Now more than ever, there has been a growing interest in learning ways to stay healthy and supporting a strong immune system. This is important at any age, but especially for an aging senior who is at a greater risk of suffering more severe symptoms from illness. Of course, food is not the only contributing factor to a strong immune system- things like getting enough sleep and lowering your stress levels have been proven to boost immunity as well. However, nutrient-dense foods contain essential vitamins and minerals that help all systems in the body function optimally. In this article, we will be highlighting a few immune-boosting superfoods that can easily be incorporated into your diet on a daily basis.
There’s good reason that we eat chicken noodle soup when we’re sick- researchers believe that the amino acids in broth help reduce inflammation and boost immunity. A classic bone broth recipe includes beef or chicken bones, vegetables, water and other herbs for flavor. This is meant to be simmered slowly for 10-24 hours and used in cooking or even enjoyed in a mug! Bone broth is low in calories, but high in protein and minerals. Not only is it an immune booster, but it is also a fantastic source of glycine (for joint health) and has proven to be healing to the gut if you suffer from conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) or leaky gut. If you don’t have time to make it homemade, no problem- there are plenty of healthy, pre-made options that you can buy from the grocery store.
Garlic contains compounds that help the body fight infection by stimulating the cells that regulate the immune system. It has been used as an antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal agent. Fortunately, garlic is a tasty addition to any soup, pasta dish, sauce or broth- so it’s an easy addition to your diet.
Regularly consuming foods high in vitamin C, such as oranges, tangerines, grapefruit and even kiwifruit have been shown to help increase white blood cell production, which is essential for fighting infections and viruses in the body. These fruits also contain antioxidants that help fight free radicals in the body, which can contribute to low immunity, cancer and even heart disease.
One of the most important minerals for immune function is zinc, which is found in the highest concentrations in foods such as oysters, crab, clams and mussels. Those who have low levels of zinc are statistically more prone to infections and prolonged symptoms of illness. While zinc is commonly available as an oral supplement you can find at your local pharmacy, the best absorption is through bio-available foods.
Ginger is great for the body overall, as it contains anti-inflammatory properties that not only support our immune system, but aid in digestion as well. In fact, several studies have shown that ginger fights inflammation in those who suffer from conditions like arthritis and even asthma. In addition, it contains antiviral and antibacterial properties, so not only will it prevent illness, but also has healing properties if you do fall ill. Ginger is commonly used for cooking, but can also be enjoyed in a cup of tea.
Root Vegetables & Leafy Greens
Colorful foods such as carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes and squash contain an essential vitamin called beta-carotone, which converts to Vitamin A. Vitamin A assists your body in warding off toxins, including viruses.
Probiotic foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi and pickled vegetables contain live cultures that stimulate the immune system to fight off illness. The amount of “good bacteria” in your digestive system determines how nutrients are processed and absorbed in the body, which makes this essential for immunity.