24 Foods for a Stronger Immune System

We are collectively beginning to understand the importance of making healthy food choices.

What we eat is what provides the energy that we rely on to complete our daily tasks. Not only this, it provides the fuel that powers our internal defences to keep us healthy. With this in mind, what do you think happens if you load it with refined sugar or other factory items?

Food manufacturers are always searching for ways to cheapen their production process’ and often by looking for cheaper products to include in their recipes.

Laboratory extracted sugars, and other simple carbohydrates which, aside from usually offering minimal nutritional value, come with many adverse health risks when consumed regularly or in large quantities.

To overcome the temptations of unhealthy foods, it’s essential to have healthy meals planned, prepared in advance or at least readily available. The following is a list of food items that any healthy diet should be based around.

For a stronger immune system, base your diet around the following foods:

1: Berries

Berries are a highly effective way to load up on nutrients and they are also a delicious snack or sweet addition to meals. You don’t have to give up snacking!

Blackberries are full of Vitamin A and well known for their antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties, while blueberries, elderberries, açai berries, strawberries and raspberries are loaded with antioxidants, potassium and vitamin C. Unlike most animals, we are unable to produce our own vitamin C so, it is an essential dietary component for boosting white blood cells and fighting infections.

2: Citrus fruits

Grapefruit, oranges, clementines, tangerines, lemons and limes are all fantastic sources of vitamin C. Citrus fruits are usually the first food choice for anyone looking to fight the cold or flu.

3: Broccoli

Broccoli is absolutely packed with nutrients including vitamins A, C and E, as well as fibre and other antioxidants. Broccoli is also super high in protein but is best only lightly cooked to support nutrient retention.

4: Cauliflower

Like broccoli, cauliflower is a valuable source of minerals, fibre and vitamin C.

5: Garlic

Garlic is cultivated for all cuisines worldwide and contains a strong antibiotic called allicin. It is known to fight infections, slows arteries hardening and even protects against atherosclerosis and stroke. It is also said to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

6: Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a good source of protein and contain selenium, B-vitamins and powerful polysaccharides called beta-glucans, known to fight inflammation and support the body’s immune health.

7: Carrot

An immune booster, rich in potassium, fibre, antioxidants and beta-carotene, in addition to vitamins A and C, which act as antioxidants and protect immune cells from free radical damage.

8: Apple

Known for a range of health benefits, apples are full of natural sugars, fibre and potassium, as well as vitamins C and K. The skin also contains quercetin, a type of flavonoid which boosts your immune system and aids in reducing inflammation. As corny as it sounds, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

9: Ginger

Well renowned for its powerful antiviral and antibacterial properties, ginger is commonly used for reducing sore throats or other inflammatory illnesses. Ginger is also known to lower cholesterol and relieve chronic pain, motion sickness and nausea. Best enjoyed in juices, smoothies and many cuisines for added spice.

10: Red Bell Peppers

Red bell peppers are another food rich in beta carotene and known for its immune-boosting properties. One medium-sized red bell pepper contains enough vitamin C to fulfil your recommended daily intake.

11: Spinach

The super leaf. Spinach is packed with nutrients including fibre, beta carotene, antioxidants and vitamin C. It also contains folate which aids in the production of new cells and protection against oxidative DNA damage. Avoid overcooking for nutrient retention.

12: Raw Honey

Raw honey is rich in phytonutrients and well known for its antibacterial and anti-fungal power. The phytonutrients responsible for honey’s immune-boosting benefits are destroyed during heavy processing so, it’s best to avoid the cheap and sweetened versions.

13: Low-Fat Yoghurt

Both plain and Greek yoghurt are great sources of both vitamin D and probiotics. Look for live and active cultures on the label to be sure that the product contains probiotics. Mix with oats, berries, fruit and chia seeds for a super healthy breakfast.

14: Watermelon

A summertime staple which contains potassium and vitamins A, C and B-6. Watermelon also contains glutathione and lycopene, antioxidants which strengthen the body’s defence against heart disease and cancer.

15: Nuts

Pistachios, almonds and walnuts contain vitamin E, which assists the immune system in fighting off bacteria. 

Sunflower seeds are also a rich source of phosphorous, magnesium, selenium, vitamins E and B-6.

16: Turmeric

A bitter spice used in curries, rice and numerous other dishes for its taste and anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric contains curcumin, which helps relieve conditions involving pain and inflammation. It is also used for hay fever, depression, high cholesterol and fatty liver disease.

17: Tea

White, black and green teas are rich antioxidants which seek and destroy cell-damaging compounds. Many teas also contain the amino acid, L-theanine, which may play a role in producing bacteria-fighting compounds in your white blood cells.

Green tea is said to be the superior choice when it comes to health benefits as, unlike other teas, green tea is steamed and not fermented. This process preserves the powerful antioxidant, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG).

18: Papaya

Papaya contains high levels of vitamins A, B and C, all known for reducing the oxidation of cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.

Papaya also contains potassium, magnesium, folate and a digestive enzyme called papain, known for its anti-inflammatory effects.

19: Sweet Potato

Nutritionists as the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) have recently confirmed that sweet potato is the world’s most nutritious food.

Not only does it come with a super low glycemic index rating, sweet potato is high in beta carotene, fibre, thiamine, niacin, potassium, copper and vitamins E, C and B-6.

20: Poultry

Chicken and turkey contain both vitamin B-6 and carnosine, both assisting with the metabolism of other foods.

Stock from boiling bones contains gelatin, chondroitin and other nutrients for gut health and immunity, making it a powerful antibacterial and antiviral remedy.

21: Miso

A traditional Japanese seasoning made of fermented soybeans, usually in the form of a salty paste. While Miso is famous for being the star ingredient in Miso Soup, it can also be added to many savoury sauces and dishes. Miso contains probiotics that aid in neutralising harmful bacteria within the body.

22: Tomato

Tomatoes are loaded with an antioxidant called lycopene. It gives them their bright red colour and helps protect your cells against damage from free radicals. Tomatoes also have potassium, vitamins B and E, and other nutrients making it widely used for both its health benefits, and taste.

23: Kiwi Fruit

Kiwi fruit is packed with essential health-promoting nutrients such as folate, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin K.

24: Seafood

Seafood is loaded with nutrients that reduce inflammation including vitamins A, B and D, as well as omega-3 fatty acids and numerous minerals such as calcium, selenium, phosphorous, iron, zinc iodine, magnesium and potassium.

Varieties of shellfish, including oysters, crab, lobster and mussels are also high in zinc, assisting in the development of cells that make up your body’s line of defences.

While all diets should be based around this list of foods, it is important to note that your first line of defence is a healthy lifestyle. On top of a nutritious diet, other healthy living strategies include not smoking, minimising alcohol consumption, exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep and minimising stress.

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About the Author: Harrison has more than a decade of experience on, and off, the rugby field as a player, junior coach and part-time referee. His passion for rugby led him to the Australian Institute of Personal Trainers where he studied the human body, exercise and nutrition, before being registered as a health and fitness professional with Fitness Australia and Fitness First Australia. Although the career path has changed, his passion for health, fitness, and Rugby will always remain.

Published by Harry Hansford

Australian in Spain with a passion for all things sport, health, fitnes & nature. Go deeper to find out more.

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