Eating well is an important part of staying fit and healthy. You need to eat a balanced diet so that your body is getting everything it needs.
It probably won’t come as a surprise that there are certain foods with high levels of vitamins and minerals that can make a real difference to how your body fights infections and diseases.
Here we take a look at 11 amazing foods that can naturally boost your immune system.
Vitamin C is super important for strengthening your immune system — it’s thought that it can increase the production of white blood cells, which are essential when your body is fighting an infection. It also helps you to maintain healthy skin.
Your body doesn’t produce or store it, so you need a regular daily intake. Most citrus fruits have high vitamin C levels including oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes.
Eating your greens is important for a reason — and broccoli is one of the best greens out there. It’s packed with a whole range of vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, C, and E. Plus it contains fibre and antioxidants, which help keep your body fit and healthy.
However, when you’re cooking broccoli or any greens, it’s important not to wipe out all the goodness by overcooking (and boiling the nutrients out of your veg). It’s probably a little too crunchy to eat raw for most people, but steaming your broccoli is the best way to keep as many of the important nutrients in it as possible.
One of the most popular ingredients in many cuisines and dishes, garlic also has some major health benefits that can help boost your immune system. In particular, it contains allicin — a sulphur-containing compound which is thought to helps support your body in fighting off infections.
As well as that, garlic contains plenty of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B6, vitamin C, manganese, selenium, phosphorous, calcium, potassium, iron and copper. Talk about jam-packed.
There’s even some evidence to suggest that it also slows down the hardening of the arteries and can lower your blood pressure.
While most people know oranges are full of vitamin C, it might surprise you to learn that red peppers actually contain a whole lot more. On top of that, they’re also a good source of beta carotene, which your body can convert into vitamin A to help keep your eyes and your skin healthy.
Mushrooms contain a whole host of immune-boosting nutrients such as selenium, zinc, copper, potassium, and B vitamins. They’re also a source of beta-glucan, which is linked to improving cholesterol and can help your heart.
While they do lose some of their nutrients when you cook them, there’s still enough to help your immune system.
Spinach is another excellent green to add to your diet. It’s packed full of folate, which helps your body to produce new cells and repair DNA. Plus it’s a good source of fibre, vitamin C and antioxidants.
Again, it’s important not to overcook spinach so you lose all the benefits and important nutrients. Add it into salad and sandwiches uncooked, wilt in pasta dishes, or even pop into a green super-smoothie. And again, if you don’t want to overcook it, steaming is the best way.
Ginger is full of antioxidants, which help your immune system. It also has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, so it can help with easing sore throats and coughs, as well as providing natural antibacterial protection — perfect if you have a cold.
Another added bonus of ginger it that it can aid healthy digestion — plenty of people find it can ease nausea and settle their stomach.
You can take advantage of its benefits by finding ways to incorporate fresh ginger into your food preparation plans, or just steeping a piece in hot water to make ginger tea. Just add honey and a generous squeeze of lemon, and you’ve got yourself a comforting mug of tea which can help relieve cold and flu symptoms.
Beans, chickpeas, and lentils contain a high level of zinc, which is essential for your immune system and also helps with healing wounds. Zinc boosts your metabolism as well, helping your body to process carbohydrate, fat and proteins from food.
Look out for yoghurts that say ‘live and active cultures’ as these are thought to stimulate your immune system and help your body fight diseases. They’re also a good source of vitamin D, which also boosts your body’s ability to find illnesses.
To maximise the health benefits of yog, choose plain yoghurts that aren’t flavoured and full of extra sugar, and add fruit or honey to sweeten it in a healthier way.
White, green, and black tea all contain a number of antioxidants that can boost your immune system and help your body fight off infections. They’re also linked to reducing the risk of some cancers and heart disease.
Herbal teas also offer a wide range of benefits for your health — some improve blood circulation and lower cholesterol, while others such as chamomile tea are known to reduce stress.
There are a lot of different things you need to include in your diet to boost your immune system and stay healthy. So if you struggle to eat all these foods on a regular basis then it could be worth taking a multivitamin tablet to give your body a bit of extra help. Or if you think you might be deficient in a specific vitamin or mineral then there are a wider range of supplement options out there.
Overall, the best thing to do is to try and balance your diet and eat a variety of fresh, natural foods to ensure your body is getting all that it needs to fight off illnesses. Get into a healthy routine, start cooking your meals from scratch, and you’ll soon see the benefits of eating well.