If there’s ever been a time when you need a well-functioning immune system, it’s now. And the first place to start strengthening your immune system is with the foods you eat. Immune-boosting foods protect us in several ways—they provide antioxidants and reduce inflammation in the body…they stimulate the immune system to do its job…and they help to fight infection. We asked Jackie Newgent, RDN, a nutritionist and classically trained chef known for creating delicious healthy dishes, to come up with a list of 10 of her favorite foods that help boost immunity. Her list includes a bit of everything—from spices to protein-packed picks and vegetables, even tea. Best of all: These foods can be eaten separately…or together in a delicious soup that helps boost immunity. The recipe is below!
10 IMMUNE-BOOSTING FOODS
Find out how these 10 super-germ-fighting foods do their job…
Lentils provide a significant amount of iron. Getting iron from the food you eat can help your body fight fatigue.
Garlic and onion both contain compounds called allyl sulfides, which work to protect immune function.
Mushrooms contain a naturally occurring compound called lentinan, which stimulates immune function. They also contain a significant amount of zinc, a nutrient that also can help the immune system. Studies suggest that the white button mushroom, in particular, can help the body fight viruses.
Spinach is an amazing source of folate. This nutrient can help increase the body’s ability to fight infection.
Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, a carotenoid that has a positive effect on immune cell function.
Tomatoes get their red pigment from the phytonutrient lycopene. Regular consumption of tomatoes has been associated with enhanced immunity due to lycopene’s role in immune cell function.
Yogurt that contains probiotics from live friendly bacteria helps to improve your body’s immune response—and protect you from infection. When choosing yogurt, read the label carefully. Look for brands that ideally contain at least two probiotic types and no added sugars, including high-fructose corn syrup.
Green tea is loaded with flavonoids that have powerful antioxidant and antiviral properties. When regularly consumed, green tea may help protect against the flu.
Cinnamon is a warming spice, so called because it seems to warm our bodies by playing a role in promoting circulation. Cinnamon’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help stimulate the immune system.
AMAZING IMMUNITY-BOOSTING SOUP
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil or avocado oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
- ¾ cup dry brown or green lentils
- 4 ounces cremini, shiitake or white button mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
- 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 medium garnet yam or sweet potato, scrubbed, unpeeled and diced
- 1 cup freshly brewed green tea, unsweetened
- 1 (5-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1⁄3 cup reduced-fat plain Greek yogurt and/or 6 lemon wedges (optional)
In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion, and cook until lightly browned, about eight minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, cumin and cinnamon, and cook one minute longer, stirring constantly. Add the broth and lentils. When the liquid boils, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.
Add the mushrooms, tomatoes, diced yam and tea. Cook until the lentils are soft and the yam just holds its shape, about 12 minutes.
Stir the baby spinach into the soup by the handful. Cover and heat for five minutes. Add seasoning as desired.
To serve, divide the soup among six wide, shallow bowls. Add a dollop of Greek yogurt to each bowl and/or serve with lemon wedges, if desired. Makes six servings.