Six foods to strengthen your immune system during—and after—the pandemic

In their daily press conferences about coronavirus, politicians, public health experts, and epidemiologists continue to speculate about treating people with a new vaccine, new drugs, and even old drugs.

But they don’t talk much about the simple, science-backed dietary steps people can take RIGHT NOW to help fend off any virus in the age of the coronavirus.

So, today, I’ll go over six specific immune-supporting foods you should add to your diet during the coronavirus pandemic…and year-round after it all subsides!

But before I get into those key foods, let’s talk about two big misconceptions about the immune system…

Two big misconceptions about your immune system

Many people think about the immune system simply in terms of white blood cells going to work to fight an infection.

But your immune system is actually a complex, interconnected network of cells, tissues, and organs.

In fact, your gastrointestinal (GI) microbiome, mouth, respiratory tract, skin, and even your brain all work together as part of your immune system to fight off infection. (As you’ll recall, your GI microbiome is actually “ground zero” for your health. It’s the environment in your gut where billions of healthy probiotic bacteria thrive.)

The second big misconception people have involves how the immune system works…

For example, some only know how to talk about “boosting” the immune system. But a chronically over-active immune system also causes major health problems, as I’ve explained before.

So, it’s more useful to discuss building a “balanced” immune system that’s relaxed when there are no invaders, but jumps into action when there are. And you can achieve this kind of balanced and primed immunity by adding certain key foods to your diet…

Six foods to balance your immune system

1.) Asparagus is a delicious stalk that sprouts from the ground each spring. And it’s packed with vitamin C, which the body needs to prime the immune response and produce those infection-fighting white blood cells. Asparagus is also plentiful in vitamins A, B, E, and K, as well as calcium and iron. (Remember, you should always get your calcium and iron from your diet alone—never from supplements.) Plus, asparagus is considered a “prebiotic” food, which means it feeds and supports the healthy probiotic bacteria in your gut. (Probiotics should also come from foods, not from supplements.)

2.) Broccoli has an impressive nutritional profile as well. In fact, just one cup of broccoli contains a full day’s worth of vitamin C. It’s also packed with phytochemicals, which support immune system function. Studies show that cruciferous vegetables like broccoli also reduce the risk of heart disease and cancers, which probably relates to all the good vitamin C and phytochemicals.

3.) Brussels sprouts are another cruciferous vegetable, like broccoli and cauliflower. They’re loaded with vitamins A, B, C, K, iron, manganese, and fiber. And they’re great for your GI tract, which, as I just mentioned, is considered “ground zero” for your health and immune system.

4.) Mushrooms are one of the few “plant-based” sources of vitamin D, which, as I explained last month, reduces your risk of contracting a respiratory illness. (Although, technically, mushrooms are fungi, not plants.) In addition, they’re also good sources of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. Numerous studies show they can even help prevent and reverse many chronic health conditions. In fact, groundbreaking studies conducted recently by the University of Florida have found that eating shiitake mushrooms daily improves immunity and gut health.

5.) Peppers are another great source of vitamin C. In fact, one sweet bell pepper provides nearly twice your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C. Hot peppers are high in vitamin C too. But they’re smaller, so you need to eat more of them to get as much. Of course, all peppers actually start out as green. But as they ripen and turn yellow, orange, and red, their levels of pro-vitamin A (beta carotene), carotenoids, and antioxidants also increase. And these nutrients all help strengthen your immune system, so you can fight off infections. Just remember, peppers belong to the nightshade family of vegetables. So, if you have trouble digesting them, you may find that roasting and/or peeling them decreases your reaction.

6.) Sweet potatoes are rich in two types of fiber, which, again, supports your gut—the frontline of your immune system. Plus, one recent study found that like asparagus, sweet potatoes also promote the production of healthy probiotic bacteria in your gut. And like red and yellow peppers, sweet potatoes are also rich in beta carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A…a key nutrient for immune system functioning.

In addition to adding these nutrient-dense food to your diet, you should also strive to eliminate ultra-processed foods that contain sugars, carbs, and artificial ingredients—all of which weaken the immune system.

So, as the economy starts to open back up around the country, it’s more important than ever that you take these practical, science-backed steps to support your immune system and help keep yourself safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

You can learn more about my top immune health recommendations in my Pandemic Protection Playbook: How to become “immune ready” in every season. To gain access this essential guide, click here now!

Sources:

“Foods That Boost Your Immune System.” Newsmax, 3/17/20. (https://www.newsmax.com/Health/health-news/immune-system-vegetables-diet-nutrition/2020/03/17/id/958683/)

“Consuming Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A Randomized Dietary Intervention in Healthy Young Adults.” J Am Coll Nutr. 2015;34(6):478-87. doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2014.950391.

“Vitamin effects on the immune system: vitamins A and D take centre stage.” Nat Rev Immunol. 2008;8(9):685–698. doi.org/10.1038/nri2378

“Antioxidant and prebiotic activity of five peonidin-based anthocyanins extracted from purple sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.).” Sci Rep. 2018 Mar 22;8(1):5018. doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-23397-0.


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