If you’re like most people, your response when sickness hits is to take a pill. While this approach is sensible for fighting off disease and infection, it doesn’t work the same way when it comes to building up your body’s natural defenses. Gulping down supplements might seem like an easy way to boost your immune system, but research shows that the beneficial effects of minerals and vitamins were much more pronounced in those who consumed those nutrients as part of real food, as opposed to taking supplements .
There’s also the possibility of taking so much of a given supplement that you do more harm than good. With a huge variety of nutritional supplements just a click away, it’s far too easy to ingest potentially toxic amounts of a particular nutrient. (Just look at what’s been happening with turmeric.)
According to Dr. Clifford Lo , an associate professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, nutrients are most potent when they come from food. Plus, he adds, “consuming immune-boosting nutrients through food brings an entourage of other beneficial nutrients, such as hundreds of carotenoids, flavonoids, minerals, and antioxidants that aren’t in most supplements.” Not to mention food tastes better and is often less expensive than stocking up on bottles of individual vitamins and minerals.
We’ve pulled together a list of some of the top foods for boosting your immune system, as well as some easy ways to incorporate them into your shelter-in-place menu. As the French say, “à ta santé.” Red Bell Pepper
Westend61/Getty Images If you’re like most people, you’ve been taught to mainline Vitamin C as soon as cold season begins. Outside of a capsule, orange juice has been the most popular way to get your daily intake of vitamin C. Thing is, all that sugar in your system kind of offsets the benefit — any form of sugar, even the natural kind, is no bueno for your immune system. In lieu of citrus, we present for your consideration the red bell pepper. It’s sweet, it’s crunchy, it tastes great raw or cooked, and just one medium-sized pepper contains enough vitamin C to fully arm the body against infection.
Try this : Roast a couple red bell peppers (in the oven or over an open flame), then puree and add into a tomato sauce or soup for an unexpected caramel-like flavor. Garlic
Sébastien Marchand/Unsplash Another perennial cure-all, garlic’s immune-supporting powers are well backed by scientific research. Smash open a clove, and drink in the smell of that antibacterial, immune cell-enhancing elixir. Studies show that healthy adults who consume garlic for 90 days experienced much milder symptoms of seasonal illnesses like cold and flu than those who took a placebo. (Given what we know about this virus, we’re happy to settle for milder symptoms.)
Try this : Wrap a whole bulb of garlic (not just a clove) in aluminum foil, pop in the oven for 20 minutes. When you take it out and pierce the skins, you’ll find little petals of pure molten deliciousness. Spread it on toast, sprinkle with salt and olive oil, and try not to make awkward moaning sounds. Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, and Butternut Squash
Jonathan Pielmayer/Unsplash Do you even beta carotene, bro? This antioxidant, a precursor to the body manufacturing vitamin A, supports the immune system by triggering the production of white blood cells that fight viruses and bacteria. Beta-carotene also helps form mucous membranes within the respiratory tract, which serves as a barrier against germs. Nature’s own face mask, if you will. Just a cup of sweet potato or carrot will give you all the beta carotene you need for the day.
Try this : Toss chunks of sweet potato, carrot and/or butternut squash carrot in some lemon-scented olive oil and roast at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes (until soft enough to spear with a fork). Remove and add salt and a fresh herb like dill, rosemary, or marjoram. Cauliflower
Eric Prouzet/Unsplash We all kind of know that cruciferous vegetables are good for fighting illness. But cauliflower tends to be the red-headed stepchild of this prestigious family, overlooked for its forgettable color and bland flavor. The most action cauliflower sees these days is when it’s disguised by dieters as potatoes. (Which we think is an insult to both vegetables) However, in addition to having all the antioxidant powers of its greener cousins, cauliflower is rich in glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that helps fight off infection. Worth a second look, don’t you think?
Try this : Roast cauliflower chunks at 450 degrees F until the tips are brown and they give off a popcorn-like smell. Toss with avocado oil, a healthy sprinkling of curry powder, and a handful of golden raisins. You’ll never look at cauliflower the same way again. Beans
Tijana Drndarski/Unsplash With all the hype about foods that search-and-destroy toxins, bacteria and viruses, nobody thinks to mention the foods that help shuttle the nasty stuff out of the body. In short, we’re talking about fiber, which means we’re talking about beans. Shelter-in-place has been a real popularity boom for the humble bean, finding its way off the dusty back shelf and diving straight into our hearts and our Instant Pots. But along with binding to the waste in our blood and moving it on outta there, beans also have the virtue of zinc, a mineral that plays a crucial role in immune cell production.
Try this : Fry some garlic and shallots in olive oil, then add a tablespoon of tomato paste, a tablespoon of vinegar, and a can of your favorite beans. Stir it all together until it’s warm, then serve over greens or crusty bread (or both). Fennel
Benjamin Egerland / EyeEm/Getty Images If the greenmarket stalls are anything to go by, fennel tends to strike people as a vegetable only a chef could love. It looks more like a weed than a food, and has a faintly licorice-y smell … so what are you supposed to do […]