A healthier immune system may be no further away from you than your refrigerator, kitchen cupboard, or garden.
The immune system responds quickly to diet changes.
You just need to make the decision and commitment to eat healthy, immune-enhancing foods every week.
It doesn’t have to be complicated and it can be delicious!
These foods are excellent sources of protein and minerals, and work to keep inflammation in check.
Chronic inflammation stresses the immune system, creates excess free radicals and leads to illness.
A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids from foods can normalize autoimmune issues, ease arthritis inflammation, and reduce risk of infections.
A study published in Journal of Leukocyte Biology shows omega-3 fatty acids enhance the activity of immune B cells.
I pair seafood with low sugar teriyaki sauce or lemon juice and olive oil in a weekly entree.
Ground flax and chia seeds work well in fruit smoothies, on yogurt, or homemade energy bars.
Berries are an excellent source of vitamin C and K, antioxidant flavonoids, and fiber.
In one study, athletes who ate blueberries doubled their NK (natural killer) cell count. (Normally, NK cells drop with prolonged exercise.)
Furthermore, research finds compounds in berries like resveratrol and pterostilbene work synergistically with vitamin D to defend the immune system.
Organic is the best choice for berries because conventionally grown berries are heavily sprayed.
Berries taste good in smoothies, on oatmeal or yogurt, in salads, or just by themselves.
Many people who aren’t used to eating healthy avoid greens. This is too bad because they are immune superstars, high in antioxidant carotenoids, and most people grow to like their taste.
A lack of green vegetables in the diet depresses immune response by turning off key cell signals in the intestinal tract.
Dark greens are high in vitamin C, minerals like calcium and magnesium, and even contain omega-3 fatty acids (see #1), although at lower levels than seafood.
I use dark greens in salads or sauté them gently with a little olive oil and herbal seasonings.
If you don’t like their taste, it’s easy to sneak greens into fruit smoothies. Even most kids will eat their greens this way.
All mushrooms strengthen the immune system. Mushrooms are high in B vitamins, vitamin D, potassium, and immune-enhancing beta glucan.
Shiitake mushrooms are especially good for immunity, and can easily be added to broths, stews, stir fries, or soups.
Maitake mushrooms are another delicious choice, but can be hard to find and expensive.
All mushrooms create their own rich flavor in broths, soups, and stews.
During the winter season, I add sliced shiitake mushrooms to an immune tonic soup with a few tsp. miso paste, sautéed garlic and onions, seaweed, and a small piece of astragalus root.
This works well to kick the immune system into gear or speed recovery if you’re already sick.
Coconut oil is a healthy choice for the immune system. While coconut contains saturated fats, it’s cholesterol free and much easier to digest than animal fats.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) in coconut oil protect the skin, encourage regular elimination, and even fight candida yeast overgrowth.
Coconut oil is a good plant source of lauric acid (almost 50% of its fatty acid content), an antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory fatty acid.
I use coconut oil (just 1 tbsp) to lightly sauté vegetables, or drizzle it on baked sweet potatoes. It has a nice flavor and combines well in most dishes.
The right foods can go a long way towards creating a healthier immune system.
Most people learn to love immune foods and actively choose them over less healthy choices over time.
For the most benefits, eat immune foods with the seasons whenever possible.
Eating seasonally is better for the environment, and gives you the freshest foods with the most nutrients at the best cost.
Fontenot, B. (2011, Nov.) Green veggies help the immune system. Retrieved from The Doctor Will See You Now, http://www.thedoctorwillseeyounow.com/content/gastro/art3492.html
Foods for immunity: Why you need to eat blueberries and red grapes. (2013, Sept.) Retrieved from Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/09/19/foods-for-immunity-blueberries-red-grapes-_n_3954279.html
Fristche, K. (2006) Fatty acids as modulators of the immune response. Annual Review of Nutrition, 26, 45-73. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16848700
Greger, M. (2015) How not to die. Flatiron Books.
Jacob, A. (2015, June) Which is better, coconut or olive oil? Retrieved from Livestrong,
Macmillan, A. & Schryver, T. (2014, Jan.) 9 Power foods that boost immunity. Retrieved from Prevention, http://www.prevention.com/food/healthy-eating-tips/power-foods-that-boost-immunity
Mercola, J. (2009, Dec.) Top 12 foods for healthy immune response. Retrieved from Mercola.com, http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/12/08/top-12-foods-for-healthy-immune-response.aspx
Schend, J. (2015, March) Foods that boost the immune system. Retrieved from Healthline,