Foods to boost your immune system

Our immune system is a powerful source and if you combine eating a wide variety of plant-based foods with healthy-living strategies, you can ensure it will be operating at its full potential.

Surprisingly, 70 to 80 percent of your immune system resides in your gastrointestinal tract, or in simple terms, your gut. A diet high in plant-based foods will help to strengthen your immune system. Most of us would probably turn to Vitamin C when we think of boosting our immune systems, but it is important to eat a wide variety of foods containing different vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals as they work stronger together.  Plant-based foods have antiviral and antimicrobial properties which help us to fight off infection. These include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Here is a list of my top favourite foods to help you get started.  

Colourful fruit and vegetables which are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants help to protect and sometimes reverse the damage caused to cells by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that the body produces as a reaction caused by environmental and other pressures.

Fruits: Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, goji berries, papaya, kiwi fruit, oranges, lemon, lime, and grapefruit.

Vegetables: Spinach, broccoli, red cabbage, kale, beetroot and red peppers.

Avocados are rich in nutrients, antioxidants and packed full of vitamin E which protects and defends the body against illness. Other nutrients include vitamins B, C and K, potassium, fibre and healthy fats (omega-3 and omega-6). They are not only good for your immune system, but they keep your vital organs healthy too. These are a firm favourite for me, so delicious and nutritious.

Garlic is well known for its immune fighting properties as well as ginger which also helps to decrease inflammation.

Whole-grain foods: brown rice, black rice, corn, oatmeal, quinoa, bulgar and buckwheat.

Grain foods are good sources of complex carbohydrates. Whole grains are the healthiest kind of grains and are naturally high in fibre and good for your gut. They make you feel full and satisfied compared to white rice, white pasta and white bread which are made from refined grains. Refined grains are milled to have the germ and bran removed, which also removes many of the nutrients. Try swapping your white foods for whole-grain foods, it is better for your gut and your immune system too.

We are mostly gluten-free in our home and I find it much lighter on the stomach. Gluten-free products have impressively evolved over the years, giving us more tasty options to choose from.

Legumes are full of nutrients such as folate, and B vitamins including potassium, magnesium and fibre. Some of my favourites are lentils, chickpeas, black beans, red beans and soya beans. These are a great alternative in meals if you prefer not to eat pasta and rice.

Food and drinks containing “live and active cultures” such as yoghurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and kefir. These cultures stimulate your immune system and help to restore the natural balance of bacteria in your gut, especially if it has been disrupted by an illness.

Turmeric has also been used for years as an anti-inflammatory and is great for your immune system and healing. It has high concentrations of curcumin, which is an immune booster. This is a bitter spice and not very pleasant on its own, however, you can find some tasty organic teas which have turmeric in them. Green tea is good for the immune system too. Pukka brand do a tasty turmeric, green tea, and lemon fruit flavour. You can also add turmeric to a lot of meal recipes too.

Nuts and seeds are rich in vitamin B, iron, and zinc – all of which can help to boost your immunity. Zinc is linked to the production of white blood cells, which lie at the centre of the immune system. A few of my favourites are almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds and hemp seeds.

Vitamin D is important for your immunity. A lot of people are deficient in this vitamin without knowing it. Foods high in vitamin D are salmon, tuna, egg yolks and mushrooms. During the winter months it is a good idea to increase your vitamin D intake, due to the lack of exposure to sunshine.

As you can see there is a wide range of healthy foods to help boost your immune system. These foods also provide your body with natural energy, they help to balance hormones and they have all the richness to give you glowing skin from within. Pretty incredible, right?

If you are not too sure how to incorporate these into your diet, try making some breakfast smoothies; you can blend quite a few of these ingredients into one healthy drink. For meal ideas, contact me at hello@youfirstnutrition.com and I can send you some easy recipes to try at home.  

I read this quote the other day about immunity. “Getting sick and getting better is a healthy part of life”. It is true, and with healthy eating and lifestyle habits, we can give our body the best possible chance of recovery.

I would love to hear your immunity food tips too, so please comment below. I will be putting together another blog on lifestyle habits to boost your immunity and look forward to sharing it with you all soon.

Thank you for reading,

Aimee x

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