestive enzyme called papain, that has anti-inflammatory effects. Also, have decent amounts of potassium, magnesium, and folate

Kiwi

whole kiwi fruits and two kiwi halves in a metal basket with handles

Kiwis are naturally rich in folate, potassium, vitamin K, and vitamin C.

Poultry

uncooked whole chicken on a metal pan surrounded by salt flakes and a white and blue plaid rag

I normally do not advise on consuming animal products, but when meat-eaters, you’re sick and reach for a chicken soup, it’s more than just the placebo effect that makes you feel better.

The soup may help lower inflammation, which will improve symptoms of a cold.

Chicken and turkey, both are high in vitamin B-6.

About 3 ounces of any poultry, contains nearly one-third of your daily recommended amount of B-6.

B-6 is an important player in many of the chemical reactions that happen in the body. It’s also vital to the formation of new and healthy red blood cells.

Stock or broth made by boiling chicken bones contains gelatin, chondroitin, and other nutrients helpful for gut healing and immunity.

Shellfish

fresh crab and half of a lemon on a white plate placed on a table

Shellfish isn’t what jumps to mind for many, who are trying to boost their immune system, but they are packed with zinc, that is strong immune booster

Zinc doesn’t get as much attention as many other vitamins and minerals, but our bodies need it, so that our immune cells can function as intended.

Keep in mind that you don’t want to have more than the daily recommended amount of zinc in your diet:

  • 11 mg for adult men
  • 8 mg for most adult women
NOTE: Too much zinc can actually inhibit immune system function.

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