We tend to pay more attention to our immune system during cold and flu season, when germs are swirling around like a tornado. However, here at ACN we think it’s important to focus on practices that will support, strengthen and boost immunity throughout the year. Pathogens are always around us – they don’t take vacations!
No matter the time of year, concentrate on these immune-enhancing foods and lifestyle tips to keep your immune system healthy and humming. They’ll not only improve your health, but make you feel energized, too!
Boost Vitamin C intake
This important antioxidant is found in a wide variety of foods and it helps enhance immune function. We typically associate Vitamin C with tropical fruits such as oranges, lemons and papaya, but it’s also in bell peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, dark leafy greens, Brussels sprouts and strawberries.
Load up on onions and garlic
We’re not trying to give you bad breath – onions and garlic are extremely potent immune boosters. Garlic is anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial, and it contains a special compound called allicin that helps to protect us against infections. Similarly, onions also help to fight inflammation, contain sulfurous anti-bacterial compounds, and you might be surprised to hear that they are a good source of Vitamin C.
Make your own herbal tinctures and syrups
Concocting herbal tinctures isn’t as difficult as you might expect – all you need is a clean mason jar, a few healthful ingredients, and time (check out this quick video to learn how). For an immune system boost, try making Fire Cider – a fiery mix of a number of immune-enhancing food such as ginger, garlic, onion, horseradish, raw honey and apple cider vinegar – or a homemade elderberry syrup.
Consume more zinc
Zinc is an important mineral that supports the immune system and keeps it in check. You’ll find zinc in pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, quinoa, lentils, cashews, beef and lamb.
Add ginger to everything
Ginger is one of our favourite herbs! It not only settles the stomach and reduces inflammation, but it also helps boost the immune system by encouraging sweating and detoxification. We love making a simple tea with sliced ginger, hot water and lemon (you can kick it up a notch with raw honey and cayenne), but you can also add ginger to curries, stews, soups (try this delish creamy carrot ginger soup recipe), dips, smoothies and salad dressings.
Try a variety of mushrooms
Mushrooms are immunity superstars because of their immune-modulating properties – that means they help to amp up the immune system if needed, but can also temper an overactive immune system if necessary. Experiment with adding a variety of mushrooms to your cooking, including shiitake, cremini, portobello, oyster and chanterelle.
Sugary foods inhibit our ability to destroy harmful bacteria, so it’s best to avoid sweet treats if you feel a cold or flu coming on, and also while you’re sick.
You’ve probably heard that stress negatively impacts our health in a variety of ways. When it comes to cold and flu season, stress inhibits our adrenal hormones – particularly cortisol, which helps to regulate inflammation. Prolonged stress not only leaves us vulnerable to infections, but also may impact our ability to fight infections once they set in. (For a detailed summary of stress and immunity, check out this meta-analysis.)
Drink loads of water
Hydration is essential to flushing out toxins, supporting digestion, reducing pain and headaches, and transporting chemical messengers throughout the body. So drink up – we recommend the cleanest water source you can find, without chlorine and other chemicals. If plain water sounds boring, try jazzing it up, or consume green juice, smoothies, or herbal teas.
What are your best tips for boosting immunity?
Photo: Alice Henneman