As it turns out, it’s the addition of so-called “superfoods” – or healing foods – to your diet that will strengthen your immune system and help you to fight ailments like the flu.
Scientists have long recognized the possible link between malnourishment and sickness. For instance, a group of investigators once found that mice diets deficient in protein reduce the numbers of T cells and macrophages, as well as immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibody, which all contribute to immune system defenses.
Scientists have also discovered that deficiencies of zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C and E alter immune system responses in animals. And although the effect of similar deficiencies on the human immune system haven’t been fully shown, recent findings by the Harvard Medical School, the University of Nebraska, the University of Vienna and the California-based Scripps Research Institute seem promising.
Based on their research, here are four healing foods (beef included!) and beverages that have the potential to boost your immune system.
One of the most common nutritional deficits among American adults, especially vegetarians, zinc is a mineral that bolsters your immune system and decreases your risk of infection. Having enough zinc in your diet is key to the development of white blood cells, the immune system cells that spot and thwart invading bacteria and viruses, according to the Scripps Research Institute.
A great source of zinc is beef and the optimal dose is a three-ounce serving of the lean variety. It provides roughly 30 percent of the daily value for zinc. I’m not saying eat beef daily, because you do want to limit its saturated fats, but keep zinc top of mind. Other good zinc sources are poultry and pork, so switch in white meat for red, and add in zinc-rich leafy greens, chick peas, pumpkin seeds and fortified cereals, yogurt or milk.
Tea is potent medicine. A recent Harvard study found that people who drank at least five cups of black tea every day for two weeks had 10 times more virus-fighting interferon in their blood than others who had a placebo hot drink.
The amino acid that’s behind this immune system boost – what’s called L-theanine –is abundant in both black and green tea, even in their decaffeinated form.
For an optimal dose, try several cups each day. To get up to five times more antioxidants from your tea bags, just bob them up and down while you brew.
3. Chicken soup
The University of Nebraska researchers, when testing 13 brands of chicken-flavored soup noodles, discovered that all but one of such healing foods blocked the migration of inflammatory white cells.
Usually, cold symptoms are a response to the white cells’ accumulation in the bronchial tubes. But an amino acid, called cysteine, is released from chicken during the cooking process and, chemically speaking, this resembles the bronchitis drug acetylcysteine.
Another bonus, the soup’s salty broth keeps your mucus super-thin, exactly the way cough medicines do. Your optimal dose: An entire bowl!
Typically found in yogurt and available in pill form, probiotics are healthy bacteria that keep the gut and intestinal tract completely free of disease-causing germs. The University of Vienna revealed that a daily seven-ounce dose of yogurt was just as good at boosting your immune system as a probiotic pill.
Try a six-ounce serving each day, and choose plain, unsweetened versions to which you can add your own natural sweetener along with berries, nuts and seeds for flavor and added nutrition.
Isn’t it great when you can turn to your kitchen instead of your medicine cabinet to keep your health in line?
I’m all for natural ways to stay well, and these healing foods will help your body and immunity stay strong.