Our immune system is the first line of defense against sickness. In an article published by Prevention Magazine, a whole host of factors bombard our immunity on a daily basis, and some would surprise you such as a pessimistic attitude, not maintaining close touch with others, and even anger.
What we eat can boost our immune system. There are a number of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that are immensely helpful in replenishing and sustaining a strong immune system.
What to Look for
Here are the nutrients now considered the most effective in fighting illness and disease: vitamins A, C, E and K, carotenoids, lycopene, copper, iron, and selenium. Also of great importance are fiber, oils, and acids contained in many fruits and veggies.
Plus, our immune system is supported by colors. That's right. Fruits and vegetables with the brightest colors such as vegetable greens and peppers are richest in disease-fighting compounds.
Finally, while you can take a supplement, more and more research is now casting doubt on the effectiveness and even safety of pill forms of nutrients. Supplements are not fully absorbed by the body, and they may have far fewer benefits than we thought.
- The best fruits are without a doubt are citrus. They pack a powerful punch of vitamin C but are also rich in other essential vitamins, minerals, and compounds that all combine to boost the immune system. It’s important to note that the jury is still out about whether vitamin C can fight the common cold, or lessen its duration. But it’s a powerful antioxidant, nonetheless. Citrus fruits, from oranges and grapefruit to lemons, limes, and so many others are also abundant in vitamins A and E, fiber and flavonoids which are particularly important for a healthy immune system.
- Second, think berries. Red and black raspberries, blueberries and strawberries are not only rich in vitamin C, but also vitamin E. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that boosts the immune system by knocking out free radicals and oxidative stress. Berries rank among all foods whether fruit, vegetable or spice as having some of the highest antioxidant levels. Berries are also rich in phytonutrients that fight diseases and may even protect against some forms of cancer!
- Third, eat kiwi. Not only is this little wonder full of vitamin C, but it’s also rich in vitamins E and K. The vitamin C in kiwi fruit is richer than an orange! Vitamin K protects the body from certain diseases and may even help fight the development of certain cancers, as well as fend off osteoporosis. Kiwi fruit also provides an impressive amount of fiber, as well as potassium, copper, manganese, and folate.
- Tomatoes are really a fruit. The tomato is a superfood that’s rich in a variety of compounds that act as powerful antioxidants and immune boosters. With an impressive amount of vitamins A, C, E and K, tomatoes are also a rich source of minerals such as potassium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. But most impressive is the high quantity of lycopene, a compound which gives tomatoes their rich red color. Lycopene has been shown to boost the immune system.
- Eat more grapes. Besides packing a powerful punch of vitamins A, B-complex, C, E and K, grapes are rich in fiber and the minerals potassium, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus. Of particular interest is resveratrol. Studies indicate that this compound protects the heart from cardiovascular disease, has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties may increase longevity and acts as a potent boost for our immune system.
- Cruciferous veggies such as cabbage, kale, turnip, mustard greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and cauliflower are ‘superfoods’ that provides an enormous variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that boost immunity. They’re also a rich source of fiber. This group of veggies has been shown to act as anti-inflammatories and anti-carcinogens, to diminish DNA damage, and provide protection from viruses and bacterial infection. Carotenoids protect the body from disease by acting as powerful antioxidants.
- Sweet potatoes are another superfood that boosts immunity. They contain an exceptionally high amount of vitamin A, as well as vitamin C and B-complex compounds including a high amount of B-6. They're a rich source of immune-boosting fiber and beta-carotene. Sweet potatoes also protect the body from diabetes and other diseases such as IBS and colitis and prevent the harmful buildup of heavy metals in our system.
- Mushrooms are an especially important veggie to consider when seeking immune-boosting foods. First, they’re rich in vitamins C, D, B-6 and B-12, and other B-complex compounds which are particularly beneficial to the immune system. These fat-free and low-calorie vegetables also contain the immune-boosting minerals selenium, calcium, iron, and potassium. Mushrooms also contain long-chain polysaccharides, which have been demonstrated to greatly improve and sustain the immune system. Of special note are shitake mushrooms which have been shown to protect the immune system, fight and minimize colds and flu, and even assist in combating cancer tumor development!
- "Eat your spinach" is a phrase we’ve heard since childhood and science confirms that mom knew what she was talking about. Spinach provides a wealth of vitamins, minerals, B-complex compounds and other nutrients rivaled by few other foods. Vitamins A, C, E, and K plus the minerals iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc, all combine to boost immunity like no other food.
- Carrots are another vegetable we were often encouraged to eat and for good reason. Quite simply, carrots are another superfood. This antioxidant-rich root vegetable is exceptionally abundant in immune-boosting vitamins and minerals. This exceptionally low-calorie, low-fat and low-sodium veggie is high in fiber, which is especially important for a strong immune system.
So there you have it—the top immune-boosting fruits and veggies based on the latest research for our juices and smoothies especially during cold and flu season!