Everyday we are exposed to germs on public transport, the work place and even home. In addition to a rainbow of fruits & veg, here are a some foods that will help increase your immune system when you get run down.
Berries are a rich source of proanthocyanidins, which are potent antioxidants. One berry in particular, Elderberry has been found to inhibit viral binding to cells and reduce the severity and duration of viral infection such as influenza. It can be eaten when fully ripe and traditionally has been made into jams and as an addition to pies! Other berries such as blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackcurrants also contain cyanidins. A great start to a wintery morning is some organic oats with a mix of these berries on top!
People generally love or hate the taste of Garlic and if you have cooked with it, you have experienced the dreaded ‘Garlic hands’ after chopping it! Garlic is one of the most ancient herbs that has been used since the beginning of documented history, for both medicinal and culinary purposes.
Garlic has a variety of beneficial effects on the immune system. It induces white blood cell activity, stimulates the release of important cytokines and stimulates the proliferation of lymphocytes and the activity of natural killer cells. It has also been shown to act against viral infections including rhinovirus and parainfluenza virus.
Button mushrooms are an Aussie favourite in cooking however more exotic mushroom varieties such as Reishi, Shiitake, Enoki, Maitake and Oyster are just a few of the readily available mushrooms that you can add to your diet. These medicinal mushrooms contain long chain polysaccharides called beta-glucans which have been found to be potent immune enhancers. Beta-glucans stimulate white blood cells of the immune system involved in breaking down bacteria, and have an antiinflammatory effect. Mushrooms can easily be added to stir fries, winter soups, pies, pasta and omelettes.
Green Tea contains catechins and theanine which have been found to reduce the incidence of influenza infection amongst aged care workers. Green Tea catechins may affect enzymes found within the virus responsible for its binding and replication capability. When selecting Green Tea look for organically produced teas, you may even like to try Japanese Matcha Tea. This is a powdered Green Tea, where you consume the whole product, rather than just an infusion.
Rich in antioxidant nutrients, lycopene, betacarotene and vitamin C, the red, yellow and orange coloured vegetables are a great support to immune function. Red capsicum contains almost 3 times more vitamin C than oranges and can be used in a wide variety of dishes! Other great nutrient rich vegetables include pumpkin, sweet potato, squash, beetroot, radishes, red onion, chillies and carrots. Vitamin C increases the number of circulating immunoglobulins, which are antibodies that attach to the pathogen to help the immune system identify and destroy it. Supplementation increases the activity of neutrophils, which act to identify and destroy both bacterial and viral pathogens and increase their vitamin C concentrations. Many of these vegetables can be juiced as well as cooked, so get colourful with your vegetables to support your immune health.