10 Plant-Based Foods That Boost Your Immunity
The most pungent of the plant kingdom inhabitants, garlic contains the immune-stimulating compound allicin, which promotes the activity of white blood cells to destroy cold and flu viruses. It also stimulates other immune cells, which fight viral, fungal, and bacterial infections. Garlic kills with near 100 percent effectiveness the human rhinovirus, which causes colds, common flu, and respiratory viruses.
Because allicin is released when you cut, chop, chew, or crush raw cloves, allow freshly chopped garlic to stand for 10 minutes and then cook it, sprinkle it over foods, drop it into soup, or swallow bits of garlic with some water like a pill. You can also drop a clove of garlic into some honey and swallow it immediately for a quick dose that tastes good!
Onions, like garlic, contain allicin. They also contain quercetin, a nutrient that breaks up mucus in your head and chest while boosting your immune system. Additionally, the pungency of onions increases your blood circulation and makes you sweat, which is helpful during cold weather to help prevent infections. Consuming raw onion within a few hours of the first symptoms of a cold or flu produces a strong immune effect.
Chopping onions into your favorite soup or cooked recipe is a great way to enjoy them. Also, it may sound a little weird, but putting half an onion in your bedroom while you sleep can help absorb some of the circulating bacteria and potentially lessen the symptoms of your cold.
Spicy, pungent, and delicious, ginger reduces fevers, soothes sore throats, and encourages coughing to remove mucus from the chest. Anti-inflammatory chemicals like shagaol and gingerol give ginger that spicy kick that stimulates blood circulation and opens your sinuses. Improved circulation means more oxygen is getting to your tissues to help remove toxins and viruses.
Research has indicated that ginger can help prevent and treat the flu. Ginger is also extremely helpful for stomachaches, nausea, and headaches.
If you’re feeling a little sickly, a homemade ginger tea is one of the best things you can drink. Slice some fresh ginger root, place it into a pot with water, and bring to a boil. Then drop in a bit of lemon juice or cayenne, which makes the tea that much more effective at nourishing and purifying your system.
The cayenne family of hot peppers (cayenne, habanero, Scotch bonnet, and bird peppers, to name a few) contains capsicum — a rich source of vitamin C and bioflavonoids, which aid your immune system in fighting colds and flus. It does this by increasing the production of white blood cells, which cleanse your cells and tissues of toxins.
Cayenne pepper is also full of beta carotene and antioxidants that support your immune system and help build healthy mucus membrane tissue that defends against viruses and bacteria. Spicy cayenne peppers raise your body’s temperature to make you sweat, increasing the activity of your immune system.
The fresher the pepper, the more effective it is. However, fresher also means spicier, so choose accordingly.
When you’re sick, add organic cayenne powder to some warm water with lemon juice for an intense immune boost.
Squash is a good source of vitamin C and carotene. The six carotenoids (out of the 600 found in nature) found most commonly in human tissue — and supplied by squash and other gourds — decrease the risk of various cancers, protect the eyes and skin from the effects of ultraviolet light, and defend against heart disease.
One of them, alpha-carotene, helps slow down the aging process. Butternut squash is the strongest source of these nutrients, but you can also try acorn, Hubbard, delicata, calabaza, and spaghetti squash.
Like other leafy greens, kale offers up a good dose of vitamin E. This immunity-boosting antioxidant is known for increasing the production of B cells, those white blood cells that kill unwanted bacteria. Whether you eat kale raw in a salad, steam it, or lightly sauté it, you’ll reap all of its wonderful benefits.
Adding a bit of citrus to your diet goes a long way toward fending off your next cold or flu. Packed with vitamin C, oranges and grapefruits help increase your body’s resistance to nasty invaders.
The best way to enjoy citrus fruits is to eat them whole. Otherwise, you can make fresh juice yourself (stay away from the premade stuff in cartons or in the freezer section at your supermarket).
Green tea is a potent source of antioxidants called polyphenols — especially catechins. Some studies have found that catechins can destroy the influenza and common cold viruses.
Sipping a hot cup of green tea when you’re feeling under the weather can really help you come alive again. Try adding some honey or lemon to kick it up a bit.
Miso soup is the plant-based version of chicken-noodle soup. It has wonderful healing properties that are amazing at boosting immunity. As a living food, miso is loaded with enzymes and healthy bacteria that help fight infection and keep your cells thriving.
All you need is one teaspoon of miso paste stirred into a mug or bowl of warm water, and you’re set. Sip this down, especially at the first sign of a cold or when you’re just feeling “off” with a stomachache, headache, or something like that. This is sure to hit the spot and make you feel good all over.
For centuries, people around the world have turned to mushrooms for a healthy immune system. Contemporary researchers now know why. Studies show that mushrooms increase the production and activity of white blood cells, making them more aggressive. This is a good thing when you have an infection.
Shiitake, maitake, chaga, and reishi mushrooms appear to pack the biggest immunity punch. Experts recommend eating a quarter ounce to an ounce a few times a day for maximum immune benefits.