As this new coronavirus continues to spread around the globe and we are hunkered down in our homes, having a strong immune system is more important than ever.
You might ask yourself how you can get your immune system to work at its full potential. You might also be concerned whether or not immunity decreases with age, or if decreased immunity is related to adequate nutrition.
To answer these questions, consider this: Researchers split 83 volunteers between the ages of 65 and 85 into two groups. The control group ate fewer than three daily servings of fruits and vegetables and the experimental group consumed at least five servings per day. Both groups were then given the pneumonia vaccine. Results showed that the group eating five servings/day had an 82 percent greater protective antibody response to the vaccine.1
Nutritional research has demonstrated that a nutrient-dense plant-based diet, along with adequate sleep, and moderate exercise, is key for a healthy immune system. Of course, we want to eat a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, but what are some of these star nutrient-dense superfoods?
All vegetables contain protective micronutrients and phytochemicals, but cruciferous green vegetables – kale, cabbage, collards, broccoli, arugula, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, watercress – are disease fighters with antiviral and antibacterial properties. Their sulfur compounds break down into isothiocyanates (ITCs) which have powerful immune boosting effects and anticancer activity. Eat at least one serving of cruciferous veggies daily with two more servings of veggies each day.
Mushrooms—white, cremini, portobello, oyster, shitake, maitake, reishi — are another superfood with immune boosting effects. One study showed a boost of antibody production by 50 percent just after one week in the group eating 1 cup of cooked white button mushrooms daily (measured by IgA levels in saliva).
Berries of all types – blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, acai berries, bilberries, strawberries, goji berries – are the superfoods in the fruit category. Loaded with powerful antioxidants and anthocyanins with powerful anti-cancer effects, eat at least one serving every day. Pomegranates are another superfood with anti-inflammatory properties.
Onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, and scallions – Our friends from the allium family are anticancer and immunity-building treasures. The combination of organosulfur compounds and glycoproteins in onions with other micronutrients have been shown to improve immune function and ward off disease.
Beans, nuts, and seeds can also be added to the superfood list. Beans are not only loaded with protein, iron, and zinc, but also contain fiber, folate, and potassium. Pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds are a good source of zinc, an essential mineral that plays an important role in immune function. Flax seeds provide us with essential fatty acids and one Brazil nut provides us with our daily requirement of selenium, an essential trace mineral which strengthens the immune system.
Now that we have more time at home, let’s make a commitment to prepare at least one nutritious meal every day.