As the Southern Hemisphere starts to finally warm up and the summer season in the North draws to a close, many of us may find ourselves struck down by the illnesses that so commonly appear with the changing of the seasons. As such, it is vital that we take care to ensure our immune systems are supercharged and ready to fight off any nasties that might come our way. While adequate sleep and regular exercise are equally crucial, a healthy diet strong in micronutrients is fundamental to good health and a strong immune system. Food is one of the most powerful tools we have to help prevent illness, with over 70% of our immune system found in our gut, so it is essential we make sure we give ourselves the tools to fight off illness and recover more quickly if we do get sick.
While garlic and ginger immediately come to mind when it comes to boosting the immune system, eating these raw can be a bit rough on the tastebuds and cooking removes much of their nutritional value. Instead, here are 5 things to look for in easy, raw ingredients to add to your morning smoothie or smoothie bowl that will boost your immune system and leave you feeling healthy and strong!
Probiotics, most commonly found in the “live active cultures” of yogurt (including some dairy free yogurts), are healthy bacteria that keep the gut and intestinal track free of disease causing germs by strengthening the immune system and competing with harmful bacteria for food. They also ensure the immune system is functioning well by alleviating excessive inflammation in the gut to boost immune function, and boosting the uptake of important minerals in order to prevent deficiencies that could lower immunity.
Found in seeds like sunflower and pumpkin, as well as nuts and nut butters, zinc helps keep the immune system strong, helps heal wounds, and supports normal growth. A key to proper T cell function and proper lymphocyte activity, zinc is involved in antibody production to help fight infection as well as stops excessive actions of proteins when you are sick to prevent excess inflammation.
Turmeric has played a role not only in Indian cooking but Indian natural, holistic medicine (known as Ayurveda) for thousands for years, and is commonly referred to as “Holy Powder” for its natural healing abilities and health benefits. Consuming curcumin, the most biologically active component of turmeric, helps your immune system fight bacteria, free radicals and inflammation while reducing bad cholesterol, preventing diabetes and the development of cancer cells.
Another delicious addition to any smoothie or smoothie bowl is raw cacao, which is high in flavonoids and has recently been proven to be more beneficial than other antioxidants like green tea and coffee. Flavonoids fight toxic invaders that attack the immune system, and prevent heart disease and excessive inflammation. Boost your meals by adding cacao powder, cacao nibs or even high percentage dark chocolate.
Vitamins A, C and E are all powerful antioxidants with the ability to modulate our immune functions in order to keep our bodies healthy. Beta-carotene is the main dietary source of Vitamin A, and can be most commonly found in orange and red-hued fruits and vegetables like mangoes, papaya, carrots and bell peppers. As well as being a potent antioxidant, clinical trials have found that beta-carotene also improves several parameters of immune function. Along with Vitamin C, commonly found in fresh fruits and veggies like citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, berries and dark leafy greens, both of these antioxidants increase the production of white blood cells and activity of natural killer cells, which are key to fighting infections. Vitamin E, another strong antioxidant, occurs in foods high in fats, like oils and nuts, and mitigates the oxidative stress placed on your immune system. This vitamin works to protect your body’s T cells from damage so they can continue to multiply and fight off infections.
A healthy diet is fundamental to good health and a strong immune system, but it is also important to balance the other aspects of your life such as sleep and regular exercise. Self love and care are equally crucial elements to our all-round wellbeing, and it is important to ensure all aspects of your life are well balanced to guarantee that your body and mind are in peak condition for anything coming your way.