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, RD, a nutritionist and classically trained chef known for creating delicious healthy dishes, to come up with a list of 10 of her favorite immune-boosting foods. Her list includes a bit of everything—from spices to protein and vegetables, even tea. Best of all: These foods can be eaten separately…or together in a delicious immunity-boosting soup. 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 helps your body fight fatigue.
Garlic and onion both contain compounds called allyl sulfides, which help 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 helps 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 increases 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 phytochemical lycopene. Regular consumption of tomato is associated with enhanced immunity due to lycopene’s role in immune cell function.
Yogurt that contains probiotics from live friendly bacteria can help to improve your body’s immune response—and protect you from infection. When choosing yogurt, read the label carefully. Look for brands that contain at least two probiotic types and no added sugar or 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 warms our bodies by improving circulation. Cinnamon’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties can stimulate the immune system.
AMAZING IMMUNITY-BOOSTING SOUP
- 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 4 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
- ¾ cup 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, peeled and diced
- 1 cup freshly brewed green tea
- 1 (5-ounce) package fresh baby spinach or 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1⁄3 cup reduced-fat plain yogurt (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 cumin, cinnamon, and garlic, 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, yam and tea. Cook until the lentils are soft and the sweet potato just holds its shape, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Stir the baby spinach into the soup by the handful. Or, if using frozen spinach, take the pot off the stove. Squeeze out most of the moisture from the frozen spinach. Then pull clumps of spinach apart, dropping each clump into the pot. Stir for one minute to wilt the spinach. Return the pot, covered, to medium heat for five minutes. Adjust seasoning.
To serve, divide the soup among six wide, shallow bowls. Add a dollop of yogurt to each bowl, if desired, and serve. Makes six servings.