We often overlook diet as a primary source of immune-boosting power, opting instead for over-the-counter remedies to treat our symptoms. Yet, food is one of the best preventative medicines money can buy. Not only can it prevent a cold from coming on, it can help you get over a cold faster if you get one. Keep these top five immune-boosting foods in your diet to keep you healthy all year long.
You already know oats are part of a healthy diet due to their high fibre content. Oats are an excellent slow-digesting carb that keep energy levels sustained for hours. But did you know whole grains have been shown to have an immune-boosting effect as well? Lab studies have revealed that the beta-glucan content of oats helps infection-fighting neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) get to the site of an infection and eliminate it faster. Starting your day with oatmeal can help jolt your energy and your immune response first thing in the morning!
For many resistance trainers, moderate amounts of high-protein, muscle-building steak is a must when it comes to a fitness-focused diet, but steak is also a source of nutrients and minerals, such as zinc, that help fight infection. It has been shown that zinc deficiency can lead to a compromised immune system, leaving you more susceptible to infection. Zinc appears to have many other functions in the immune system, including production of immune factors and activation or deactivation of immune response genes. Eating a 3oz serving of lean steak will provide about 40% of your daily zinc intake.
Not only is this derivative of milk protein a great source of essential amino acids, but it also provides peptides with their own immune-enhancing benefits. Alpha-lactalbumin and beta-lactoglobulin have been shown to enhance neutrophil function. In addition, whey protein is a source of cysteine. This can enhance glutathione production, a strong antioxidant and a source of lactoferrin, which can have anti-cancer benefits. A single serving of whey protein delivers protein and a potent blend of immune boosting compounds.
Just one small clove can deliver more than 100 sulfuric compounds, which help fight and prevent infection. Alliums, the active components of garlic, have long been used to treat a variety of conditions and diseases. Garlic preparations appear to also have a cholesterol-lowering effect, anti-cancer effects and anti-inflammatory effects. Add garlic to your favorite sauces, vegetable and meat dishes.
Berries provide a high dose of antioxidant compounds including anthocyanin, ellagic acid and proanthocyanidins. They have antimicrobial, prebiotic and anti-inflammatory actions that can help boost immune response. Berries are also low-glycemic and high in fibre, so have a serving with your morning oats, your non-fat yogurt, or add them to a salad.
Karen Lee is co-founder of Ripped Femme and an expert in sports nutrition. She has devoted her career to helping women reach their health, wellness and fitness goals.