Foods to Boost Your Immune System During Winter
By Sarah Axtell, ND • December 12, 2016
Winter is a time to nourish yourself. Winter does not have to weaken you if you know how to prepare accordingly. Boosting your immune system starts with your diet. Here are the top 5 foods that support your immune system during the winter months:
- Garlic. Garlic is rich in allicin, one of the most potent natural antimicrobials. To maximize the health benefits of garlic:
- Crush your garlic before you eat it. Then let it sit for 10 minutes before cooking with it. This will increase the allicin content.
- Use a lot of garlic! If a recipe calls for 1-2 cloves, double or triple the amount for maximum immune boosting effects.
- Red bell peppers. While we classically think of citrus fruits as the best source of vitamin C, red bell peppers actually provide double the amount of vitamin C. Vitamin C deficiency results in a reduced resistance against certain pathogens while a higher supply of vitamin C has been shown to enhance the immune system.
- Mushrooms. Mushrooms are rich in beta-glucans, which stimulate the immune system and activate immune cells. Mushrooms are antimicrobial, thus killing bacteria and viruses. Mushrooms are also a dietary source of vitamin D, which is so difficult to get from the sun during the winter months here in Wisconsin. Mushrooms have even been shown to be a supportive therapy for cancer due to their immune modulation effects. The most nutrient-dense mushrooms are maitake, coriolus, resishi, shitake and cordyceps.
- Kefir. Kefir is one of the best sources of probiotics, which are the friendly bugs that support a healthy gut. Approximately 70% if your immune system is located in a gut. A healthy gut translates to a healthy immune system. It is not recommended to eat a lot of dairy during the winter months as dairy can suppress white blood cell function. But it is generally better tolerated when it is fermented, as in the form of kefir. If you are sensitive to dairy, you can try either goat kefir or coconut kefir (a real treat!). I get coconut kefir at Slow Pokes in Grafton or Beans and Barley.
- Pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc. Zinc is known to play a critical role in the immune system, and zinc-deficient individuals experience increased susceptibility to a variety of pathogens. Here are some signs of zinc deficiency. Try incorporating at least one of these immune-supportive foods in your diet daily throughout winter. This Immune Strengthening Soup is one of my go-to recipes at the first sign of illness. Humans have evolved over thousands of years to adapt to our environment. Our needs for different types of food, at different times of year, are intrinsic to that long evolution. Part of our very make-up has been shaped by the seasons. Let’s embrace winter with these nourishing foods so we can adapt to the elements appropriately.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.