A sound and effective immune system is vital to maintaining good health. It is our bodies’ protection from illness and disease, fighting everything from chicken pox to cancer to the common cold. An efficient immune system produces millions of antibodies each hour, marching out like a fine-tuned army, a process that takes a lot of energy and a plentiful supply of nutrients like vitamin C and zinc. According to William Boisnet, PhD a nutrition and immunity expert, “A well-balanced diet is the key to a healthy body, but including these immune-boosting foods in particular will help keep your immune system in tip-top condition.”
In spite of it’s bad reputation as a high fat food, beef is an excellent source of zinc. Zinc is an important nutrient in the production of white blood cells, also known as leukocytes, the cells that defend the body against infectious disease and foreign materials. If you are worried about your cholesterol levels, be sure to choose lean cuts of beef, such as sirloin, strip steak, or top round. If you just can’t stomach red meat, or your doctor has advised you to avoid it, you can still get your zinc from oysters, fortified cereals, yogurt, and milk.
Used by chefs around the world, this pungent member of the onion family has also been widely used for medicinal purposes. Its use dates back to the times of the great Egyptian pyramids. Garlic is a broad-spectrum natural antimicrobial, assisting the body in fighting off not only bacteria but also parasites, fungi, and viruses. A powerful antioxidant, garlic helps promote overall immune performance.
According to Douglas Schar, director of the Institute of Herbal Medicine, “Studies show that mushrooms increase the production and activity of white blood cells, making them more aggressive. This is a good thing when you have an infection.”
- Green Tea
Coming from the same plant as ordinary black tea, green tea is processed differently leaving important beneficial chemicals intact. Green tea is high in polyphenols, which help tidy up damaging free radicals before they can harm the body’s cells and DNA. While fruits and vegetables are also loaded with free radical fighting antioxidants, green tea is significantly higher in these disease preventing compounds.
Look for yogurt that boasts “live cultures” or “probiotics”. Full of friendly bacteria, yogurt helps keep harmful germs from invading your body through the lining of your digestive system. Eating yogurt is especially helpful after taking prescription antibiotics, which not only rid the body of nasty germs, but also strip away all the beneficial bacteria.
These juicy berries have been used medicinally by native North Americans for centuries. The blueberry is a powerhouse of antioxidants. One serving of fresh blueberries carries more free-radical-fighting potency than any other fruit or vegetable.
This popular fruit packs a big punch as one of the best sources of vitamin C. Vitamin C is necessary for the body to produce disease-fighting cells. Be careful. Vitamin C is toxic in high doses, but not in the levels found in the ordinary, everyday orange.
- Sweet Potatoes
Your skin is your body’s first line of defense against invading germs, so maintaining healthy skin is an important part of keeping an efficient immune system. In order to remain healthy, your skin needs vitamin A. Sweet potatoes to the rescue! The orange color of the average sweet potato is evidence of its high content of beta carotene, a nutrient your body converts to vitamin A. This yummy tuber is also high in vitamin E, another nutrient essential for healthy skin. Not a big fan of the sweet potato? Try other foods rich in beta carotene like carrots, pumpkin, and squash.