These unprecedented times brought about by Covid-19 have been a shock to the system, to say the least. With all this extra time spent indoors, now is the perfect time to make changes to your diet and take extra care of your health.
Easier said than done, of course. However, by adding foods rich in vitamins and minerals to your diet, you can give your immune system a boost to stay well and help fight infection.
Read on for 10 of the best foods that help strengthen your immune system.
Red bell pepper
Vitamin C is the most sought-after vitamin when it comes to fighting common illnesses such as colds, sore throats and flu. This is because it strengthens your immune system by encouraging the production of white blood cells – essential to protecting your body against infection.
Unfortunately, unlike most mammals, we aren’t capable of producing or storing our vitamin C – even though it is essential to our health. Therefore, we need to consume the recommended daily amount: 75 mg for women; 90 mg for men.
Red bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C and the perfect alternative for people wanting to avoid sugary fruits.
They also happen to be a delicious vegetable that complements an array of dishes. Our favorites include baked eggs in stuffed peppers; beef or tofu stir-fry; sausage and pepper pasta; and chicken fajitas.
Just remember that stir-frying and roasting are the best ways to preserve a bell pepper’s nutrients; much better than boiling or steaming, according to a study.
Most citrus fruits are full of vitamin C. From oranges and grapefruit to lemons and limes; there is plenty of variety for adding citrusy goodness to drinks and meals. A few squeezes a day may keep the doctor away.
Although small, this sweet and tangy fruit packs a ton of flavor and essential nutrients such as folate, potassium, vitamin K, vitamin C. Kiwi also contains antioxidants and fiber.
We know, you’ve probably heard it all before from your parents – “Eat your broccoli; it’s good for you”. Well, not only is it good for you, it’s easily one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat. Broccoli contains vitamins A, C, and E, along with antioxidants and fiber.
Thankfully it is a staple food for many flavorsome dishes. You can easily add it to rice, noodles, pasta and pastries. But if you want to reap the most benefits from broccoli, steam it or eat it raw.
Garlic is one of the most vital ingredients in the kitchen. It is also essential for good health.
Garlic was recognized by early civilizations as an effective home remedy not only for warding off vampires but colds, flu and other infections.
Once chewed, crushed or sliced, garlic produces allicin, a compound believed to strengthen the immune system and fight germs.
Full of fiber, minerals and vitamins (particularly A, B, C, E, and K) yet low in calories, you can never go wrong with a diet stacked with leafy green vegetables.
Regularly eating leafy greens such as cabbage, collard greens, kale, romaine lettuce and spinach can reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and cognitive decline.
This food group is perhaps the easiest and healthiest way to get a bundle of essential vitamins and minerals to boost immunity, physical and mental strength without all the calories.
Nuts and seeds
Almonds and sunflower seeds are both loaded with vitamin E, which is essential to maintaining and regulating the function of the immune system. They also contain magnesium which is responsible for regulating muscle function – including the heart muscle – and blood pressure.
Sunflower seeds also have vitamin B6 – vital for optimal health – and are brimming with selenium, a mineral that acts as an antioxidant to protect the immune system.
Containing anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties, many people turn to ginger – especially ginger tea – when down with the cold or flu.
It is also a popular home remedy for relieving arthritis, nausea and inflammation. There is also some evidence to suggest ginger extract may act as an aid in supporting cardiovascular health.
Ginger is great for spicing up your cooking. Try it in stir-fries, baking, soup, or fish.
Oily fish – such as anchovies, mackerel, salmon and tuna – are particularly beneficial to your immune system. They are rich in healthy omega 3 fats, protein, calcium, iron, vitamin D, and zinc.
Try eating fish every week to give your immune system the strength it needs to repair damaged cells.
Yes, that’s right, chocolate – more specifically, cocoa – can be great for the immune system. But before you start devouring chocolate treats left, right and center, remember we’re talking about healthy sources of cocoa.
You will want to buy dark chocolate low in unhealthy fats and sugar, but don’t fret – there are plenty of tasty options. Dark chocolate with almonds, peanuts or berries is a treat that will benefit your immune system and taste buds alike. Or you could try baking healthy chocolate coconut balls or dark chocolate almond and blueberry brownies. Be as creative as you like!
Our meal plans incorporate all of these foods into your plan to keep you in optimal health! Get your IIFYM Macro Meal Plan today.