How to Boost Your Immunity With Food

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With the omicron variant of COVID-19 spreading like wildfire and lots of concern about getting sick with COVID, the flu and anything else going around, having a strong immune system is top of everyone’s mind. Often, folks get worried and start popping supplements that promise to boost your immune system. However, many often forget that the body has a built-in immune system, and eating the right foods can help ensure that it’s in tip-top shape.

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In my latest cookbook, “The Family Immunity Cookbook: 101 Easy Recipes to Boost Health,” I share 25 foods to help keep your immune system healthy, the science behind them and 101 delicious, satisfying and practical recipes that include these 25 foods. Below you’ll find seven of these foods and two immunity-boosting recipes that include several of them.

About Your Immune System

Your body has a network of tissues, cells and organs that tries to keep out foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. This is your immune system. Some of the main parts of the immune system include white blood cells, antibodies and the lymphatic system. All of these parts, and others, actively fight foreign bodies that enter your body. Your main goal is to keep your immune system in tip-top shape so if a foreign invader attacks, your body is ready. This means living the healthiest lifestyle possible, which includes eating a healthy, varied diet filled with immunity-boosting foods.

7 Immunity-Boosting Foods

These foods can be included in a healthy eating plan in order to keep your immune system in top shape:

  • Garlic.
  • Ginger.
  • Lentils.
  • Oranges.
  • Turmeric.
  • Walnuts.
  • Yogurt.

Garlic
This aromatic vegetable provides small amounts of important vitamins and minerals, like the antioxidant vitamin C, vitamin B6, selenium and potassium. In addition, garlic contains over one hundred sulfuric compounds, which research suggests provides anti-inflammatory properties in garlic. A 2015 review of recent research concluded that garlic appears to boost the immune system’s functions by stimulating cells linked to the immune system.

Ginger
The ginger commonly eaten is the root of the ginger plant. Ginger, ground or fresh, contains a variety of powerful antioxidants – including gingerols, shogaols and zingerones – that may help reduce inflammation. In addition, there’s some initial research published in the International Journal of Physiology, Pathophysiology and Pharmacology that has shown that ginger may be beneficial for combating bacterial infections.

Lentils
These legumes are a good plant-based source of zinc, with 1 cup of cooked lentils providing 17% of the recommended daily dose of the mineral. This legume is also an excellent source of iron, providing 37% of the recommended daily amount, and a good source of vitamin B6, providing 18% of the recommended daily amount. Zinc, iron and vitamin B6 all help create infection-fighting white blood cells.

Oranges
One medium orange provides 78% the recommended daily amount of vitamin C. This antioxidant vitamin can increase the production of white blood cells, which help fight infection. Vitamin C also helps absorb the mineral iron from plant sources (like spinach and black beans) and helps the immune system work properly to help protect the body from disease. The zest (or peel) of an orange also provides vitamin C. Plus, it adds great flavor to recipes.

Whether you include the whole orange, 100% orange juice or orange zest into your eating plan, it certainly can help keep your immune system healthy.

Turmeric
The potent antioxidant properties found in curcumin help protect cells and fight inflammation. In addition, some initial research suggests that both turmeric and its component curcumin may help stimulate the immune system.

Walnuts
This tree nut is an excellent source of omega-3 ALA (alphalinolenic acid) and a good source of vitamin B6, both of which are part of a functioning immune system. Walnuts also have the highest amount of the natural plant compound called polyphenols compared to other tree nuts and peanuts, which may play a role in supporting heart health and cognitive health.

Walnuts also help fight inflammation and combat some diseases like cancer. In addition, good gut health has been linked to numerous health benefits for digestion, metabolism and the immune system. Walnuts have been shown to have prebiotic properties, which are a good choice for gut health.

Yogurt
Whether you choose conventional or Greek yogurt, this fermented dairy product contains live, active cultures. These probiotics act as “good” bacteria in your digestive system, which means they provide health benefits and help protect the digestive tract. Research has shown that some strains of probiotics can help boost your immunity and promote a healthy digestive system.

Eating for Your Immunity

Below are two recipes from my “The Family Immunity Cookbook,” both of which include several of the immunity boosting foods listed above. The more foods you can take in daily, the better variety of immunity-boosting nutrients you are taking in.

Pineapple Turmeric Smoothie
Turmeric is a wonderful immune-boosting ingredient, but it has a strong flavor. In this smoothie, the orange juice, pineapple and mango complement and mellow the flavor for a refreshing morning bevie.

Serves: 2, serving size: about 1 cup.

  • 1 cup orange juice.
  • ½ cup coconut milk.
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric.
  • 1 cup frozen pineapple chunks.
  • 1 cup frozen mango chunks.
  • 1 pitted date.

  • Blend the orange juice, coconut milk and turmeric in a blender on High until well incorporated, about 20 seconds.
  • Add the pineapple, mango and date into the blender and blend on high until smooth, 30 to 45 seconds.
  • Pour into two glasses and serve immediately.

Hearty Lentil-Tomato Soup
This robust soup is brimming with good-for-you nutrients like filling fiber and the antioxidant vitamin C. It’s also filled with the immune-boosting ingredients turmeric, ginger, garlic and lentils. Enjoy this warming soup with a slice of crusty bread.

Serves: 6, serving size: 1¼ cups.

  • 2 tbsp olive oil.
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped.
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced.
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped.
  • 2 carrots, shredded.
  • 1 tsp ground cumin.
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric.
  • ½ tsp ground ginger.
  • 1⁄8 tsp hot pepper flakes.
  • 3 cups tomato purée.
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth.
  • 1 cup water.
  • 1 cup dried red lentils.
  • ¾ tsp salt.
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper.

  • In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and continue cooking until fragrant, an additional 30 seconds.
  • Add the celery and carrots and continue cooking until softened, about three minutes.
  • Add the cumin, turmeric, ginger and hot pepper flakes to the pot, and stir for 30 seconds.
  • Add the tomato purée, vegetable broth, water and lentils, and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • When the mixture is boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until lentils are soft and the flavors combine, about 40 minutes. Stir in the salt and black pepper.
  • Ladle 1¼ cups of soup into each of six soup bowls. Serve warm.  

Recipes from The Family Immunity Cookbook: 101 Easy Recipes to Boost Health by Toby Amidor. Published by Robert Rose Books, November 2021. All rights reserved.

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