In our article 5 Ways to Boost Your Immune System, we talked about how diet can affect our body’s ability to fight off infections and keep us healthy. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the foods and spices that are nature’s medicine store. Take baby steps as you try to make changes to your diet. For example, you could try incorporating one of these foods each week or even just one new meal a week. As you change your diet for the better, your body and your immune system will change too.
Yogurt contains cultures that can help strengthen your gut bacteria. These cultures can help stop harmful bacteria before it becomes a problem. Yogurt is also a great source of Vitamin D, which helps boost your body’s immune system. Try to get yogurt that is unsweetened or lightly sweetened. It’s not only a healthier option, but unsweetened yogurt can be used to make sweet and savory meals. Even if you currently consume yogurt, you probably aren’t using it to its full potential. Try using some of the ideas below for a few new ways to start using yogurt in your diet.
Ways to incorporate yogurt into your diet:
- Add honey, granola, and some fruit
- Mix it into your smoothies
- Make tzatziki sauce
- Use as a healthier alternative to sour cream
- Add to soup
- Use it in place of cream or milk in cooking
Note: Reduce heat or add at the end to avoid curdling.
Ginger has been shown to decrease inflammation and help with chronic pain. Some people also say it helps them with nausea. Ginger is a strong spice, so you don’t want to add it to just anything. That being said, ginger can be a delicious accent to both sweet and savory foods. If you’re not eating any ginger, try some new meals to mix up your flavor palette.
Ways to incorporate ginger into your diet:
- Make a delicious curry
- Add it to a peanut sauce
- Use it to season meat
- Add it to a smoothie
- Make gingersnaps or gingerbread cookies
- Make ginger tea with lemon and honey
Oranges, as well as other citrus fruits, are packed with vitamin C. Vitamin C increases white blood cell production, which is key to a strong immune system. Unfortunately, vitamin C isn’t going to cure all your illnesses, like some people and products claim. This means you want to incorporate citrus into your diet before you get sick so that your body can fight off invaders easier.
Ways to incorporate citrus into your diet:
- Eat an orange raw (try a non-traditional orange like a blood orange--yummy!)
- Add them to your salads
- Great for smoothies
- Try making orange-cranberry yogurt muffins
Spinach is flavorful yet not too strong, so it’s easy to incorporate it into a variety of meals. Spinach is rich in antioxidants which work to reduce damaging oxidation caused by free radicals in your system. It also contains vitamin C and beta carotene which can help your body fight off infections. Light cooking can make it easier for your body to absorb the nutrients but remember not to cook it too much because overcooking can strip vegetables of its nutrients.
Ways to incorporate spinach into your diet:
- Try your hand at spinach chips
- Add to an omelet
- Add to ANY smoothie (you’ll hardly taste it)
- Add to soups (add at the end until soft)
- Use for salads
- Try making sauteed spinach and mushrooms
This spice has been used for years to boost the immune system and decrease inflammation thanks to its high concentrations of curcumin. It has also been shown to help with certain kinds of muscle damage.
Ways to incorporate turmeric into your diet:
- Add it in to a sweet bread or spice loaf
- Add to baked vegetables
- Add a pinch to a ginger-mint lemonade
- Add it to hummus or other dips
- Have you heard of golden milk? Give it a try!
Sweet potatoes are not only a healthy alternative to other kinds of spuds, but they’re great for your immune system. They contain beta carotene, a type of antioxidant, and vitamin A, which is great for your skin.
Ways to incorporate sweet potatoes into your diet:
- Bake a whole sweet potato in foil
- Make sweet potato fries
- Make sweet potato skin chips
- Cut into chunks, add brussel sprouts and other veggies of choice, mix with oil and vinegar, and bake
- Try sweet potato skins with salsa verde, cheese, and avocado
Sunflower seeds are rich in all kinds of nutrients! They have vitamin B-6 and vitamin E, phosphorus, and magnesium, which strengthen the immune system and keep you feeling energized. Sunflower seeds also are high in selenium, which has been shown to help fight viruses.
Ways to incorporate sunflower seeds into your diet:
- Add to your granola
- Add to yogurt
Garlic can be found in cuisine around the world, but it’s not just because of its flavor. Many cultures have long believed in garlic’s ability to strengthen the body and keep it healthy. Turns out that garlic is rich in sulfur-containing compounds, like allicin, which has been shown to strengthen your immune system. While it’s always tempting to use minced garlic in a bottle, try using fresh garlic more often. It makes a big difference in the flavor you add to your meals.
Ways to incorporate garlic into your diet:
- Add to any tin foil dinner (especially good with fish and veggies)
- Add to soups
- Roast it and spread it on bread
- Roast with veggies
- Great with potatoes
- Try making garlic pesto
Broccoli is packed with vitamin A, C, and E, as well as antioxidants. Like with spinach, try not to overcook your broccoli so it retains as much nutrients as possible. Try steaming or baking it or just eating it raw.
Ways to incorporate broccoli into your diet:
- Add to salads
- Add to rice dishes
- Try adding some to your ramen
- Try making garlic parmesan roasted broccoli
Blueberries contain anthocyanin, which is an antioxidant that has been shown to boost your immune system. There have even been studies showing that people who eat anthocyanin are less likely to get colds. To top it off, blueberries are sweet and delicious, so it’s not hard to begin to add them into your diet.
Ways to incorporate blueberries into your diet:
- Add to overnight oats
- Put dried blueberries in granola
- Great in smoothies
- Add to any sweet bread or muffin
- Try making lemon-blueberry pavlovas