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Foods that Can Boost Immunity
Although a cold or flu may not be preventable, a strong immune system can be the first line of defense. The immune system protects against infection as well as other medical conditions including allergies, arthritis and cancer. There is no single pill to boost immunity; instead, a healthy eating pattern that supports a diverse GI tract, provides antioxidants and phytonutrients are key to a strong immune system.
Immune Boosting Nutrients
Good nutrition is essential for the immune system to work well. A healthy eating pattern with a variety of food and colorful produce each day will ensure a balance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients, which are vital to the immune system.
Phytonutrients have disease fighting properties & antioxidants reduce oxidation in the body which is linked to a weakened immunity.
Try to include the key foods, herbs and beverages below for an extra immune boost.
- Beta Carotene – found in yellow, orange & dark green produce; fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, mango, tomatoes, broccoli, kale & spinach.
- Vitamin C-Rich – citrus fruits, strawberries, cantaloupe, papaya, kiwi, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts & peppers.
- Vitamin D – found mainly in fatty fish such as salmon, Other good sources are egg yolks and D-fortified dairy & dairy alternatives.
- Zinc – lean meat, poultry and seafood, as well as legumes, whole grain products, wheat germ and nuts.
- Protein – both animal and plant based sources including dairy, eggs, lean meat, seafood, legumes, lentils, nuts & seeds.
- Herbs – such as garlic & rosemary, along with onions may enhance immunity and flavor!
- Green Tea - may decrease viruses linked to pneumonia.
Probiotics and Prebiotics
The GI tract is the largest component of the immune system. Introducing friendly bacteria (probiotics) into the GI tract and feeding it (prebiotics) helps keep a healthy balance and may boost immunity.
Probiotics are found in foods that have been fermented and in the following foods:
- Dairy Products w/ Active Cultures – including acidophilus milk, yogurt and kefir.
- Fermented Vegetables – most common is kimchi.
- Pickled Vegetables – such as sauerkraut. These vegetables tend to be high in sodium. To reduce sodium, keep the portion small and rinse it off before eating.
Prebiotics feed the good bacteria. Foods considered to be prebiotic include asparagus, artichokes, legumes, bananas and oatmeal.
What about Supplements? Supplements do not provide the nutrition whole foods can offer and may be costly. Discuss the use of supplements with your health care provider. Be sure to choose only those that are clinically tested.
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