11 Superfoods For Your Immune System

by | Nov 13, 2020 | EATING/FASTING

Diet can impact the immune system, says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS RDN, author of Skinny Liver. Studies show that high consumption of ultra-processed, high-sugar foods may pose negative effects, while an eating plan based on whole grains and fruits and vegetables may enhance immunity, she explains. [1] [2] The eleven whole foods we’ve highlighted below are particularly beneficial when it comes to fighting illness and disease.

Superfoods For Your Immune System

Turmeric

Most commonly known as the mainstay of curry powder, this bright yellow spice is rich in curcumin, a polyphenol. According to research, curcumin may benefit the immune system, says Jaclyn Tolentino, DO, Parsley Health in an article she wrote for the practice. Consider adding turmeric-rich curries to your diet, or sprinkling ground turmeric on everything from oatmeal to steamed milk. If supplementing, Dr. Tolentino recommends taking curcumin combined with piperine, the active compound found in black pepper. As Healthline explains, piperine boost’s curcumin’s bioavailability.

Salmon

The fatty fish supplies omega-3 fatty acids, “an essential dietary fat” associated with reducing inflammation and cancer risk, says Dr. Tolentino. Salmon is also rich in Vitamin D—and a deficiency in this micronutrient is associated with increased susceptibility to infection, says Dr. Robin Berzin, MD and Founder and CEO, Parsley Health, in an article for the practice. [7] [8] Try grilling or broiling and serving over salad, for lunch; or sauteed greens, for dinner. Squeeze with fresh lemon for brightness and Vitamin C, the latter of which might shorten the duration of a cold, according to Kirkpatrick.

Tea

Not only can hot tea soothe a sore or scratchy throat—epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a compound found in the beverage, might help protect the body from cancers and harmful bacteria, writes Dr. Tolentino in her article. For a super-powered variety, try the powdered green tea, matcha. One study found that “the concentration of EGCG available from drinking matcha is 137 times greater than the amount of EGCG available from China Green Tips green tea, and at least three times higher than the largest literature value for other green teas.” [9]

Cruciferous veggies

Thanks to a chemical called sulforaphane, these foods might “activate certain antioxidant genes and enzymes in our immune cells,” writes Dr. Tolentino, adding that they could also help “eradicate carcinogens.” Try Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, kale, collards, watercress, radishes, or cauliflower.

Dark leafy greens

Dark greens, like arugula, spinach, Swiss chard, and mustard greens, may help immune cells function properly, says Dr. Tolentino. Try incorporating arugula in a salad or pesto; sauteing spinach with garlic or blending it into a smoothie; or adding greens to soups and stews.

Fermented foods, like yogurt

Modern farming practices have denuded our soil of some “good” bacteria, explains the Parsley Health medical team in an article about supplementation. To compensate for our reduced exposure to this immune-boosting microbiota, consider adding sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, miso, or yogurt to your diet. [10] With the latter, look for products with “live and active cultures.”

Oysters

As with Vitamin C, zinc may shorten the duration of a cold, says Kirkpatrick. Oysters are particularly rich in this mineral, which—according to WebMD—boosts white blood cells that are part of the immune system response. Also try mussels, lobster, and crab. [11]

Sunflower seeds

Vitamin E helps to minimize the damaging effects of free radicals, says Dr. Tolentino. A mere one-ounce serving of these seeds provides 66% of the daily recommended dose, according to Healthline. [12] Try adding to granola or using to top cereal or sliced fresh fruit.

Mushrooms

These vegetables are high in glutathione, an antioxidant, which—according to Medical News Today—“helps [to] neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress that can damage the body’s cells.” [13] According to Dr. Tolentino, most varieties known for their medicinal properties are consumed in powder form. For instance, Turkey Tail might stimulate the immune system and help fight cancer, thanks to a compound called polysaccharide-K, says Healthline. [14]

Ginger

A rhizome used frequently in Asian cooking, ginger has anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. According to a study reviewing current evidence regarding its health benefits, it has the potential to treat cancer and infectious diseases. Steep slices of fresh ginger in boiling water for a tisane, or saute with garlic and green onion when making stir-fries. [15]

Poultry

There’s some truth to the old wives’ tale that chicken soup can promote healing. Not only is it warm and comforting. The dish is also rich in Vitamin B-6, which helps with the formation of red blood cells, says Healthline. [16]

Read More:

[1] Read About Kristin Kirkpatrick
https://www.kristinkirkpatrick.com

[2] Skinny Liver
https://www.amazon.com/Skinny-Liver-Program-Prevent-Epidemic/dp/0738219169#ace-2342880709

[3] Parsley Health
https://www.parsleyhealth.com/team/jaclyn-tolentino/ 

[4] Parsley Health
https://www.parsleyhealth.com

[5] Food Boosts Immune Systems
https://www.parsleyhealth.com/blog/foods-boost-immune-system/ 

[6] Why Turmeric and Black Pepper Is a Powerful Combination
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/turmeric-and-black-pepper 

[7] Robin Berzin, MD
https://www.parsleyhealth.com/team/robin-berzin/

[8] Chronic Disease, Coronavirus, and Doctor’s Orders for Boosting Your Immunity
https://www.parsleyhealth.com/blog/coronavirus-chronic-disease/ 

[9] Determination Of Catechins In Matcha Green Tea By Micellar Electrokinetic Chromatography
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14518774/

[10] 6 Best Supplements to Boost Your Health and Immunity https://www.parsleyhealth.com/blog/best-supplements/

[11] 16 Foods That Boost Your Immune System
https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/ss/slideshow-immune-foods

[12] 20 Foods That Are High in Vitamin E
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods-high-in-vitamin-e

[13] 4 Natural Ways To Increase Glutathione
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326196

[14] 6 Mushrooms That Act as Turbo-Shots for Your Immune System
https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/best-medicinal-mushrooms-to-try#for-cardio-health

[15] Anti-Oxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Ginger in Health and Physical Activity: Review of Current Evidence
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665023/

[16] 15 Foods That Boost the Immune System
https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/foods-that-boost-the-immune-system