Ten essential foods to boost your immune system
A good diet is one of the foundations of good health: opting for the right types of food helps us to feel better, have more energy and get through periods of stress.
“You are what you eat,” claimed the German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach in 1800, and with good reason. Though Feuerbach was speaking in broader philosophical and political terms, more recent studies have shown that the expression can correctly be applied in the literal sense. Our health is inextricably linked to the foods that we eat.
There is a close bond between what we put into our bodies and the health of our immune systems. And according to many studies, there are particular nutrients that have a bigger direct and indirect bearing on the correct functioning of our bodies and their natural defenses.
Let’s take a look at the ten essential foods to boost the body’s immune system.
Our antibodies mainly form in the intestine, which is our immune system's most important component. The health of the intestine is vital to the health of our bodies, and in order to maintain the right balance inside the intestine, it’s important to regularly take probiotics – micro-organisms which affect the gastrointestinal system and the composition of intestinal microbiota.
One food that can be consumed every day and is rich in probiotics and live, active lactic cultures is yogurt. Preferably plain and sugar-free, yogurt is a precious ally when it comes to boosting the immune system.
From an early age, we’re taught that Vitamin C boosts the body’s ability to resist infections and seasonal bugs. Citrus fruits contain the highest content of Vitamin C, so regular consumption of these can consolidate the defenses of our, particularly when eaten fresh – and raw – in the winter months.
3. Green tea and antioxidants
Our resistance to infections can be improved by providing the body with anti-oxidants – chemical compounds which help us to defend ourselves from attacks by harmful substances and against oxidative stress. Their role is to fight against other molecules, such as free radicals.
Green tea is rich in flavonoids, a group of polyphenols with potent anti-oxidant properties. This is why green tea is considered one of the most powerful allies when it comes to strengthening our defenses and preventing illnesses. Furthermore, the substances present in green tea help to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides in the blood, thus promoting correct cardiovascular function.
4. All the goodness of fruits of the forest
Staying on the topic of antioxidants, the consumption of fresh fruits of the forest – particularly in the summer – contributes to the correct functioning of the immune system and combats the production of free radicals.
5. Garlic: naturally antibacterial
Thought not everybody is a fan, garlic has been known as one of the best friends of our immune systems since ancient times on account of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Garlic’s high sulfur content helps to fight against the growth of bacteria and contributes to keeping our intestine clean and healthy. Meanwhile, allicin has anti-microbial and antibiotic properties which make a significant contribution to boosting our immune defenses.
6. Nuts: a source of Omega 3
Omega 3s play a vital role in helping our bodies to stay healthy.
Precious allies of the cardiovascular system, Omega 3s are essential fatty acids which have a positive effect on triglycerides and blood pressure. The also combat inflammation and cell aging.
You can insert Omega 3s into your diet by eating more nuts, such as walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and pistachios, as well as oil seeds such as pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and linseeds, all of which are a great source of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
These foodstuffs, particularly sunflower seeds, almonds and hazelnuts, also contain high levels of Vitamin E, iron, calcium and zinc.
7. A portion of whole grains a day...
All whole grains, starting with barley, rice, wheat and spelt (including in flake form), provide a good level of sulfur amino acids. Consuming one or two portions per day (80-120g) provides a great boost to the immune system.
Thanks to their high fiber content, they promote good intestinal function, which is crucial to the health of the bacterial flora.
8. Pulses: nutritional superheroes
Pulses have been a basic foodstuff since the origins of human civilization – and they really do deserve their reputation as superfoods. They're a source of protein, carbohydrate and fiber and make sure we get all the vitamins and mineral salts we need.
Chickpeas, beans and lentils have great benefits for the immune system because they stimulate the production of anti-bodies thanks to lysine, an amino acid crucial to the health of our bodies.
9. Cacao: a wonder for the immune system
We all know about the positive effects of chocolate on our mood, but far fewer people know that it can boost our immune systems.
Cacao, from the theobroma cacao plant, is rich in flavonoids and thus has strong anti-oxidant properties which combat free radicals. Moreover, according to a study published by the British Journal of Nutrition, high doses of cacao help to boost T-helper cells, a subtype of lymphocytes which help to improve the way our immune systems adapt to infection mutations.
10. Carrots and orange power
Orange fruits and vegetables are rich in Vitamin A, an immunostimulant which helps our mucous membranes to provide better defense against infection. Of these, carrots are one of the best sources of beneficial substances. Their positive impact on the immune system is also explained by the high presence of Vitamin C.