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The foundation of good gut health – and immunity – begins with what you eat. With more than 70 percent of your immune system housed in your gut, it’s more important than ever to eat the right foods to keep your digestion and immunity in tip-top shape. The good news is that the foods that strengthen your immune system are probably already in your kitchen. And the best news of all is that some of your favorite foods and beverages are immune boosting powerhouses!
Here are my TOP 10 favorite foods that can give your immune system a much-needed boost during these challenging times.
Zinc is in the spotlight right now for its antiviral properties. Once inside a cell, zinc puts a stop to virus replication. Zinc also decreases the production of inflammatory cytokines and “cytokine storm.” Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of zinc, with approximately 8 milligrams per 100 gram serving.
The mixed carotenoids in carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A, which is critical for enhancing immune function. To increase the absorption of the vitamin A, carrots are best served steamed or lightly cooked, and eaten with healthy fats.
Protein is the fuel that powers your immune system. The amino acids found in proteins are the building blocks of all the cells in your body – including the cells that power your immune system. A2 whey protein is not only easier to digest, but contains the amino acid proline to support healthy collagen production, and contains immune-enhancing immunoglobulins naturally occurring in a non-denatured whey protein.
Choline plays a major role in DNA methylation and repair, and immune balance. It is also an essential nutrient for the liver, and is made in the liver in a very small amount when it isn’t part of your diet. Egg yolks are a rich source of choline that is easily absorbed.
Dark, leafy greens are not only a good source of vitamin C, but also provide the chemical signal for immune cells in the gut and skin to function properly. As an added bonus, bitter greens stimulate bile production and promote healthy fat digestion, which also supports immune function.
My famous cranwater is a fan favorite for its ability to help you shed unwanted pounds and put a little pep in your step. But this humble unsweetened cranberry juice has also been the subject of multiple studies showing immune cell enhancement and reduction in the number of cold and influenza symptoms. Find the cranwater recipe here.
Lemons are an excellent source of vitamin C, with an average of 77 milligrams per 100 gram serving. Bioflavonoids present in the lemon help you absorb approximately 80 percent of the vitamin C present, and the peel can be dried and used to make a whole food vitamin C powder, which I wrote about here.
Bone broth is a nutrition powerhouse, rich in immune-boosting vitamins and nutrients including calcium, magnesium, selenium, zinc, vitamins A and K, and collagen. When collagen is cooked it turns to gelatin, which is a rich source of amino acids. One of these amino acids present in abundance is glutamine, which is shown in studies to help reduce inflammation in the gut and repair the intestinal barrier. I trust Kettle & Fire brand. Every batch is made with bones from 100% grass-fed, pasture-raised cattle that are hormone and antibiotic free.
In a “normal” Spring, I would be spending my time teaching you to support your liver health with gentle cleansing herbs. Artichoke is tops on my list because it not only helps your liver eliminate toxins but also boosts bile production to help support digestion. Studies also show it has immunomodulatory effects, keeping your immune system on an even keel so it doesn’t overreact with cytokines or underreact. It contains the same chemical, cynarin, that Echinacea species do, which is a well-known immune modulating herb.
Your liver loves good, clean coffee, free of mycotoxins and toxic chemicals. Compounds present in your favorite caffeinated beverage prevent scarring in the liver, according to several studies. Coffee also has been shown in studies to inhibit viral multiplication and even kill some viruses, including herpes viruses, HIV, and influenza. The only coffee I trust is Purity, which is significantly higher in polyphenols than any other brand I’ve researched, and is laboratory tested to be free from mold, mycotoxins, and harmful chemicals.
What’s your favorite immune booster?