Five Foods to Naturally Boost the Immune System

It’s officially cold and flu season. The time of year when you hear the words, “something must be going around” more often than not. Incorporating immune-boosting foods into your diet can help protect you from the dreaded symptoms and aid in faster recovery if you do get sick.

Before we get into specific foods, let’s discuss a key player in immune function – gut health. Did you know that approximately 70% of your immune system is found in your digestive tract?

To encourage a healthy microbiome, incorporate fiber and probiotic-rich foods onto your plate. This includes: leafy greens, non-starchy vegetables, miso, sauerkraut, plain probiotic yogurt, kimchi and kombucha. Even taking a daily probiotic can help boost the good bacteria in your gut.

Along with a healthy gut, here are five foods that will help boost your immune system all winter long.

Citrus fruit. When cold symptoms start setting in, most people turn to a vitamin C supplement to help boost the immune system. Fortunately, winter is the season for citrus fruit which is a great source of vitamin C. Incorporating citrus fruit into your day is easy by making your own fruit cocktail at home, sipping on warm lemon water, or making my favorite hot lemon ginger detox tonic to wake up to.

Winter squash. Nature is onto something here. The seasonal produce during this time of year is full of immune-boosting benefits, including vitamin A which is found in anything orange. Pumpkin, butternut squash, carrots and sweet potatoes all fit the requirement here. For a healthy dose of vitamin A, make this simple and delicious roasted carrot and butternut squash soup.

Garlic. I can remember a friend of mine would crack open the garlic pills anytime he thought he might be getting sick. I can also recall a family friend who had been diagnosed with cancer drinking a smoothie every morning that had a handful of garlic cloves in it. Turns out, having garlic breath might be worth the powerful dose of allicin, a compound that fights bacteria and viruses. Here’s a pro cooking tip – when using raw garlic in cooking, grate the clove on a microplane zester to infuse the flavor throughout your foods.

Ginger. A potent anti-inflammatory, ginger can help soothe a sore throat in case you do start feeling a cold coming on. A great way to get a large dose of ginger in one shot (no pun intended) is to seek out a local juice shop and ask for a ginger lemon turmeric tonic. It’s spicy, but powerful!

Almonds. You might not think of nuts as a cold and flu fighter, but vitamin E is a powerful immune booster. It is also a fat-soluble vitamin, which makes almonds the perfect immune-boosting snack given they are full of vitamin E and healthy fats. Almonds also contain zinc, a mineral found to prevent colds and aid in a faster recovery.

Besides these five foods, an overall diet of minimally processed foods that is rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts/seeds and lean protein will help keep your immune system strong this winter season!

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