Having a toddler in a daycare has its benefits and drawbacks. It has allowed me to work on my business and writing (which has been amazing), but it also means that my entire family is exposed to a plethora of pesky germs, viruses, and bacteria, weekly. This translates into more sickness in my house year-round. I swear, I've never been so sick—so frequently—as in the past two years.
And I've had it.
We know that there are several ways to help prevent colds and flu, such as regular hand washing, getting enough sleep, and getting your yearly flu shot, but what about nutrition? Are there certain foods that can help us naturally boost our immune system, therefore helping us to stay healthier throughout the year? The answer is YES!
Here are nine foods to help boost your immune system:
You've likely heard that the beneficial bacteria (probiotics) found in yogurt helps to maintain a healthy digestive tract, right? Well, there has been some promising research showing that those same probiotics may help to prevent colds and flu, as well. This is good news for me, because I love yogurt and so does my little guy. Some strains of probiotic may help to boost adult immune response and decrease inflammation, which could mean fewer colds and flu. Try to have 3/4 of a cup of yogurt per day.
Don't be shy when you add garlic to your foods, especially around this time of year. It is an immune-boosting superstar! The sulphur-containing compounds found in garlic, such as Allicin, help our healthy infection-fighting white blood cells flourish, and also increase the efficiency of our antibody production, which helps us fight harmful viruses and bacteria. So, to boost your immune system, add garlic to your foods regularly, if not every day.
The Omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish—such as salmon, trout, halibut, and tuna—help boost our immune systems, by increasing the activity of phagocytes, which are white blood cells that combat harmful bacteria. Omega 3 also decreases inflammation, which may help to protect the lungs from infection and colds. Many varieties of shellfish also contain a substantial amount of Selenium, which can help prevent or clear flu viruses out of your body.
Yep, your Grandma was right—chicken soup actually does help to relieve colds and flu! According the the Mayo Clinic, it helps in two different ways: 1) It has anti-inflammatory properties that inhibit the circulation of neutrophils—cells that participate in the body's inflammatory response. 2) It temporarily helps to flush mucus out, possibly helping to alleviate congestion and decreasing the amount of time that viruses are in contact with the nasal lining.
Green tea boasts many health benefits, ranging from cancer prevention to fighting cardiovascular disease. But green tea also contains powerful anti-viral components that may protect against the Influenza virus. It's polyphenol content—particularly Catechins, a type of antioxidant—is thought to be the most important immune-protecting component. It is suggested that the consumption of 1-5 cups per day may help to prevent colds and flu. Green tea does contain caffeine, so it's important that kids and pregnant women don't overdo it.
Mushrooms may be dismissed as a less-than-stellar vegetable when it comes to health, but don't let its bland colour fool you—mushrooms are jam-packed full of good nutrition and immune-boosting qualities. Mushrooms have shown both anti-viral and anti-bacterial qualities in animal studies, and also contain the mineral Selenium, as well as antioxidants, which can help to decrease your risk of getting sick. Also, mushrooms contain Zinc, which protects the immune system.
Most of us know that stress can be an immune-system deflator. Don't worry, though, almonds contain Niacin and Riboflavin—B-Vitamins that may help ward off the negative effects of stress, by boosting the immune system. A 1/4 cup of these tasty nuts also contain your daily requirements for Vitamin E, an antioxidant that also protects the immune system.
Yams and sweet potatoes are not only extremely nutritious, but also a very important immune-boosting food. Yams contain Beta-Carotene, which is converted into Vitamin A in your body. Vitamin A plays a crucial role in skin health—skin being our first line of defense from bacteria, viruses, and germs that cause illnesses.
Oats and barley are high in soluble fibre, specifically one called beta-glucan. This type of fibre has anti-microbial and antioxidant qualities, which help your immune system protect you from influenza and other illnesses. Soluble fibre also decreases inflammation, which helps us heal faster from an infection.