You were probably told to eat your fruits and veggies many times during your childhood. Parents tell their children that veggies are ultra-healthy, and they're right. Even the myth of Popeye's immense strength from eating spinach isn't entirely false.
In fact, certain leafy greens like spinach, parsley, and kale actually contain a compound called nitrates. These nitrates are converted within the body to nitric acid, which increases normal muscle function and potentially, strength as well by allowing maximum blood flow to muscle tissues. A diet rich in leafy greens and brightly colored fruits is essential to promote the health and power of your immune system. Bright, bold colors indicate the presence of high levels of phytonutrients called antioxidants. Phytonutrient is a fancy term that just means "nutrients from plants." However, bright and densely colored veggies and fruits also contain compounds called antioxidants. These antioxidants protect the cell from damage to its DNA and may help guard against premature aging of the skin and many degenerative diseases, such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, dementia, blood vessel disorders, Parkinson's disease, and various forms of autoimmune disorders. Many people don't realize this, but up to three-quarters of your entire immune system originates in the gut's intestinal environment called the microbiome. This is why a healthy, supportive diet with little to no refined sugar, lots of fiber, lean protein, whole grains, healthy fats from fatty fish like salmon and sardines, nuts and seeds, and other sources and lots of fruits and veggies is so important.
Daily exposure to natural sunlight will give you good levels of vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin linked to a strong immune system and the correct balance of calcium in the blood. Other vitamins known to boost the immune system include vitamins C, often called ascorbic acid on vitamin bottle labels, and the family of tocopherols, more commonly known as Vitamin E. Both C and E vitamins cruise around the body and fight cell-damaging compounds called free radicals, which can severely impact the immune system's function.
Foods Known to Support and Fortify the Immune System
- Citrus fruits
- Red and green bell pepper
- Garlic and ginger
- Yogurt, kefir, kombucha, cultured buttermilk, and certain aged cheeses
- Green tea, especially matcha tea
- Papaya and kiwi
- Bananas, oatmeal, and chicory root
- Apples, barley, and dark chocolate
This is only a shortlist, but it will give you an idea of the kinds of foods to choose and why. Remember, about three-quarters of your entire immune system originates in your gut's microbiome. There, fermented foods in particular, such as tempeh, yogurt, kefir, tofu, kimchi, and sauerkraut, provide the gut with millions of friendly bacteria that boost the immune system and also help to manufacture important vitamins like K and to regulate hormones. Most of the body's serotonin is manufactured in the gut! Serotonin is needed for normal mood, and deficiencies are associated with clinical depression.
These are rich in vitamin C, which is known to boost the immune system, help keep skin healthy, and potentially help older people maintain their muscle strength as they grow older. Vitamin C helps with the production of white blood cells. These fighter cells from the immune system help to kill dangerous bacterial and viral invaders. The RDA or recommended daily amount is 75 milligrams for women and 90 for men. The vitamin is water-soluble, so don't worry about taking in too much from foods. This is highly unlikely because the body just eliminates extra vitamin C in the urine.
Red and Green Bell Peppers
These average about three times the vitamin C of an orange! The red variety has the most because they're older than green peppers, and vitamin C levels rise as the vegetable ages. These contain high levels of beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A essential for healthy skin and eyes.
Meet Garlic: The Sulfur Avenger and Ginger: Inflammation Fighter
The immune system likes sulfur compounds and garlic contains allicin, an infection-fighting substance. Ginger appears to fight inflammation. There are two types of inflammation: Acute and chronic. Acute inflammation results when a body part is injured, such as a cut finger. The body responds with inflammation to let certain cells know that a part of the body needs repair. Acute inflammation is self-limiting and necessary to maintain the body's tissues and systems.
This is a condition of chronic inflammation typically involving the entire body or large parts of it. Chronic inflammation is associated with heart disease, some cancers, autoimmune disease, circulatory system problems, and dementia, among other possibly avoidable degenerative diseases.
Plain, unsweetened yogurt is an excellent source of friendly intestinal bacteria. These are sometimes called probiotics. The probiotics need food to eat, and this food is called prebiotics. Foods rich in this important prebiotics include bananas, chicory root, oatmeal, apples, asparagus, berries, and cocoa. You've probably heard of pectin, the substance found just underneath the skins of apples and other fruits. Pectin is prebiotic. Pectin is used for the canning of jellies and jams and also to help treat high cholesterol, high triglycerides or blood fats, diabetes, and GERD or gastric reflux disease. This is commonly called heartburn.
Adding foods to your diet known to aid the immune system may help you avoid certain health problems in the future. However, always consult with your own physician first before beginning any new diet or exercise program.