Winter brings with it a plethora of ailments, especially the much-dreaded cold and flu—but you can avoid them by boosting your immune system. Include these five foods in your daily diet to build immunity and keep the nasty bugs at bay.
Citrus foods such as lemons, oranges, grapefruits and kiwis are rich in vitamin C, which is known for its antioxidant properties. Research suggests that vitamin C also improves immune response by stimulating the production of white blood cells, which recognize and destroy any invading infections. Berries such as blueberries, goji berries, acai berries, raspberries and elderberries are all rich in antioxidants and help combat inflammation. Watermelons are rich in glutathione, an antioxidant known to strengthen the immune system.
Vegetables offer a host of essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. For eg, mushrooms have high levels of antioxidants, vitamin B and the mineral, selenium. Studies have shown that certain mushrooms (shiitake, maitake and reishi) increase the production and activity of white blood cells.
Leafy greens like spinach and cabbage also exhibit immune-strengthening properties. Spinach is not only packed with vitamin C, but also beta-carotene which helps increase infection-fighting cells.
Winter-friendly root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots and beetroots are loaded with vitamin A and beta-carotene. They also help in maintaining the mucous membrane lining the skin which acts as a first line of defense against infections.
Another superfood packed with immune-strengthening properties is broccoli. Easy to find in your grocery store, broccoli is rich in vitamins A, C and E as well as glutathione. The best way to eat it is to cook it as little as possible or not at all.
Experts suggest that grains such as oats and barley, which are rich in beta-glucan, can help keep your immune system healthy. Beta-glucan is a type of fiber known to have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, which speeds up wound healing.
4. Meat & Shellfish
Beef, turkey, crabs and oysters are all rich in zinc, a prime immune-boosting mineral. Zinc plays a vital role in the development of white blood cells, which are key in fighting off infections. Shellfish such as oysters, lobsters and crabs also contain a high level of selenium, which stimulates the production of cytokines (proteins that help clear viral infections). Fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and can ward off inflammation and protect against respiratory diseases.
5. Spices & Herbs
Garlic is a wonder herb with a wide range of benefits. The immune-boosting properties of garlic can be attributed to its active component, allicin. Turmeric contains a high concentration of curcumin, which helps in building immunity as well as fights cold and flu.
These foods, when accompanied with a healthy, balanced diet and adequate exercise, can help lower your risk of catching common winter bugs.