From Tansy Rodgers, FNTP (Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner), Health and Lifestyle Coach, Personal Trainer, Fitness Instructor, and Physical Therapist Assistant
It was once thought that maintaining a strong immune system was only important during the cold weather months when the chances of catching a cold or the flu was high. In actuality, a strong immune system proves to be important 24 hours a day / 7 days a week / 365 days a year…and at all stages of life.
With the rise in sugary drinks and processed, packaged foods dominating the store shelves, protecting your immune system is a key component to long-lasting vitality and optimal health for years to come.
Taking care of your gut health is key when wanting to boost your immune system — 70 percent of immune cells are in the digestive tract. We want to keep the gut strong and feed the body the nutrients it needs, all at the same time. Here are 9 foods that are power-packed with immune-boosting health benefits:
1. Dark green leafy vegetables: Naturally low in sugar and high in life-giving chlorophyll, green leafy vegetables give you more sustained energy. They are also high in fiber, Vitamins A, C, and K. Eat a variety of greens such as kale, spinach, mustard greens, dandelion, collard greens, beet greens, swiss chard, just to name a few.
2. Vegetables: Vegetables are packed with a variety of immune builders and it pays to eat a variety. They are high in prebiotic fibers, which help to nourish the growth of good bacteria that exist naturally in your gut by contributing to an environment that is optimal for good digestive health. Gut health is critical for immune health. Vegetables are also high in Vitamins A, B6, C, K, copper, and polyphenols. Try foods such as broccoli, carrots, brussel sprouts, shiitake mushrooms, cabbage, Jerusalem artichokes, jicama, kale, onion, root vegetables, and seaweed.
3. Bright colored fruit and berries: Even though fruit can be high in sugar, they still give your body a healthy dose of Vitamin C, antioxidants, and polyphenols. And, foods like apples, bananas, and berries are loaded with prebiotic fibers. Since fruit can be high in sugar, stick to 1-2 servings of fruit a day. Try noshing on guava, kiwi, currants, or any other fruit that fits your taste buds.
4. Nuts and seeds: These gems are not only loaded with heart-healthy fats, but they are also high in Vitamins B6, E, thiamine, selenium, and zinc. Boost your immune system with almonds, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, and pistachios.
5. Fish/Seafood: Choosing a high-quality fish or seafood is an excellent source of protein that nourishes the immune system as well as the heart and the brain. These are high in Vitamins B12, D, selenium, phosphorus, and zinc. Make sure to buy wild-caught instead of farm raised. Try mixing it up with fish, sardines, mackerel, cod liver oil, oysters, salmon, and trout.
6. Fermented foods: Like prebiotic fiber, fermented foods are good for gut health. They help to boost the good gut bacteria and create a stronger gut lining, important for a strong immune system. Try foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, fermented and/or cultured foods, etc.
7. Bone broth: Bone broth improves your gut health, enabling the immune system cells there to function effectively and prevent pathogens from moving from your digestive tract throughout your body. It also helps to restore the intestinal lining, resulting in improved intestinal functioning.
8. Herbs and Spices: Busting at the seams with antioxidants, antimicrobial, antibacterial, and/or antiviral properties, herbs and spices are like the icing on top of the proverbial cake — they boost the power of your food. They are also abundant in Vitamins A, C, B6, E, K, folate, and iron. Try chili, cayenne, tarragon, garlic, turmeric, thyme, basil, bay leaf, curry, oregano, parsley, rosemary, cilantro, etc.
9. Beans and Lentils: Not only are beans delicious, but they are also rich in fiber to keep things moving along. Eat a serving of beans and you will also get folate, thiamine, and iron. Try aduki beans, black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, and lentils.
Eating these foods locally and seasonally will boost your immune system even further. Seasonal foods are at their freshest and most dense in nutrients, giving you the biggest bang for your buck. And local foods? Not only do they support your community and local farmers, but they have less travel time and can be picked when they are at their ripest!
Check out these local farmers markets for the freshest pick of the crop:
- TUESDAYS: Roots Country Market, Manheim, PA
- TUESDAY, FRIDAY & SATURDAY: Central Market, Lancaster, PA
- THURSDAYS: Downtown Lititz Farmers Market, Lititz, PA
- FRIDAYS: Green Dragon Farmers Market, Ephrata, PA
Not a local? Check out www.localharvest.org, where you can type in your zip code and obtain a list of local shops, CSAs, farms, farmers markets and events!
Interested in learning more about wellness from Tansy? Visit her website at www.tansyrodgers.com.