8 Immune Boosting Foods For Your Family
Good immune health is always important, but amidst the growing concern and seemingly exponential spread of COVID-19, we need to make immune health a top priority. Pediatric Nutritionist, Cathey Stoner, shares her top immune boosting foods for the family.
While proper handwashing, stress management and quality sleep are all pillars of a strong immune defense, diet is also an integral component. Let’s look at the healing power of some common foods and go on the offense against seasonal colds and viruses like COVID-19.
Immune Boosting Foods
The foods below pack a powerful punch of probiotics, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that all play a role in helping your body fight disease. They are:
- Bone broth
- Bell peppers
- Pumpkin Seeds
Scroll down to read more about these foods.
It is estimated that 80% of our immune system is in our gut. Probiotic rich foods support our microbiome (the balance of good bacteria in our gut), aiding in digestion and creating a healthy gut environment that promotes a healthy immune system. Most probiotic supplements have billions of CFUs (colony forming units). However, our first superfood immune booster, sauerkraut, boasts over 1 trillion CFUs per tablespoon of juice! Sauerkraut is a type of fermented cabbage that adds a tangy flavor to salads, sandwiches, or a classic bratwurst. Not only is it tasty, it provides military grade immune defense!
2) Bone Broth
Bone broth has gained popularity in the past few years with the insurgence of the Paleo Diet. However, people have used bone broth for centuries as a tried and true health food. Not only will it soothe your sore throat, bone broths are packed with vitamins and minerals that support your gut. When broth is cooked with the bones, important nutrients are leeched out from the bones into the broth for consumption. Bone broths are higher in collagen, iron, zinc, and many other minerals compared to a vegetable broth. Collagen is a key protein found in bone broths that can help build and repair the lining of your intestine, where those good bacteria are working hard to keep your immune system strong. Add soups and stews made with bone broth to your meal plan today!
Citrus foods have long been considered the classic immune booster. They carry this title because they are high in Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, which is essential in fighting infection, inflammation, and reducing stress at the cellular level. In addition to its immune support, Vitamin C also aids in iron absorption, and boost collagen production (which we just learned lines our gut, the epicenter of our immune defenses). Other foods with high Vitamin C include kiwi, strawberries, and broccoli.
4) Bell Peppers
Too often, we overlook beautifully colored bell peppers! More color in our diet from fruits and vegetables always means more vitamins, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. So it’s no surprise that red, green, yellow, and orange bell peppers are at the top of the list for immune boosting foods. In fact, a red
bell pepper has more Vitamin C than an orange! Paired with hummus or guacamole, bell peppers make a perfect low carb, vitamin rich snack.
Greens, greens, greens! Along with kale and broccoli, spinach is a disease fighting green machine. Its rich color is evidence of nutrient density. Spinach is loaded with vitamin C and A, both powerful antioxidants that support our immune response and “helper cells,” the cells that notify our immune cells of a foreign substance. Spinach is also dense in folate, a B vitamin necessary for normal cellular function and the creation and repair of DNA. A folate deficiency has been associated with a poor immune response. Add a handful of spinach to your smoothie, choose a spinach salad instead of an iceberg wedge, or make some green muffins with your kiddos.
6) Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seed’s immune superpower lies in their high levels of zinc. Research suggests that even a minor zinc deficiency can impair our immune system. Zinc supports the stimulation of white blood cells and is necessary for proper healing and repair. Pumpkin seeds contain many other nutrients to boost overall health including several antioxidants, healthy fats, and fiber. They are an easy addition to salads and snack time. The healing properties of zinc can be found in animal proteins, oysters, milk, whole grains, beans, and nuts.
Elderberries won’t be something you cook up for dinner, but many find supplementing to be an easy and delicious way to support a healthy immune system! These berries are a deep purple color rich in antioxidants and potent antiviral properties. Elderberry can now be found over the counter as a syrup or gummy vitamin. Discuss any form of supplementation with your doctor before consuming. Elderberry is not indicated for children under 12 months old.
These cold water fish are a good source of vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids and protein. Vitamin D is an elite vitamin for immune protection, disease prevention, and overall general health. In fact, Vitamin D receptors are found on immune cells in our body and can help initiate an immune response and aid in the adaption to new illnesses. Vitamin D can likewise be found in egg yolks, mushrooms, and fortified foods. You can also get vitamin D from the sunshine, which is one more reason to head outside for some fresh air!
Looking for the best protection from harmful viruses this season? Incorporate these immune boosting foods into your diet, while adopting an eating approach that promotes a healthy immune system. This entails choosing whole, fresh, colorful foods while limiting sugary processed items. Along with making intentional foods choices, prioritize healthy sleep habits, adequate exercise, and thorough hand washing habits. A healthy immune defense starts with you!
- Choosing what to eat while you’re pregnant can be a challenge. Your tastes and cravings are changing, you may be battling nausea, your digestion is more sensitive, and, of course, you want to make sure you’re nourishing yourself and your baby as best you can. See our guide to What to eat during pregnancy.
- While you won’t be able to avoid your baby’s first cold, here’s what you can do to soothe your sick sweetheart. See our guide to surviving baby’s first cold.