Feeding your body certain foods may help keep your immune system strong. If you’re looking for ways to prevent colds, the flu, and other infections, your first step should be a visit to your local grocery store. Plan your meals to include these powerful immune system boosters.
Most people turn straight to vitamin C after they’ve caught a cold. That’s because it helps build up your immune system. Vitamin C is thought to increase the production of white blood cells, which are key to fighting infections. Almost all citrus fruits are high in vitamin C. With such a variety to choose from, it’s easy to add a squeeze of this vitamin to any meal. Popular citrus fruits include grapefruit, oranges, clementines, tangerines, lemons, and limes.
Red Bell Peppers
If you think citrus fruits have the most vitamin C of any fruit or vegetable, think again. Ounce for ounce, red bell peppers contain almost 3 times as much vitamin C (127 mg) as a Florida orange (45 mg). They’re also a rich source of beta carotene.
Besides boosting your immune system, vitamin C may help you maintain healthy skin. Beta carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A, helps keep your eyes and skin healthy.
Broccoli is supercharged with vitamins and minerals. Packed with vitamins A, C, and E, as well as fiber and many other antioxidants, broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables you can put on your plate. The key to keeping its power intact is to cook it as little as possible — or better yet, not at all. Research has shown that steaming is the best way to keep more nutrients in the food.
Garlic is found in almost every cuisine in the world. It adds a little zing to food and it’s a must-have for your health.
Early civilizations recognized its value in fighting infections. Garlic may also slow down the hardening of the arteries, and there’s weak evidence that it helps lower blood pressure.
Garlic’s immune-boosting properties seem to come from a heavy concentration of sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin.
Ginger is another ingredient many turn to after getting sick. Ginger may help decrease inflammation, which can help reduce sore throat and inflammatory illnesses. Ginger may help with nausea as well.
While it’s used in many sweet desserts, ginger packs some heat in the form of gingerol, a relative of capsaicin.
Ginger may also decrease chronic pain and might even possess cholesterol-lowering properties.
Spinach made our list not just because it’s rich in vitamin C — it’s also packed with numerous antioxidants and beta carotene, which may both increase the infection-fighting ability of our immune systems.
Similar to broccoli, spinach is healthiest when it’s cooked as little as possible so that it retains its nutrients. However, light cooking makes it easier to absorb vitamin A and allows other nutrients to be released from oxalic acid, an antinutrient.
Look for yogurts that have the phrase “live and active cultures” printed on the label, like Greek yogurt. These cultures may stimulate your immune system to help fight diseases.
Try to get plain yogurts rather than the kind that are flavored and loaded with sugar. You can sweeten plain yogurt yourself with healthy fruits and a drizzle of honey instead.
Yogurt can also be a great source of vitamin D, so try to select brands fortified with this vitamin. Vitamin D helps regulate the immune system and is thought to boost our body’s natural defenses against diseases.