What are some of the best foods to use for immunity?
Citrus fruits are full of vitamin C; ginger and crushed garlic for their antimicrobial properties; yoghurt because it's probiotic!
An easy every-day herbal tea recipe for immunity?
Hot honey lemon and ginger every day!
The world is ever-so-slowly emerging into a post-pandemic chapter. Countries are tentatively opening up their borders and trying to resume business as usual as much as possible. But without the advent of a vaccine, coronavirus is still lurking around — and in many countries, making a resurgence.
You shouldn’t have to wait until a pandemic arrives to start thinking about your immune system and the things you can be doing to improve it. Even before coronavirus came on the scene, most of you were exposing yourselves to hundreds of different pathogens a day. And if you’ve ever travelled, then you know a lot about the different nasties that can infect you.
There’s never been a more appropriate time to learn how to take care of your immune system through your diet. But what you learn is something that you’ll be able to use for the rest of your life, active pandemic or not.
Something as simple as a daily smoothie or adding a few extra spices to your dinner can strengthen your immune system in a natural, holistic way. In this article, we’re walking you through some of the immune-boosting foods you can consume on a daily basis, and how they help with your immunity.
1. Citrus fruits
Almost everybody knows the main ingredient in citrus fruits that your immune system loves — Vitamin C!
In fact, if you ate one lemon each day (without the skin), you would get over 100% of your recommended daily intake for Vitamin C. This water-soluble vitamin plays a big role in immune defence as it supports many cellular functions of both the innate and acquired immune systems.
On top of that, Vitamin C is an antioxidant. It neutralises free radicals around the body, which in turn minimises stress on the body.
Citrus fruits are delicious and hydrating, especially in the summertime! Whether it’s fresh orange juice, some lemon juice on your salad, or a delicious grapefruit — get on the citrus this summertime.
If you grew up in a traditional household, you’ll remember grandma always wanting to whack a piece of garlic on whatever ailed you. Garlic has been used traditionally for centuries for its antimicrobial properties. Yes — even pathogens cannot handle the smell of garlic.
Interestingly, allicin (the active compound in garlic), isn’t activated if you simply slice your garlic clove. Before consuming garlic, you should smash it in a mortar and pestle or with the back of a spoon. Crushing the garlic releases alliinase, which catalyzes the formation of allicin.
Adding crushed garlic to your food is a great way to kill off any nasties that might have made their way into your belly. It’s best if consumed raw, so consider making hommus (a great way to use raw garlic), other dips, or by incorporating it into a salad dressing.
Yoghurt and other live-cultured foods and beverages contain probiotics. These are living microorganisms that contribute to gut and intestinal health. Why might this be important for immunity then?
Well, believe it or not, your gut has a lot to do with your immunity. For starters, it is one of your first lines of defence — if a pathogen makes contact with your stomach acid, it’s highly unlikely to survive. Unless of course, it’s giardia, in which case, it can very much thrive in that environment.
Secondly, many of the foods and medicines you consume to support your immunity make their way into your body through the gastrointestinal tract. If your digestion is poor, or your intestinal health is bad and therefore non-absorptive, then those immunity-boosting compounds will never really make it to their target tissues and cells.
Keeping your gut healthy keeps your immunity up!
4. Bone broth
One of the best ways to keep your immune system up and running is with a good old, traditional cup of bone broth. Bone broth is made by cooking the carcass of a chicken (or beef or fish) for an extended period of time to extract the many minerals and fatty acids inside the bone. It’s cooked for so long that when the carcass is removed, the bones are extremely soft and brittle.
Bone broth is rich in anti-inflammatory fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. It is also rich in Vitamin B-6. Vitamin B-6 plays an important role in red blood cell production and energy metabolism — which indirectly affect how immune you are to pathogenic factors.
Bone broth is also a great source of nutrition while you are sick. Being rich in vitamins and minerals, as well as fatty acids, it is an easy-to-consume nutritional powerhouse for somebody who's struggling to keep food down!
If you fancy yourself the home herbalist, you know how important it is to have ginger on hand. Commonly used in the treatment of respiratory infections, ginger is heating, reduces nausea, and breaks up and expels tough and thick mucus.
The essential oils within ginger are also antimicrobial, and so consuming ginger tea can help to kill off some of the invading pathogens.
If you want an immunity powerhouse, consider consuming ginger in a tea with lemon and honey. Not only is it completely balancing to any kind of physical constitution, but it’s also delicious, it’s loaded with vitamin C, and it’s antimicrobial — the perfect tea to say see-ya to bugs and nasties.
Keep it local, keep it fresh.
To get the best phytochemical profile out of your food, it’s best to eat food that’s grown locally and was picked recently. This is how you ensure that your foods are loaded with all of the nutrients and vitamins that they are meant to — and that helps you get more, immunity-boosting chemicals into your body.
Diet is one of the pillars of health — and in the absence of a good diet, any pathogen can invade. In fact, without a good diet, you can’t be well, even if you don’t have some pathogenic infection. So if you want to keep yourself healthy, it really all starts with food. Plus — if staying healthy is delicious, then why not?
What foods do you love to include in your diet for immune support? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!