- Citrus fruits
You’ve probably heard that Vitamin C can help prevent or shorten a cold, but did you know that it helps your immune system work better even when you aren’t sick? Scientists believe that Vitamin C increases the number of white blood cells in the bloodstream. These white blood cells fight infection and other free radicals in the body helping to keep you well. Popular citrus fruits that don’t affect most diabetics include: lemons, limes and grapefruits. The human body does not produce its own Vitamin C, so enjoy a little every day to help prevent illness.
- Chicken Soup
It’s true- that bowl of mom’s chicken noodle soup really does help you feel better! The amino acid cysteine released by cooking the chicken, shares a chemical resemblance with certain cold and bronchitis medications. The soup’s broth helps to thin mucus, thereby alleviating sinus pressure and chest congestion. Chicken soup isn’t just for the soul, but for the immune system too!
Garlic packs a serious immune-boosting punch. In one study, 146 people received either a placebo or a garlic extract supplement for 12 weeks; those individuals who were given the garlic were two-thirds less likely to catch a cold. Other studies have shown that people who eat more than six cloves of garlic per week have a 50% lower rate of stomach cancer and a 30% lower rate of colorectal cancer. Amazing!
Ah, the wonders of probiotics. An astounding 80% of the body’s immune system is located in the gut. Probiotics can help you fend off all sorts of illnesses, from the common cold to the flu. The digestive system is also a huge part of the body’s neurological system. Chronic fatigue, joint pain, thyroid disease, even psoriasis are initiated in the gut, and can be improved with probiotics. You can take a daily probiotic supplement, our get them by eating fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and kimchi.
The Omega-3 fats found in salmon, herring, and mackerel help to reduce inflammation in the body. This improves your ability to breathe deeply and protects your lungs from respiratory infections. The Selenium found in shellfish such as oysters, lobsters, crabs, and clams, helps improve the body’s production of cytokines—proteins that help flush toxins and infections from the body.
- Oats and Barley
These grains contain a fiber with antioxidant and antimicrobial capabilities, even more potent than Echinacea! When animals eat this compound, they are less likely to contract influenza and other infections. Humans experience a boost in immunity and quicker wound healing.
One Havard study found that participants who drank 5 cups of black tea every day for two weeks had ten times more interferon (a virus-fighting protein in the blood) than the participants who drank a placebo beverage. The amino acid, L-theanine, responsible for tea’s immune benefit can be found in black and green teas. You can skip the caffeine if you prefer, L-theanine is found in decaf versions of these teas, as well.
The majority of Americans today do not consume enough zinc. Most people are not aware that even a mild zinc deficiency can increase your risk of infection. Zinc is crucial for the development of white blood cells and the health of the immune system. Beef is an excellent source of zinc. If you don’t eat beef, you can find zinc in other foods such as oysters and spinach. Nuts, especially cashews, are also good sources of zinc and can be enjoyed as a quick snack, or even as dessert!
- Sweet Potatoes
The skin is often forgotten as a part of the body’s immune system. It is literally your body’s first line of defense against the outside world. Vitamin A is crucial for the health and well-being of your skin. Haven’t heard much about Vitamin A? How about beta-carotene? The body actually transforms beta-carotene into Vitamin A! Sweet potatoes are a great source of beta-carotene, and therefore of Vitamin A. Other orange foods like carrots, pumpkin and cantaloupe are also high in this beneficial vitamin.
Used for thousands of years in traditional Asian medicine, mushrooms are one the most beneficial foods for the immune system, and body as a whole. These natural disease-fighters increase white blood cell production and performance, helping to defend against infection. Some mushrooms also contain antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that fight bacteria like strep and staph. Mushrooms have even been shown to reduce blood pressure, lowering risk of heart attack and stroke.