Here is the final nutrition strategy that will help boost your immune health. Along with the previous four:
- Consume a diet that is adequate in overall calories, balanced among carbohydrate, protein and fat and rich in nutrient-dense foods.
- Swap unhealthy (saturated) fats in your diet for healthy (unsaturated) fats, which are both anti-inflammatory and immune boosting.
- Ensure adequate vitamin D intake for optimal immune strength.
- Consume foods with naturally occurring probiotics to improve gut health.
Flavor your foods with healthy herbs & spices
Many of the herbs and spices that we use to flavor our foods also have potent anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties. Garlic, onion, turmeric, ginger and cinnamon are a few herbs and spices that top the list.
- Garlic is not only known for it’s unique and pungent flavor contribution to many dishes, but also it’s role as a potent anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and cancer preventative food. Garlic’s numerous beneficial immune benefits are due to sulfur compounds and being a quality source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, selenium and manganese.
- Onions are not only a quality source of Vitamin C, but also one of the richest sources of flavonoids, especially quercetin, which has been shown to inhibit inflammation. Onions also contain the trace mineral selenium, which helps to initiate the body’s immune response.
- Turmeric, commonly found in curry spices and dishes, contains curcumin which gives the spice its distinct orange-yellow color. Curcumin is traditionally known for its anti-inflammatory effects but in recent decades has also been shown to be a potent immune-modulating agent. Pair with black pepper to enhance the absorption of curcumin.
- Ginger, more commonly known for its anti-nausea benefits, also boosts anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity within the body. Ginger is best consumed uncooked in it’s natural form, so aim to buy ginger whole and use a grater to include it in your dishes where possible.
- Cinnamon is another spice that is not only rich in antioxidants, but also a quality source of manganese, calcium, fiber and iron. The essential oils found within cinnamon have also been shown to boost the immune system since they have antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Wintertime doesn’t have to inevitably spell out cold and flu season. To boost your immune system and decrease your chances of getting sick aim to follow some of the tips above, and don’t forget to drink plenty of water and aim to get plenty of sleep each day too!
About the Author
Kristen Chang is a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics and triathlete, currently serving as the President of the Southwest Virginia Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. She works as the owner of the nutrition private practice Real Food For Fuel, LLC. and adjunct instructor for Virginia Tech and Radford University. Kristen lives in Blacksburg, VA with her husband, Jordan, and dogs Kenya and Sunny.