The stronger your immune system, the more fun you can have all year round. You can weather a winter stomach virus storm, beat an autumn chill, or fend off the uncomfortable summer sniff to maximize your fun in the sun. Washing your hands and avoiding sick coworkers can reduce your risk of catching all of these evils. Yet there are germs all around us. This is where your immune system comes in. There are many behaviors that can help you keep your immune system in tip-top shape.
Getting seven to eight hours of good sleep each night, staying hydrated, and exercising all boost your disease-inhibiting powers. Eating a healthy diet of nutritious foods can also provide important immune support. Stay healthy and fight off disease with these science-based, Food system-Allowed foods that have been shown to boost immunity.
Here are eight healthy foods that will support your immune system year-round:
1. Organic fruits and vegetables of all kinds
Are organic foods worth the extra charge? When it comes to immunity, the answer can be yes. According to a review of 343 different studies published in the British Journal of Nutrition, scientists found that organic foods have 19 to 69 percent higher levels of antioxidants than non-organic plants. Antioxidants fight cancer and other diseases. They also reduce inflammation, which can support the immune system.
How to Eat Them: If you are concerned about the price of organic produce, focus on the foods known as “The Dirty Dozen”. These fruits and vegetables are the most susceptible to pesticide residue. So when you buy them organic, you are getting the best health bang for your buck. Click here for the dirt on The Dirty Dozen! >
2. Oily fish
You’ve probably heard that eating oily fish like salmon provides omega-3 fatty acids, which Medical News Today says may protect against heart disease. However, these water-based superfoods are also one of the most powerful food sources for vitamin D, says the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Not only does vitamin D activate calcium for stronger bones, but it also helps support immune function. In fact, if you’re not getting enough vitamin D – like an estimated 42 percent of Americans – you’re at higher risk of developing a cold or flu, says The Harvard Gazette.
How to Eat It: Attempt this easy to prepare salmon burger with herbal cream sauce or one of these eight more easy salmon recipes from The Leaf! >
3. Goji berries
These little red jewels are some of the most nutritious fruits in the world. They have more than double the immunity-boosting antioxidants found in blueberries. They can even help protect your eyes from age-related decay. According to a study published in Optometry and Vision Science, participants who ate goji berries for 90 days raised levels of plasma zeaxanthin, an antioxidant that helps eyesight. They’ll also help you feel full: gojis have four grams of protein, over three grams of fiber, and 98 calories in a five-tablespoon serving, says NutritionValue.org.
How to Eat It: You can just nibble them! They are also great as sprinkles on smoothie casings, oatmeal and yogurt. If you’re looking for a little more variety in your student mix, try adding gojis with unsalted nuts or seeds instead of raisins.
It lives! And that could keep you healthy: The active cultures or live bacteria in yogurt can help keep your intestines free of pathogens. In a study published in Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, women who ate seven ounces of yogurt a day for two weeks increased their immune functions and increased white blood cell counts. And it didn’t have to be a fancy yogurt with a “probiotic” on the packaging: it had effects similar to normal yogurt.
How to Eat It: Not just for breakfast! Leaf’s yogurt parfaits, like this one Chunky Monkey with Chocolate and Banana or so delicious Berry enjoyment are a great way to treat yourself and your immune system!
Your breath may stink, but you won’t get sick! When scientists gave people either a placebo or a garlic extract with allicin (a chemical found in raw garlic), the garlic group had fewer colds than the placebo group over 12 weeks, says the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine. It can also help in the long term: According to ScienceDaily, garlic can reduce the amount of plaque that builds up in your arteries.
How to Eat It: To get the cold fighting properties, you need to have the garlic raw – allicin dissipates when garlic is cooked, says Anti-Cancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry. Try it as a pizza topper or in this flavorful one Mexican street corn dip! >
Sauerkraut and other fermented foods like yogurt contain probiotics or “good bacteria” that can keep your digestive system in balance. However, according to Current Opinion in Gastroenterology, studies have shown that they can also help with immune system disorders such as eczema and reduce the severity of allergies. So, pile it up!
How to Eat It: Top your burgers with kimchi, sauerkraut, or other fermented options for a low-calorie, immune-boosting crunch. Learn more about fermented vegetables! >
It’s not just an old woman’s tale: Vitamin C really helps keep upper respiratory infections like colds at bay. A 2017 research report published in Nutrients found that vitamin C may reduce the risk of respiratory and systemic infections. Vitamin C is not only available from orange juice. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), one cup of pepper slices contains 100 percent of the recommended daily vitamin C for an adult woman.
How to Eat It: While watching TV, reading the news, or having lunch next to the sandwich. Crispy, sweet peppers are an easy way to make your four daily servings of non-starchy vegetables for maximum weight loss success.
8. Lean beef
Wait, wait, wait: shouldn’t red meat be bad for you? Eating too much has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer. However, beef is also one of the strongest sources of zinc in our diet. Zinc acts as an “intracellular signaling molecule” for immune cells – that is, it tells them to get going and helps fight off colds, lower respiratory infections and other diseases, says Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care.
How to Eat It: You know the saying: it’s something for dinner. Try this simple, healthy slow cooker Beef Stroganoff>