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7 Must-Eat Foods to Boost Immune Health

Stay healthy this winter by keeping bugs at bay

As winter approaches, staying on top of your immune health is key.

The best way to do this is by eating a healthy diet that is rich in immune-boosting foods.

Here are 7 foods to boost immune health to keep bugs at bay and stay healthy this winter.

Immune-boosting foods

Garlic is a powerful immune-booster and a must-eat vegetable to include in your diet. With its antifungal and antibacterial properties, garlic helps keep gut bacteria healthy which is essential for immune health. 70% of your immune cells reside in the gut so having a healthy gastrointestinal system is incredibly important. Garlic is high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties which can support the immune system and protect the body against pathogens. Add raw diced garlic into your cooking; it’s perfect in soups, curries, stir-fries and even salads.

Ginger is another a strong anti-inflammatory with antioxidant, antiviral and antibacterial properties. Ginger is also great for digestive health as it helps stimulate digestive juices and stomach acid secretions, both of which support immune health. Add fresh diced ginger to food and drink fresh grated ginger in warm water as a tea daily.

Turmeric contains curcumin, a powerful compound with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that helps to protect immune cells from damage and block the action of inflammatory molecules. Turmeric has also shown to balance an overstimulated immune system which is common in those with autoimmune conditions, allergies and chronic inflammatory conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Use turmeric to cooking or drink it as a turmeric latte or with lemon water in the morning.

Brassica vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts) are nutritional powerhouses as they are packed full of key nutrients that support immune health including vitamins C, A, E and K, folate and iron. Brassicas also have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, and they contain compounds that can neutralise carcinogenic toxins to support your detoxification capabilities. An overburdened system that isn’t able to detoxify toxins efficiently has a negative effect on the immune system.

Blueberries are loaded with powerful antioxidants that protect immune cells from damage and boost immune function. They are particularly high in a type of antioxidant called polyphenols which are beneficial for gut bacteria. Blueberries also contain plenty of fibre, vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C which is important for the immune system. You can eat them on their own or add them to smoothies.

Sweet potato is rich in beta-carotene; this is a red-orange pigment found in fruits and vegetables that converts to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is an anti-inflammatory vitamin and it helps protects the mucous membranes that line the nose, sinuses and mouth. Your mucous membranes are a natural physical barrier against pathogens, preventing microorganisms (bacteria and viruses) from entering the body. Vitamin A also plays a pivotal role in the immune response and the development of immune cells.

Mushrooms (especially shiitake, Reishi and oyster mushrooms) are excellent immune-boosting foods. They have been used for centuries in Asia for medicinal purposes as they contain numerous therapeutic properties that support immune function, boost energy, reduce inflammation and assist the body in times of stress. Reishi, Shiitake and Maitake are considered medicinal mushrooms as they contain a substance called beta-glucans that stimulate the immune system to work more efficiency and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Medicinal mushrooms come as a fresh whole food, as a powder (which can be added to food or drinks) or in a capsule.

Superfoods for the immune system

Keep your immune system healthy this winter by increasing your intake of immune-boosting foods such as garlic, broccoli and sweet potato. To learn more about foods to support immune health, take a look at CNM’s Nutrition for Everyday Living short course.

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