Make these immune system-boosting foods a part of your diet for added protection against potential viruses, disease and other invader.
Berries are a good source of a group of phytonutrients called bioflavenoids, which aid the immune system by protecting the cells of the body against environmental pollutants.
• Elderberries have the highest concentration of specific flavonoids called anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant. Elderberries also have been studied to see if they may prevent the flu virus from invading healthy cells' membranes. (note - don't eat raw elderberries, instead use a commercially prepared extract or syrup or cook to create your own tincture)
• Blueberries, nature's only 'blue' food, are a rich source of polyphenols, potent antioxidants that include phenolics acids, tannins, flavonols and anthocyanins. And, like cranberries, blueberries appear to fight off urinary-tract infections by preventing E. coli bacteria from sticking to cells in the urinary tract.
• Pomegranate fruit seeds appear to enhance immune function as well as help keep blood lipid levels healthy.
Green tea is a great source of L-theanine, an amino acid that triggers the release of germ-fighting compounds from your T-cells. In one study, tea drinkers transformed their immune system T cells into "super cells" that pumped out 10 times more cold and flu virus-fighting interferon - proteins that defend against infection
Green tea is also loaded with powerful antioxidants, which may protect against cell damage that leads to aging and help prevent heart disease and cancer.
Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, which tops the list of immune boosters for many reasons. There has been more research about the immune-boosting effects of Vitamin C than perhaps any other nutrient. Vitamin C increases the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies and increases levels of interferon, the antibody that coats cell surfaces, preventing the entry of viruses.
Lean beef, poultry and pork are good sources of Zinc, which helps white blood cells and other antibodies reproduce more quickly, and it makes them more aggressive so they're better at fighting off infections. Zinc also prevents bacterial and viral growth directly, either by poisoning the infectious agents or encouraging immune reaction at the site of infection.
Zinc deficiency, even when moderate, can depress immune system function. It is one of the most common nutritional shortfalls among American adults, especially for vegetarians.
Of all fats, omega-3 fatty acids, or fish oils - found in fish such as Pacific salmon - created the highest blood levels of flu-fighting T cells and interferon-gamma cytokines in a British study of 150 people. The omega-3s act as immune boosters by increasing the activity of phagocytes, the white blood cells that eat up bacteria. Essential fatty acids also protect the body against damage from over-reactions to infection.
Different varieties of nuts contain immune-boosting minerals:
• Brazil nuts are high in selenium, a mineral that increases natural killer cells and mobilizes cancer-fighting cells. One study showed an increased immune cell production of proteins called cytokines, which help clear flu viruses out of your body, in those who had adequate selenium intakes.
• Almonds are a good source of vitamin E, which stimulates the production of natural killer cells – cells that seek out and destroy germs and cancer cells. Vitamin E enhances the production of B-cells, the immune cells that produce antibodies that destroy bacteria. Vitamin E supplementation may also reverse some of the decline in immune response commonly seen in aging.
Yogurt that contains live cultures rich in lactobacillus and bifidibacteria lactis fight bacteria that cause diseases and raise your white blood cell count.
Acidophilus actively fights disease-causing bacteria like salmonella and shigella-caused dysentery, it helps rid various types of diarrhea and it even helps fight viral infections.
Bifidobacterium lactis has been shown to boost immune system response in the elderly. Researchers found that those who ate the bacteria had higher counts of immune T cells, helper cells and killer cells in their bloodstreams, which all help fight off sickly cells in the body.
Many yogurts also contain vitamin D, which scientists are now focusing on as a critical factor in immune function. In a recent study, people with the lowest blood vitamin D levels reported having significantly more recent colds or cases of the flu.
Sweet potatoes and carrots
Carrots and sweet potatoes contain high amounts of beta carotene/vitamin A, a powerful phytonutrient. Beta carotene increases the number of infection-fighting cells, natural killer cells, and helper T-cells, as well as being a powerful antioxidant that mops up excess free radicals that accelerate aging.. It has also been shown that beta carotene supplements can increase the production of T-cell lymphocytes and natural killer cells and can enhance the ability of the natural killer cells to attack cancer cells.
Rich in compounds called beta glucans, mushrooms boost the production of NK-cells and T-cells in your body to help prevent infections. Studies also show that mushrooms increase the production and activity of white blood cells, making them more aggressive – a good thing when you have an infection.
Shiitake and maitake mushrooms appear to pack the biggest immunity punch.
Oats and barley
These grains contain beta-glucan, a type of fiber with antimicrobial and antioxidant capabilities more potent than echinacea. When animals eat this compound, they're less likely to contract influenza and even anthrax; in humans, it boosts immunity, speeds wound healing and may help antibiotics work better.
This flavorful member of the onion family is a powerful immune booster that stimulates the multiplication of infection-fighting white cells, boosts natural killer cell activity, and increases the efficiency of antibody production. Garlic contains the active ingredient allicin, which fights infection and bacteria. In one study, researchers gave 146 people either a placebo or a garlic extract for 12 weeks; the garlic takers were two-thirds less likely to catch a cold.
While you should aim to include a variety of these foods in your daily or weekly diet, it can be very difficult to get enough of each of these foods on a regular basis to provide the recommended amount of the immune-boosting compounds they supply. If you have a predisposition to a weakened immune system, and are prone to frequent infections, colds and flu, you may also want to take a supplement specifically designed for the immune system for increased protection.
The Pathway to Healing Immunity Support contains 23 immune-balancing nutrients, herbs, extracts and concentrates to achieve optimal immune function. When combined with Basic Nutrient Support, all of the above highlighted compounds can be obtained in a convenient, daily comprehensive program.