“Our immune system relies on several factors to fight and combat bacteria, viruses, and other invaders,” Dr. David Friedman, a bestselling author and syndicated radio and television expert. “To be healthy, you need to eat healthfully.”
Friedman, who is board certified in integrative medicine, explains: “Every day, billions of cells in the human body die and get replaced with new ones. The building blocks for every cell in our body come from the food we consume. Eating healthful food protects the cells from disease and increases our lifespan. Consuming the wrong type of food makes our immune system weaker and we become more prone to disease.”
Friedman, the bestselling author of “Food Sanity: How to Eat in a World of Fads and Fiction,” recommends the following immune boosting foods:
Asparagus. This tasty green stalk is a great source of vitamin K, which helps with blood clotting and building strong bones. Asparagus also provides vitamin A for heart health, vitamin C to support the immune system, vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant, and vitamin B6, which also prevents heart disease.
Asparagus is also loaded with minerals including iron, which supports oxygen-carrying red blood cells, copper for energy production, and calcium, which improves bone health. Asparagus increases your energy levels, protects your skin from sun damage, and helps with weight loss.
Bell Peppers. Bell Peppers are very high in vitamin C and just one provides 170% of the recommended daily allowance. Vitamin C helps build up your immune system, which is why many healthcare providers recommend taking this vitamin at the first sign of a cough, cold, or flu. Vitamin C from bell peppers is helpful in the production of white blood cells, which is the body’s major defense against disease. Friedman notes that yellow and red peppers have more antioxidant benefits than green peppers.
Sweet Potatoes. These sweet, starchy tubers are helpful at building up the immune system. They are rich in beta-carotene, which helps maintain healthy skin, vision, and organ function. Beta-carotene consumption has been associated to a decreased risk of lung and breast cancer. Just one large sweet potato contains more than 850 milligrams of potassium, a nutrient that helps relieve muscle spasms and reduces inflammation, says Friedman.
Brussels Sprouts. These low-calorie miniature cabbages are super immune system boosters. They are rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, folate, iron and manganese. Their high fiber content also helps support bowel regularity and gut health, says Friedman, who has been featured on the Discovery Channel, Newsweek, and Reader’s Digest. Brussels sprouts also contain kaempferol, a powerful antioxidant that may reduce cancer growth, decrease inflammation, and promote a healthy cardiovascular system. They also help keep blood sugar levels in check, thus reducing the risk of diabetes. Studies have shown that the alpha-lipoic acid, another antioxidant in sprouts, helps protect brain health and has anti-aging properties.
Broccoli. One cup of broccoli provides more vitamin C than you need in an entire day without causing the blood sugar spike that happens with drinking citrus juice. Many health experts consider broccoli to be the healthiest of all the cruciferous vegetables because of its ability to help lower the risk of lung, colorectal, breast, bladder, stomach, and prostate cancers. Broccoli is a solid source of vitamin K, which again, promotes bone health. Additionally, several studies have shown that broccoli consumption lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease.Mushrooms. These delicious fungi are one of the few natural dietary sources of vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium, promoting bone health. Countless scientific studies have revealed numerous ways that mushrooms can be useful in preventing and treating many health conditions, says Friedman. For example, studies conducted at the University of Florida’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition found that eating shiitake mushrooms daily improves immunity better than any pharmaceutical drug currently on the market. Lastly, mushrooms are great for cardiovascular health thanks to their high fiber, potassium, and vitamin C content. If you have high cholesterol, eat more shiitake mushrooms. The stem of the shiitake mushroom is a great source of beta-glucans, which have been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels.