There's no quick fix for a healthy immune system, but a good diet goes a long way. Here are seven immunity-boosting foods you should start eating to keep your immune system shipshape.January 15, 2021 1:46 pm March 26, 2020 12:09 pm
Consistency is key
Your immune system is one of the most impressive and complex feats of biology we know of. Capable of detecting and destroying invaders, flagging other cells for help, and activating organs and tissues in a battle against invading bugs, it’s crucial to our survival and to our wellbeing.
When we’re feeling a bit run down, or approaching a stressful period, it’s natural to look for easy ways to boost your immune system’s capabilities.
Unfortunately, there’s no seven-day plan or crash diet that can bolster your immunity. But the food you eat and the lifestyle you adopt can make a huge difference, if you do it consistently.
Here, we’ve come up with seven fantastic foods known for their immunity-boosting properties. Use them as inspiration for a healthy diet that will not only support your immune system, but improve your overall wellbeing.
1. Foods high in vitamin C: bergamot and sea buckthorn
Vitamin C tops the list of immunity-boosting natural substances, aiding many different functions of both the adaptive and innate immune systems. It’s antimicrobial and acts as a powerful antioxidant, fighting the damage caused in your body by free radicals. Meanwhile, people who have a vitamin C deficiency tend to be more susceptible to infections.(1)
Best of all? You can get vitamin C through your diet, with no need for supplements. Oranges and lemons are famously full of vitamin C, but the rest of the citrus family also has a lot to offer. If you’re looking for a change, try our Organic Bergamot Juice. Bergamot is a small citrus fruit that looks a bit like a small, round lemon. In terms of flavour, it is like a cross between bitter orange and lemon; sharp and tangy, with characteristic citrus sweetness.
Alternatively, you can source your vitamin C from berries. Throw a handful of blueberries in with your breakfast bowl, or try beautifully bright orange sea buckthorn. It may not be as well known as other berries, but it packs a punch when it comes to vitamin C. Per 100g, sea buckthorn can contain up to fifteen times the vitamin C of an orange.
What’s more, these tangy berries are also a source of rare omega-7 fatty acids, which contribute to eye, skin and mucous membrane health. One of our zingy sea buckthorn shots makes a great natural alternative to your daily vitamin C tablet.
2. Black seed oil (nigella sativa)
Black seed oil comes from black cumin seeds (nigella sativa). While you might be familiar with them in cooking, you may not know the impressive health benefits these little seeds have to offer.
Intensely antimicrobial, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral, cold-pressed black seed oil has been used for generations. Traditional medicine recommends it to treat all sorts of ailments. The oil is so revered that it even found a place in King Tutankhamun’s tomb.(2)
Black seed oil contains thymoquinone, a powerful phytochemical compound which may offer profound healing properties. Researchers have also suggested that black seed oil may be an ‘immune modulator’, meaning it can restore, activate or boost normal immune function..(3) → View Related Products
3. Medicinal mushrooms
Ancient China, Mexico, Egypt, Greece, and Rome all turned to medicinal mushrooms for immune health. This group of mushrooms includes oyster, shiitake, turkey tail, royal agaricus, maitake, and reishi mushrooms among many others.
Research has looked widely into the incredible bioactive compounds that these mushrooms offer us. These include beta-glucans, powerful polysaccharides which increase immunity. They work by boosting macrophages, enhancing the complement system, and supporting killer cells, among other things.(4)
Moreover, mushrooms offer a number of valuable nutrients including selenium and potassium. All in all, these fungi offer a number of anti-microbial compounds that are not easily found elsewhere.(5)
Not sure which mushroom is right for you? We’ve harnessed the immunity-boosting power of eight medicinal mushrooms in our Immunity Mushroom Blend.
4. Probiotics for gut health
We are only now beginning to understand more about the delicate, complex relationship between the gut microbiome and the immune system.
The rich variety of beneficial bacteria contained in our guts keep us in balance. If these bacteria are not nourished, researchers think that we may be more at risk of autoimmune disorders.(6) These disorders, which include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and MS, occur when your body mistakenly attacks itself.
Including fermented probiotics in your diet is a wonderful way of helping to regulate your gut microbiome. While ‘fermented probiotic’ sounds quite technical, you might be surprised to find out how many of your favourite foods match this description. Sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and miso will all feed the healthy microbes in your gut. This is good news, as a wider variety of gut flora will help keep your immune system in good working order.
"The rich variety of beneficial bacteria contained in our guts keep us in balance. If these bacteria are not nourished, researchers think that we may be more at risk of autoimmune disorders."
5. Raw garlic, fresh ginger, and Manuka honey
This classic combination is backed by experience, grandmothers – and science.
Aliicin is the main ingredient in garlic that gives it its health-promoting and antibacterial properties. You will get more allicin from your garlic if you crush or chop your garlic. However, be sure to use your garlic straight after you prepare it.(7)
Meanwhile, a lab study suggested that Manuka honey was almost as effective as antiviral drugs when used against the flu.(8) However, it is important to note that this refers to authentic Manuka honey of medium to high grade, which is difficult to source. If you are interested in sourcing honey for its healing properties rather than its flavour, make sure you look for this grade of honey.
Many grandmothers from cultures around the world recommend ginger to ease a stomach ache. However, scientists have investigated the anti-inflammatory properties of fresh ginger.(9) Even more reason to make yourself a fresh ginger tea!
Even better, these ingredients seem to bring out the best in one another when used together with lemon in various combinations.(10)
6. Foods rich in zinc and selenium for your immune system
Maintaining a healthy, varied diet filled with all sorts of nutrients is important for the immune system. In essence, you should aim for the rainbow; an entire colour palette of whole foods, fruits and vegetables is needed to maintain the best immune defences.
However, there are some elements that are especially important.
Macrophages and T-lymphocytes are both white blood cells which play a crucial role in the immune system. Both depend on selenium to function properly. In addition, Brazil nuts are a rich source of selenium.
Zinc is also essential for optimal operation of your immune defences and indeed for many basic cell functions. Pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc.(11)
Here we go round the mulberry bush – looking for immunity-boosting berries! Surprisingly, for such an underrated fruit, mulberries may have serious benefits for our immune health.
For starters, mulberry is anti-viral, antimicrobial and anti-bacterial.(13)
Moreover, the nutrients in mulberries are involved in both cell-mediated immunity (e.g. the action of phagocytes and T-lymphocytes) and humoral immunity. The latter involves ‘macromolecules’ like antibodies. They are particularly valuable to phagocytes, which are a type of white blood cell which eliminates intruding germs by engulfing them and breaking them down. They also play a role in other cell functions related to your overall immunity.(12)
The magnificent seven
While our seven immunity-boosting foods are a worthy addition to your pantry, eating them on their own won’t give you a strong and healthy immune system.
Our best advice is to adopt a healthy diet which contains lots of whole grains and a rainbow of fresh fruits and vegetables. As a result, you’ll have the best chance of getting all the healthy nutrients you need to keep your immune system happy.
And, if you’re not sure how to transform these ingredients into delicious dishes, check out our recipes below. Bright, fresh and full of flavour, they’ll boost your immunity and your mood!
Delicious whole foods and recipes for your immune system
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