It goes without saying that the flu is at the forefront of everybody’s mind right now, with the swine flu beginning to spread its way across the globe. Though we’re not in any grave risk yet (and hopefully we won’t be!) it’s probably worth giving a bit of thought to our level of immunity, anyhow.
With daily stressors and an inadequate diet, for many of us, our immune system may not be functioning at optimum. And though there are plenty of great immune-boosting supplement formulations out there, often tighter budgets just don’t allow for spending what can often amount to a small fortune on pricey supplements for a full family.
Luckily, Mother Nature has provided us with some of the most potent immune boosters already, some of which are within the staples in our diets and all we need to do is shift our daily menus around a bit to reap the great benefits…
Great and inexpensive immune-boosting foods:
Sauerkraut: This is one of the oldest and cheapest immune boosting foods around and it’s packed with vitamins and minerals, and phytochemicals which are created during the fermentation process. It is also loaded with good flora such as L. planatarum, a very dominant strain of healthful bacteria which boosts the immune system by increasing antibodies that fight infectious disease, inhibits pathogens like E.coli, salmonella, and candida (yeast), and creates antioxidants like glutathione and superoxide dismustase that scavenge free radicals. Plus, its great on sandwiches or as a side salad.
Garlic: Also a staple across the globe, garlic boasts an incredible range of activity against bacteria, fungal infections, and viruses. It enhances immune function, like the activity of natural killer cells, can prevent the formation of toxins from staphylococcus bacteria, and wipes out H. Pylori, too. Try it roasted or chopped up fresh with olive oil as a dip.
Black tea (with lemon): Black Tea can neutralize germs, including some that cause diarrhea, pneumonia, cystitis and skin infections, and now new research finds that black and green tea deactivates viruses, like herpes. Adding lemon heightens the natural antioxidant activity in black tea. Hot tea is best for cold and flu but if you prefer iced, you’ll still reap the benefits.
Turmeric: The active ingredient in turmeric, called curcumin, helps our cells stay more resistant to infection and malignancy by altering the nature of cell membranes, and studies have shown that curcumin has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, as well. This yellow spice is great cooked with rice, tossed and roasted with veggies or whipped up with deviled eggs.
Oregano: This common herb can protect against the common cold, influenza, fevers and indigestion, and research has shown that oregano is one of the herbs with the most significant immune boosting powers, with powerful antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal properties as well. Oregano is great fresh in salads and stews or use some extra dried oregano in your marinara sauce.
Be sure to get plenty of these key nutrients, too:
Vitamin A: When from animal sources, Vitamin A is in the form of retinol, and when from vegetable sources, it comes as Beta Carotene. This “first” vitamin has many important functions in the body, and there is evidence for its strong anti-viral activity. In addition, the skin and mucosal cells (that line the airways, digestive and urinary tracts) which are the body’s first line of defense against infection require retinol to maintain their integrity and function.
Vitamin A also plays a key role in the development and differentiation of white blood cells, which are critical in our immune response.
How to get it: The most optimal form is as a mycelized or palmitate form, as in liquid drops or Cod Liver oil. But if aiming for a vegetarian source, you can also chow down on inexpensive carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, and pumpkins.
Zinc: Sufficient zinc intake is essential in maintaining the integrity of the immune system and what’s more, zinc-deficient people are more susceptible to a variety of infectious agents. Supplementation with zinc may also reduce the incidence of lower respiratory infections.
How to get it: Take a supplement in 2-3 divided doses; adults can take up to 75-100 mg a day. Natural sources of zinc include staples such as turkey, ground beef, and chick peas.
Vitamin C: There has been lots of conflicting research over the years about the ability of Vitamin C to fight the common cold, but certain studies offer clearer results. One study on marathon runners, skiers and soldiers training in the Arctic gave subjects doses ranging from 250 mg/day to 1 g/day and they had a 50% lesser incidence of colds. In addition, the preventive use of vitamin C supplementation reduced the duration of colds by about 8% in adults and 14% in children. Bottom line: most of the prevention trials have used a dose of 1 gram/day and Vitamin C seems to do its best job when taken as a preventative, before the onset of cold or flu symptoms.
How to get it: Pick up some inexpensive Ester C or Buffered C powder or capsules, or just head to your local grocer and stock up on C-rich fruits like oranges, kiwis, strawberries and red peppers; choose from what’s in season.
Vitamin D: Very important in helping fight off infections, Vitamin D is a potent immune system modulator. The vitamin D receptor (VDR) is expressed by most cells of the immune system, (including T cells, dendritic cells and macrophages) and there is lots of good scientific evidence that it enhances innate immunity.
How to get it: Most adults would do well with about 5000 IU of Vitamin D3 a day. Remember, the sun is the cheapest way to get your D, so be sure to get exposure without sunscreen for at least 20 minutes per day. Also, cod liver oil is another great and inexpensive way to get your D.
Delicious dishes in which you can enjoy all of these immune-boosting benefits:
· Herbed ground turkey patties with oregano and parsley
· Roasted orange veggies with garlic and turmeric
· Warmed chick peas, spinach, red pepper salad optional: with a spoonful of sauerkraut
· Kiwi-strawberry fruit salad
· Lemony iced black tea
Roni Enten, M.Sc., CNS is a nutrition counselor who uses a holistic approach to her work with both children and adults. She specializes in nutritional and detoxification therapies for autism, ADHD and related disorders, as well as chronic disorders related to immune dysregulation, using therapeutic diets and nutrition-based protocols. Roni received her B.S.N. in Natural Health and Nutrition from Bastyr University, one of the world's leading academic centers for the naturopathy and natural health sciences, her M.Sc. in Nutrition Sciences from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) with the American College of Nutrition.
Latest posts by Roni Enten (see all)
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