Immune Boosting Foods to Keep You Healthy in the Winter

We often hear the message that eating right is the key to good health.  During and after cancer treatment, most patients experience a lowered immune system that can often result in being incredibly susceptible to contracting illnesses. During the winter months it may seem like everyone you know either has a cough, runny nose or fever.  One way to bolster your health and protect your immune system is to eat a well-balanced diet that is rich in the immune-boosting foods we discuss below.

1. Yogurt

  • Yogurt is not only delicious but it is a versatile food rich in a very important immune booster – probiotics.  Probiotics are beneficial for the body and intestinal health but they have also been shown to support the immune system.  Harvard Health Publications makes note that probiotics may help boost the immune system, ” here are hundreds of different species of bacteria in your digestive tract, which do a bang-up job helping you digest your food. Now researchers, including some at Harvard Medical School, are finding evidence of a relationship between such “good” bacteria and the immune system. For instance, it is now known that certain bacteria in the gut influence the development of aspects of the immune system, such as correcting deficiencies and increasing the numbers of certain T cells.”

2. Cruciferous Vegetables

  • Cruciferous vegetables can be prepared in a number of tasty ways and should be added to everyone’s diet because not only are they immune boosters, but they also have cancer fighting abilities.  SFGate discusses how cruciferous vegetables support the immune system and fight cancer, “Cancer is one of the ultimate immune disorders as cancerous cells need to evade multiple immune defenses and checkpoints in order to become malignant and spread. Regular consumption of cruciferous vegetable such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower have beneficial effects on several types of cancer through their powerful anticarcinogenic agents such as sulforaphane, isothiocyanates and indoles. Leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale are rich in vitamin A, vitamins C, chlorophyll, antioxidants and essential fatty acids, which have immunostimulatory and immunoprotective effects while the sulfur-rich molecules in garlic known as allyl compounds work on numerous immune pathways by being antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and anticarcinogenic.”

3. Lean Proteins

  • Lean proteins provide much needed nutrition and energy for the body.  Lean protein will help keep you full and is a much better choice than many proteins that are more fatty in nature.  When it comes to making burgers or meatballs, swap ground chuck out in favor of lean turkey.  Not only will it save calories but it will also boost your immune system.  Today Health points out how lean proteins can bolster the immune system, “No one food will magically fend off the flu, but certain nutrients take the lead in helping protect your body from billions of bacteria, viruses, and other germs—and protein is one of them. One of the reasons is that the antibodies that help fight disease are actually made of protein. Another reason: Many foods high in protein also contain other immune-boosting nutrients. Lean cuts of beef and pork, as well as protein from beans, soy, and seafood (particularly oysters and crab), contain zinc—a mineral that helps up the production of infection-fighting white blood cells; even mild zinc deficiencies can increase your susceptibility to infections. Nuts, like almonds and cashews, are also good sources of protein, as well as magnesium, both of which help support a healthy immune system.

4. Garlic

  • Garlic is not only a delicious addition to meals but as many amazing antibacterial properties that are very good for the human body.  Garlic can be eaten raw or cooked and is a wonderful ingredient in many different cuisines.  Whether you love Asian food or Italian food, garlic can be added so that you can enjoy its immune boosting benefits.  Prevention elaborates on why garlic boosts the immune system, “This potent onion relative contains the active ingredient allicin, which fights infection and bacteria. British researchers gave 146 people either a placebo or a garlic extract for 12 weeks; the garlic takers were two-thirds less likely to catch a cold. Other studies suggest that garlic lovers who chow more than six cloves a week have a 30% lower rate of colorectal cancer and a 50% lower rate of stomach cancer.”

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