There’s a reason why Grandma brewed a hot cup of echinacea tea and lemon for us at the first sign of a cold: what we consume directly correlates to our body’s capabilities to heal itself. We naturally think of immunity during cold and flu season, but did you know that boosting your immunity year-round can help your body recover faster from wounds, hard workouts and even allow you to power through allergy season with nary a sneeze? Here are few of our favorite tips to equip your body with the tools to boost immunity in order to heal itself:
Foods that Boost Immunity:
This is different than the canned or boxed stuff you get at the store. Real bone broth is incredibly nutrient dense because, as the bones cook, their minerals—including calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and other trace minerals—soak into the water, at which point they’re easily absorbed by the body.
It’s more flavorful than the store-bought kind, and it’s easy to prepare. Next time you buy a rotisserie chicken, save the bones. Toss them into your slow cooker and cover them with water. Add some salt, as well as any veggies or herbs you enjoy for flavor. Set the slow cooker on high for four to five hours and voila! When the broth is done cooking, filter it through a sieve or reusable coffee filter. So the longtime go-to remedy of moms everywhere—chicken soup—is actually pretty darn effective.
Good news for all you kimchi fans! Foods that have been fermented promote a good probiotic balance in the gut, which is an important part of a healthy immune system. Some other great options include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and any kind of lacto-fermented pickle.
Especially beef liver. Organ meats in general are about 10 to 100 times more nutrient dense than corresponding muscle meats. The liver, in particular, is a storage organ for nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, K, B12 and folic acid, as well as minerals like iron and copper.
From the time we were kids, most of us were taught about the many wondrous benefits of Vitamin C. It can play an important role in promoting immunity. So be sure to include plenty of citrus fruits, kiwi, bell peppers, kale, and broccoli–among other nutrient dense options.
Don’t be so critical of your date’s garlic breath: those same sulphuric compounds that give garlic it’s taste and smell are also responsible for its antimicrobial properties. Consume garlic with your regular meals–fresh or in dried powder form. Brave souls can blend a clove into a savory green smoothie for an extra immunity boost.
The root of this herb has been used for centuries to strengthen the body’s immune response. Used long-term, astragalus can prevent or lessen the impact of cold and flu. Some research has also found that astragalus can be effective in supplementing treatment to diabetes, HIV/AIDS and some cancers. Talk about a heavy-duty herb!
Ginger is a delicious culinary way to boost immunity, and it’s easy to incorporate into any diet. This spicy root is not only an antimicrobial, it’s an antioxidant and antibiotic to boot. It’s warming properties also make it great for digestion, breaking up congestion and stimulating circulation. Drink it in a tea, chop it up into a stir-fry or marinate thin slices in lime juice before a meal for a super-charged dose.
Foods to avoid:
Including immune-supporting foods in your diet is a crucial part of supporting your overall health—but it’s just as important to be aware of those foods that aren’t so good for your immunity. While it’s probably not the most emotionally healthy thing to make any food “taboo,” limiting your intake of these next items—making them occasional foods rather than everyday staples—can help you to boost immunity.
Does it seem like everyone and their mother is going gluten-free these days? Well, there might be a reason for that. Gluten is inflammatory, and can even exacerbate autoimmune conditions. In addition, it can damage the intestines. All of this can wreak havoc on the immune system.
We know, sometimes you just need a cupcake. And that’s okay every once in a while. But eating too much sugar can impair the ability of your white blood cells to engulf and fight off bacteria. Not what you want when you have a co-worker who can’t stop coughing!
Industrial seed oils
These are just pretty gross all around. Ideally, our bodies like to have about a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. But due in no small part to the widespread use of industrial seed oils and processed vegetable oils in packaged foods, for many of us, that ratio is now at least 10:1. So what does that have to do with immunity? Well, in short, it significantly increases our likelihood of contracting inflammatory diseases, like cardiovascular disease, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and more.
See if you can incorporate a few of these suggestions into your day-to-day. Culinary herbs–like garlic and ginger–tend to be easy adjustments and balance many body systems in addition to toning your immunity. Other suggestions, like avoiding sugar and gluten, could take a little more time to work into your routine. Remember: Immunity boosters work subtly. You might not even notice their effect until you’re the only healthy one in the office, or you’re sneezing a little less during allergy season.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
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