It’s that time of year! And no, I don’t mean the most wonderful time of year: the holiday season. I’m actually talking about that time when everyone and their mother catches a cold, or comes down with the flu.
Lack of sleep, stress, and limited exercise can take a toll on our immune systems. And when our immune systems can’t function at their best, it’s a recipe for disaster. So it’s really no surprise that the busiest season of all can leave us feeling run down.
At the first inkling of a scratchy throat or runny nose, you probably reach for your tried and true home remedies: chicken noodle soup, Emergen-C, cough drops, and more. I know I do! But did you know that certain foods are known to boost the immune system, and that these foods can both prevent and combat sickness?
In fact, several common foods are full of nutrients that support the immune system. These nutrients include zinc, vitamin D, probiotics, vitamin E, vitamin C and more. Read on to learn about six foods that boost immunity!
1 – Oranges
You have probably all heard about the role of vitamin C in treating a cold at one point or another. The idea that vitamin C can help us when we are sick is, well, as common as the cold.
But truthfully, research on this relationship isn’t necessarily clear, and dietary intake of vitamin C does not appear to have a significant impact on reducing the symptoms or duration of a cold. That being said, vitamin C does increase the production of the cells that our body needs to fight off infection.
So while you might not benefit from stocking up on vitamin C supplements every time you feel a cold coming on, you can reap the benefits of including sources of vitamin C, such as oranges, in your diet everyday. By doing so, you will keep your immune system strong when it does come in contact with an infection, whether or not a cold accompanies it.
2 – Broccoli
Another vitamin C powerhouse, broccoli is more than just a pretty veggie! By including broccoli in your diet, you can get a dose of vitamin C plus some additional benefits. Broccoli is part of the cruciferous family, a group of foods that are known to suppress inflammation and strengthen immune response.
3 – Pumpkin Seeds
They may be small, but they are mighty! Pumpkin seeds are one of the best sources of zinc, a power nutrient that is vital to the strength of the immune system. How, you ask? Zinc influences the transformation of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cells, into their two different forms. Without enough zinc, the body cannot transform lymphocytes and becomes more susceptible to infection as a result.
4 – Yogurt
The vitamin D and probiotics in yogurt can both influence immune function. Vitamin D enhances the function of immune cells and signals the creation of cells that can fight infection.
Probiotics, or healthy bacteria, may also play a large role in optimizing the body’s defense system. More research on the connection between probiotics and immune health is needed, but preliminary studies suggest benefits to reaching for a spoonful of yogurt. Be sure to look for plain yogurts or those that do not have a lot of added sugar.
5 – Garlic
What’s not to love about garlic? Aside from its amazing flavor, garlic has immune-boosting compounds, such as allicin. This compound may stimulate effective immune responses, and is known to fight inflammation associated with infections and other illnesses. By adding garlic to your tomato sauces and salad dressings, you’re doing more than just seasoning your food. You are keeping yourself well!
6 – Sunflower Seeds
Another small and mighty food! These seeds are rich in vitamin E, a fat soluble vitamin that can help the body fight off sickness. One study found that vitamin E can increase the immune system’s ability to fight off infections related to pneumonia and even meningitis! Need a topping for your salad or stir fry? A spoonful of sunflower seeds will do!
Have a healthy holiday!