Eat for Immunity
Eat these 10 immune-boosting foods to keep your immune system strong and healthy in the months ahead.
With this year’s flu and other viruses lingering and in some cases increasing as we move into spring, it is more important than ever that we do what we can to give our bodies the best chance of fighting off any diseases which come our way.
When your body comes into contact with a pathogen (bacteria, virus or other microorganisms which can cause disease), it triggers a response from the immune system.
Eating a healthy diet is thought to help the immune system function properly, by giving the body the nutrients it needs for optimum health.
Some foods are thought to be particularly helpful in this sense, as they contain high amounts of crucial vitamins and other key nutrients.
Here are our top ten suggestions for foods which can help to keep you healthy throughout the year.
Blueberries are extremely high in antioxidants, particularly the flavonoid anthocyanin which gives them their blue/purple colour.
Anthocyanins are reported to help lower blood pressure, as well as having anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, making them a great option when trying to keep healthy.
Their vitamin C content is also impressive, with 1 cup of berries providing 25% of your RDI, making them a great choice to support your immune system.
Try our Sugar Free Blueberry Muffins for a delicious and healthy way to enjoy these super berries.
When it comes to cold and flu-busting fruits, citrus fruits are likely the first things that spring to mind, and for good reason.
They are packed with vitamin C, one of the most important nutrients for your immune system, as well as containing a variety of other vitamins and antioxidants.
One medium orange contains your entire daily recommended intake of vitamin C. You actually find more vitamin C in the peel than in the flesh of the fruit, so be sure to add some lemon, lime or orange peel to your dishes for a health boost.
You can also add oranges to your green smoothies, and a squeeze of lemon or lime to a huge variety of savoury dishes, from fish to fajitas.
The bioactive compound in turmeric called Curcumin has strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It is thought that curcumin can increase the action of T-cells, creating a more capable and stronger immune system.
Fresh and dried turmeric are widely available, and can be added to curries and soups to give spice and warmth, or simply add a teaspoon of turmeric to some nut milk with honey and a cinnamon stick, heat through and enjoy a soothing, immune-boosting drink.
Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, the chemical which gives them their bright orange colour. Beta Carotene is an antioxidant which converts to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is important for reducing inflammation and enhancing immune function.
Sweet potatoes also contain vitamin C, which can reduce the length of illness with the common cold. Our Vegan Loaded Sweet Potatoes are a great way to enjoy this nutritious comfort food, with added vitamin C from the kale too.
Both green and black tea are rich in antioxidants which aid your immune system by destroying free radicals. They also contain a polyphenol called cachectin, which has been shown to kill certain viruses.
Green tea is particularly high in l-theanine which can improve immunity by regulating the secretion of immune cytokines. Green tea can be enjoyed as a drink and both caffeinated and decaf versions contain the same health benefits.
Almonds are very high in vitamin E which, as well as being great for the skin, is known to support the immune system. A study has also shown that almond skins improve the ability of the white blood cells to detect viruses, meaning almonds could be crucial to immune health.
Almonds make a great snack either raw, or roasted in the oven with a little sea salt. They also make a great addition to salads for some extra crunch.
Bell peppers are a great source of vitamin C, with one red pepper providing more than 200% of the recommended daily intake, making them a great vegetable in our quest to support the immune system.
Peppers are also rich in B vitamins, including B6, which supports chemical reactions in the immune system.
Red, orange and yellow bell peppers tend to have more nutrients, and also taste sweeter than their slightly bitter green counterparts, so are great to enjoy raw as part of a salad, or cooked quickly in the pan, like in these delicious Vegetable Fajitas.
Garlic has long been considered a crucial food in the fight against cold and flu, as well as reducing the risk of heart disease and high cholesterol.
The compound which gives garlic its distinctive smell, allicin, is also responsible for boosting the function of white blood cells, resulting in an improved immune system.
Garlic also has antibacterial and antiviral properties that may help fight bacterial and viral infections.
Garlic is so versatile and adds flavour to virtually any dish. Aim to eat two to three cloves per day to make the most of its immune boosting properties.
Like all leafy greens, spinach is packed with antioxidants which can help protect against cancer, and heart disease, as well as providing a welcome boost to the immune system.
Like sweet potatoes, spinach contains beta carotene, as well as other carotenoids such as lutein. Spinach is also a good source of vitamin E, another antioxidant which supports immune health.
Fresh spinach has a mild flavour with no bitterness, and is therefore perfect to include in salads. It is also very easy to hide in sauces, and should easily go undetected by fussy eaters!
Pomegranates are a delicious addition to your diet and are packed with immune boosting nutrients. They are high in polyphenols, a group of antioxidants which remove free radicals and reduce inflammation.
They are also rich in vitamin C which supports cellular function within the immune system.
Pomegranate seeds can be eaten on their own as a snack, or added to salads. Our Superfood Salad combines a number of immune boosting foods, so is a great choice for both your body and your tastebuds!
What are your go-to foods to keep you fighting fit? Let us know in the comments below!
Billy and Elaine