As many of us learned this year, the only thing worse than catching that awful strain of the flu was coming down with a cold approximately one week later. Although a healthy immune system (and, apparently, a flu shot) won’t protect us from all ailments, it does reduce our risk of catching every flu, cold, and virus that goes around the office.
Although genetics play a role, a healthy lifestyle translates to a stronger immune system. Getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating a healthy diet can boost your immune system.
And as it turns out, you can take the “healthy diet” practice a step further, according to experts, by eating foods that improve your immune system. Integrating the following foods and drinks into your diet may mean catching one less cold or virus next year (and a speedier recovery when you do get sick). If that’s not incentive, I don’t know what is.
“Fermented veggies and dairy products increase antibodies that fight disease, thus providing a boost to our immune system,” Dr. Sean McCaffrey, D.C., I.H.S., L.D.H.S. of McCaffrey Health Clinic explained. “The foods’ flora protects the small intestines from unhealthy organisms and also produces antioxidants that cleanse our bodies. The fermentation converts glucose into healthy bacteria that helps strengthen our immune system and digestive functions.”
Foods and drinks that fall into this category include kombucha, sauerkraut, unpasteurized dairy products (such as raw cheeses, milk, and yogurt), tempeh, and miso.
Because they are high in antioxidants, helium, and vitamin D, mushrooms protect and cleanse our bodies as they boost the immune system.
McCaffrey also recommended vegetables with similar properties, such as carrots, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and pumpkin.
Garlic has many health benefits, and McCaffrey said boosting the immune system is one of them. “It is rich in antioxidants, and has multiple antibacterial and antiviral properties,” he explained.
Amandeep Bajwa, MD, a family medicine physician with Mercy Medical Group, emphasized the importance of drinking plenty of fluids — especially water. “Your body needs plenty of water to help your cells and immune system function properly,” Bajwa said.
Bone broth has recently seen a surge in popularity, but it’s been around for thousands of years. Because it’s full of collagen, it supports digestion and boosts the immune system. “The gelatin in the bone broth repairs our intestinal lining and reduces inflammation,” McCaffrey explained. “Approximately 80% of our immune systems cells are within the digestive system so as the bone broth heals the gut, it also strengthens our immune system in a powerful way.”
Time for us to update our grocery list!