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Top 10 Immune-Boosting Foods

The first line of defense against infection is your diet. For optimal immune function and pathogen resistance, a variety of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are required. Fill your plate with these nutrient-dense, immune-boosting foods for the best defense:

YOGURT

Rich in probiotics, good microorganisms that protect the body from viruses and other infections while also enhancing the immune response. It’s also high in selenium, zinc, and other anti-inflammatory minerals; certain varieties even include vitamin D.

ON YOUR PLATE:

Choose plain or low-sugar brands with the “live and active cultures” seal; stay away from brands that have been pasteurized or heat-treated after culturing, as this kills beneficial bacteria. If you don’t eat dairy, probiotics can be found in kimchi, tempeh, miso, kombucha, water kefir, and traditionally fermented sauerkraut.

BRAZIL NUTS

One of the best nutritional sources of selenium, a mineral that enhances the body’s resilience to infection and supports immune function. One Brazil nut includes up to 90 micrograms of selenium, which is roughly 165 percent of the daily intake, as well as zinc and other elements that support your immune system.

ON YOUR PLATE:

Because Brazil nuts are high in selenium, don’t consume too many of them at once to avoid poisoning. Tuna, halibut, sardines, steak, poultry, cottage cheese, and brown rice are also high in selenium if you don’t eat nuts.

APPLES

Excellent source of quercetin, an antioxidant that boosts immune function, reduces inflammation and fights infections. Apples are also high in vitamin C and many potent antioxidants that help reduce inflammation and boost immunity.

ON YOUR PLATE:

Choose organic kinds and eat the peels because quercetin is concentrated in apple peels (but the flesh is high in vitamin C). Antioxidants may be stronger in older varieties, or heirloom apples, than in newer cultivars, such as Braeburn or Golden Delicious, and quercetin concentration is higher earlier in the season. Red onions, blueberries, cranberries, broccoli, and green tea also contain quercetin.

SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS

Rich in Polysaccharides, substances that help immune cells function, manage inflammation, and increase the body’s ability to combat invaders. People who consume shiitake mushrooms on a daily basis increased their immunity dramatically in one research. Shiitake mushrooms are also high in zinc and other immune-supporting elements.

ON YOUR PLATE: 

Fresh shiitake mushrooms with thick, somewhat domed tops should be sautéed or added to soups and stews; some researchers suggest that cooking enhances their polysaccharide content greatly. Polysaccharides are abundant in medicinal mushrooms such as reishi, maitake, and turkey tail. Polysaccharides and other immune-boosting chemicals are abundant in cremini mushrooms, portabellas, and white button mushrooms.

STRAWBERRIES

Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, is abundant in strawberries. Vitamin C regulates inflammation and improves numerous components of the immune system, and deficiency has been related to weakened immunity and increased infection susceptibility. Anthocyanins and ellagitannins, antioxidants found in strawberries, protect against free radical damage, control inflammation, and boost immunological function.

ON YOUR PLATE:

To get the most vitamin C and antioxidants, choose the freshest strawberries available. According to certain studies, organically cultivated strawberries and freeze-dried strawberries have more antioxidants. Vitamin C is also found in red and green peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, kiwi, citrus fruits, and Brussels sprouts.

OYSTERS

High in Zinc, a potent antioxidant that supports the development of infection-fighting white blood cells and can defend against viruses; even a slight zinc shortage can raise the risk of infection. Oysters also include additional minerals that aid immunity, such as vitamin B12, selenium, and vitamin D.

ON YOUR PLATE:

Buy fresh oysters from a seafood supplier or fish market and consume them within 24 hours. For added convenience, opt for canned oysters. While they’re high in zinc (approximately 300 percent of the daily value in 6 medium oysters), they’re not the only source. If oysters aren’t your style, other sources of zinc include red meat, poultry, tofu, hemp seeds, chickpeas, yogurt, oatmeal, and shiitake mushrooms.

SARDINES

Loaded with EPA and DHA, and omega-3 fats to help reduce inflammation and boost immune health. They’re also high in B vitamins, vitamin E, vitamin D, and other immune-boosting minerals.

ON YOUR PLATE:

Look for sardines that are packed in water, and choose bone-in varieties for added calcium, which is good for the immune system. Omega-3s can also be found in salmon, herring, mackerel, and tuna. Walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds are high in ALA omega-3 fats, which the body converts to EPA and DHA if you don’t eat animal products.

SWEET POTATOES

Rich in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that helps the immune system work properly. It’s subsequently turned into vitamin A, which boosts immune cell function and boosts overall immune health. Other carotenoids that directly influence the immune response, as well as vitamin C, B vitamins, fiber, and other elements, are also found in immune-boosting foods like sweet potatoes.

ON YOUR PLATE:

According to many studies, fats aid in the absorption of beta-carotene and other nutrients, thus serve cooked sweet potatoes with olive oil or other healthy fats to maximize nutrient absorption. Beta-carotene is also found in carrots, butternut squash, apricots, red bell peppers, and dark, leafy greens. Vitamin A is found in animal products such as liver, salmon, tuna, goat cheese, and cheddar cheese.

GREEN TEA

Rich in antioxidants, particularly epigallocatechin (EGCg), a potent molecule that protects against viruses, boosts immune cell function and strengthens the immune system. Green tea also includes L-theanine, an anti-inflammatory substance.

ON YOUR PLATE: 

Choose organic green tea and matcha—a powder produced from finely ground young tea leaves—for the highest concentration of healthful chemicals. Matcha’s catechin content was found to be 137 times higher than that of other forms of green tea in one study. EGCg is predominantly found in green tea, although it can also be found in small quantities, along with other catechins, in black tea, red wine, blackberries, cherries, pears, cherries, and purple sweet potatoes.

ALMONDS

Rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that modulates immune-cell activity and inflammation, boosts immune response and lowers the risk of infection, is abundant in this food. Almonds also include zinc, selenium, and other minerals that help the immune system function better.

ON YOUR PLATE:

To prevent additional fats and salt, opt for dry-roasted almonds. Stick to organic raw almonds or almond butter if you’re buying them; regular raw almonds are often pasteurized with chemicals. Hazelnuts and Pine Nuts are also rich in vitamin E. If you don’t consume nuts, sunflower seeds, spinach, avocado, wheat germ, Swiss chard, butternut squash, and broccoli are good alternatives.

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