5 Foods to Boost Your Immune System

woman chopping peppers by Retha Ferguson
Photo by Retha Ferguson

Amid the covid-19 pandemic, taking care of yourself is more important than ever. Anxiety, a lack of sleep, and other stressors can weaken the immune system. Maintaining a well-balanced diet and eating foods which support your immune system can help strengthen your body’s natural protections. Of course, follow CDC-recommended safety measures in the fight against covid-19.

Bring the Vitamin C

If you’ve ever had a cold, you’ve have probably been told to increase your vitamin C intake. Citrus fruits are packed with it, and bell peppers, strawberries, and sweet potatoes can also help you meet your daily requirements. Vitamin C supports the production of white blood cells—which fight against illness—and is also transported to the skin, where it plays a role in wound-healing and protecting skin from ultraviolet light damage.

Have a Breath Mint Handy

A bonus for your immune system and your stir-fry, studies suggest that garlic has the potential to enhance the immune system and lower blood pressure. Garlic’s immune-boosting effects come from compounds containing sulfur, which also give it its notorious odor. Crushing garlic and letting it stand for 10 minutes before cooking with it can help preserve its health benefits.

Rock the Brocc

There’s a reason we tell kids to eat their broccoli. According to the National Institutes of Health, just half a cup of the cruciferous vegetable contains 43 percent of your daily vitamin C needs. Broccoli also contains sulforaphane, which has been shown to help repair your immune system as you age. Overall, steaming or sautéing your broccoli is the best way to retain the most nutrients.

Go Wild with Mushrooms

Mushrooms are the only type of produce with significant amounts of vitamin D. Plants produce vitamin D2 when exposed to sunlight, and studies show that wild mushrooms, which you can find at farmers markets, have higher levels than conventionally grown types. Vitamin D2 can also be found in dietary supplements and fortified foods. Salmon, egg yolks, cheese, and many other animal products contain vitamin D3, which is thought to be more effective in raising blood levels of calcifediol, the main form of vitamin D that circulates throughout the body. Vitamin D plays a role in activating the immune system and is known to strengthen the function of immune cells. Preliminary research also suggests that covid-19 has more severe health impacts on patients with a vitamin D deficiency—all
the more reason to get your daily dose!

Get Your Sweet Tooth Ready

It’s not only fruits and vegetables that are good for you. Studies have found that dark chocolate—in small doses—has the potential to help regulate blood pressure and support heart health. Experts recommend eating no more than one ounce a day, which could be a few squares of your favorite brand, depending on bar size. But before you treat yourself, check out Green America’s chocolate scorecard, which can help you find the most delicious—and ethically made—chocolate. ✺

From Green American Magazine Issue