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14 Foods that Boost the Immune System

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14 Foods that Boost the Immune System

In the face of coronavirus COVID-19, doing everything you possibly can to stay healthy is the right move.

One thing nutritionists and doctors want you to know: You can control how you feel right now by checking in on your mental health and eating immune system booster foods that nourish your body and potentially help you fight infections too.

It’s important to note that there is absolutely no “magic bullet” vitamin, mineral, or food item that will protect you from coronavirus or any other virus that may come our way. However, there are foods and steps we can take to help our minds and bodies prepare to fight off illness and feel stronger. 

1. Green vegetables

Just about every doctor and nutritionist on the planet will tell you to eat your veggies to stay healthy. But when it comes to boosting your immune system, starchy vegetables like potatoes don't count. Instead, go hard on the greens like spinach and kale, which help your immune system function properly from your skin to your gut.

And go for cabbage, greens, onions, mushrooms, and garlic. Now is not the time to worry about having garlic breath. Garlic is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent and immune booster, assisting in the production of virus-fighting white blood cells.

2. Fermented foods

Add plenty of fermented vegetables, like kimchi or sauerkraut, to your diet, which will help build a healthier gut microbiome that could protect you from infections. Also, buy fermented foods without added sugars or make your own.

3. Plenty of protein

If you're a meat-eater, that's meat, fish, and poultry. If you’re not, then have gluten-free grains and legumes. This is because protein is a building block for our body's tissue and organs, making it imperative when trying to rebuild healthy cells.

4. Fatty fish

Fatty fish like salmon and tuna are some of the best protein sources for packing in extra micronutrients like vitamin D. The key micronutrients you should be ensuring to try to get enough of are vitamin A, vitamin D, and zinc. These nutrients are particularly important in the activation of our immune cells.

5. Cheese

Yes, you still can enjoy the finer things in life right now, which most certainly includes cheese. That's because hard cheeses are particularly high in zinc, and particularly powerful in fighting off viruses. Not a fan of cheese? Try navy beans.

6. Berries

Go ahead, eat all the berries you want. Berries are well-known for their antioxidant properties, which are disease-fighting compounds that will assist the immune system in fighting off infections and potentially help you get better quicker if you are ill. Even a cup a day will help.

7. Red bell peppers

If you think citrus fruits have the most vitamin C of any fruit or vegetable, think again. Ounce for ounce, red bell peppers contain twice as much vitamin C as citrus. They’re also a rich source of beta carotene. Besides boosting your immune system, vitamin C may help maintain healthy skin. Beta carotene helps keep your eyes and skin healthy.

8. Sweet potatoes and squash

Foods that are high in vitamin A include sweet potatoes, spinach, winter squashes, and carrots. It's an important nutrient as it is "known as an anti-inflammation vitamin because of its critical role in enhancing immune function," a 2018 study suggested. Vitamin A, the authors wrote, "has both promoting and regulatory roles in both the innate immune system and adaptive immunity; therefore, it can enhance the organism’s immune function and provide enhanced defense against multiple infectious diseases."

9. Ginger

Ginger is another ingredient many turns to after getting sick. Ginger may help decrease inflammation, which can help reduce a sore throat and other inflammatory illnesses. 

10. Almonds

When it comes to preventing and fighting off colds, vitamin E tends to take a backseat to vitamin C. However, vitamin E is key to a healthy immune system. It’s a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it requires the presence of fat to be absorbed properly. Nuts, such as almonds, are packed with the vitamin and also have healthy fats. A half-cup serving, which is about 46 whole, shelled almonds, provides nearly 100 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin E.

11. Green tea

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, or EGCG, another powerful antioxidant. EGCG has been shown to enhance immune function. The fermentation process black tea goes through destroys a lot of the EGCG. Green tea, on the other hand, is steamed and not fermented, so the EGCG is preserved.

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

12. Papaya

Papaya is another fruit loaded with vitamin C. You can find 224 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C in a single papaya. Papayas also have a digestive enzyme called papain that has anti-inflammatory effects.

Papayas have decent amounts of potassium, B vitamins, and folate, all of which are beneficial to your overall health.

13. Kiwi

Like papayas, kiwis are naturally full of a ton of essential nutrients, including folate, potassium, vitamin K, and vitamin C. Vitamin C boosts white blood cells to fight infection, while kiwi’s other nutrients keep the rest of your body functioning properly.

14. Sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds are full of nutrients, including phosphorous, magnesium, and vitamin B-6. They’re also incredibly high in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant.

Vitamin E is important in regulating and maintaining immune system function. Other foods with high amounts of vitamin E include avocados and dark leafy greens.

Plan your meals carefully to include these 14 powerful immune system boosters.