Immune System Boosting Food Groups – Top Five
Our immune system is the most influential factor in determining our health. It continually interacts with the external environment, protecting us from all microorganisms, bacteria, viruses, funghi, yeasts, foreign proteins and cancer cells. In Chinese Medicine the immune system is related to the concept of wei qi, or “protective qi.” During the day wei qi circulates through the muscles and skin, opening and closing the pores and fighting off disease due to climate changes and microorganisms. At night it travels deep within the organs of the body. This protective qi is acquired from the air we breathe and the food we eat. In Western medicine we interpret a similar concept that immune system function is affected by the body’s ability to use oxygen and absorb nutrients.
A healthy diet is therefore essential to a strong immune system and specific foods can bolster immunity.
Here are five foods that can keep the body armed for life.
1 – Zinc rich foods – to reinforce insufficiency – Zinc deficiency is common among Americans, especially among those who do not consume red meat. The mineral zinc is vital to the development of white blood cells, which destroy invading pathogens. A 3 oz. serving of beef provides about 30% or the daily value for zinc. If you are not a red meat eater, try poultry, pork, oysters, yogurt or milk. If you are a vegan, cooked leafy greens, beans, legumes, wheat germ, nuts and seeds all contain zinc.
2 – Orange colored fruits and vegetables – to bolster the front line Your skin plays a key role in the immune system by protecting the body from outside elements. To stay effective the skin needs Vitamin A since it is important in the production of connective tissue and is crucial in fighting disease. A great way to get Vitamin A is from foods that contain beta-carotene, the precursor to this vitamin. Foods that are rich in beta-carotene are orange in color, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, winter squash, pumpkin and cantaloupe.
3 – Mushrooms – to activate white blood cells – Traditionally various cultures have utilized the immune boosting quality of mushrooms. Recent research shows that mushrooms increase the production and action of white blood cells, which help fight infection. A variety of mushrooms, from the common button to shitake and maitake mushrooms, can now be found in local supermarkets and are easily incorporated into our cooking. The Chinese ganoderma (ling zhi) mushroom is considered powerful in enhancing immunity and has a strong anti-tumor effect.
4 – Tea – to fight the wreckage – When the immune system fights pathogens, free radicals are formed, which can damage cells and their DNA. Ultimately, this can lead to advancing the aging process and pre-disposing the body toward chronic diseases such as cancer. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants and very beneficial in fighting free radical damage. Green and black tea are rich in polyphenols, antioxidants that are extremely powerful in restoring the body’s balance. Jiggling the teabag while you brew releases additional polyphenols, increasing the potent action of the tea.
5 – Fermented food – support reinforcement – The lining of the intestinal tract houses trillions of good bacteria important for digestive health. The use of antibiotics tends to eliminate both the good and bad bacteria leaving the body vulnerable to diarrhea-causing germs. Eating yogurt or drinking kefir that contain active cultures can be an important source to generate healthy gut bacteria. For those who do not eat dairy, try miso, kimchee or sauerkraut as sources of healthful bacteria.
Wholesome foods, free from chemicals, are important for optimizing your health. If possible eat organic and locally grown foods to greatly enhance your immune support.