Today I’m going to focus on specific foods that you can incorporate into your daily diet to help boost your immune system and protect you from the seasonal colds, flus, and other blahs that come with the chill and dampness of the fall. When you’re eating a nourishing diet of whole foods your body is already in a pretty good position to fight off any of the bugs or viruses circulating about, but there are always some delicious foods you can start eating just to be on the safe side. All of these foods can be found in any pantry or easily picked up from your local grocery story or market.
I’ve talked about turmeric a lot on this site and for good reason! It’s a super powered spice that has fabulous anti-inflammatory effects and helps support phase 1 liver detoxification. In addition to these stellar health benefits, this bright yellow spice has also been found to help support the immune system by modulating the activation of T cells, B cells, macrophages, neutrophils, natural killer cells, and dendritic cells.
All of this is just a really sciency way of saying turmeric is one potent mother effer when it comes to supporting our bodies and our health. Plus it’s super easy to add to pretty much any dish.
It has very little flavour (unless you use too much then it starts to taste suspiciously like dirt, blech!) so you can add a sprinkling to stir fries, eggs, soups, salad dressings, smoothies, coffee, hot cocoa, or tea!
Like turmeric, ginger grows underground and provides a range of potent health benefits. You’re likely most familiar with its use as an aid to soothe nausea, but it’s also a powerful immunosupportive food as well. Some studies indicate that the volatile oils found in this spice can affect both cell-mediated immune responses and the nonspecific immune system.
It also has great antibacterial properties and one study showed that consuming fresh ginger provides protection against a virus that causes upper respiratory illness. All the more reason to include ginger in your diet as part of a delicious preventative health plan. Check out some of my favourite ways to use ginger:
3. Raw Honey
Ah delicious honey! I had a discussion not to long ago with someone I met at a yoga retreat about how honey really is like a fine wine. Every region produces honey that tastes different, looks different, and contains different beneficial compounds.
Not only is honey absolutely delicious, but it has also been shown to inhibit viral replication in certain studies and be protective against some strains of the herpes virus (the one that causes chickenpox and shingles, though if you have the less sexy strain, it wouldn’t hurt to incorporate honey into your diet too!).
Raw honey and the special Manuka honey from New Zealand are also great immunomodulators and fab for topical wound healing.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways! Coconut in all of its forms: milk, oil, flour, whole, and shredded not only helps with the beta-oxidation of fatty acids (i.e. it will help you burn the stored fat on your booty!), but also provides potent immune supporting benefits. It contains two medium chain fatty acids called lauric acid and capric acid, both of which help support our bodies via antiviral and antimicrobial effects.
Capric acid is converted to monocaprin in the body, which fights various bacteria, viruses, and the yeast known as Candida albicans that is responsible for yeast infections and overgrowth. Lauric acid also exerts a powerful effect against viruses and gram-negative bacteria. Eating foods that have such beneficial actions against viruses and bacteria in the body helps take some of the stress off of your immune system so you’ll hopefully get sick less often.
Sidenote: You can combine the above super-powered foods and spices into one delicious Immune Boosting Turmeric Latte that I created. Known in my family affectionately as “Special Drink” I like to sip on a couple cups of this bad boy a day if I feel something coming on.
Here are a few more of my favourite fabulous coconut-filled recipes:
This superfood is a potent antibacterial and when combined with honey can help ward off bacterial infections. It has also been shown to help with immune function by augmenting macrophage and T-lymphocyte functions in the body.
Macrophages are a type of white blood cell that essentially eat up and destroy cellular debris, foreign substances, microbes, and cancer cells found throughout the body. If you have strong macrophage activity you will hopefully have a strong innate immune system to protect you from pathogens and illness.
T-cells are a white blood cell that form part of your cell-mediated adaptive immune system that can be further broken down into several categories, but for the purpose of this article the important thing to know is that they play an important role in protecting you from tumours and other pathogens.
By eating foods such as garlic (and other alliums like onions) you can help support all parts of your immune system. You can learn more about innate vs. adaptive immunity here.
Well that’s a list of some of my favourite immune boosting foods! I hope you’ve learned some useful information about some potent medicinal foods you can find right in the grocery store. Stay tuned for Seasonal Support Part 3: Get to Restin’ coming up next week.
If you’re looking to balance your immune function, reconnect with your body, and develop some healthy habits, you’ll want to join my Reset Yourself Nutrition Challenge starting Monday January 15th. You can read all the details (and register!) by clicking here.
Have a wonderfully whimsical week friend!