While old standbys like chicken soup or vitamin C tablets are likely your standard go-to when you’re worried about your immune system or getting sick, they’re far from your only options. In fact, researchers have identified four surprising immune-boosting foods that might not be on your radar, but definitely should be if you want a strong, healthy immune system.
1. Bone Broth
If you’ve ever had a dish like Vietnamese pho, you’ve enjoyed bone broth already. But it’s quickly becoming its own superstar food, gaining prominence in natural health food stores and grocery stores nationwide.
Bone broth is a very nutritious soup made from simmering bones for several hours, releasing many different enzymes, minerals, vitamins and other nutrients into the soup.
Depending on the type of bones used (common ingredients include bones from cows, chickens, lamb, etc.), the resulting broth will be high in:
- vitamin A
- vitamin K
- and omega-3 fatty acids
Each of these nutrients have well-documented benefits for your immune system and general wellness.
But that’s just the start for this immune-boosting food:
- L-glycine and arginine, amino acids released from the bones and connective tissues in the broth, help fight inflammation. And chronic inflammation is one of the common causes of reduced immunity and increased disease risks in North America.
- These same amino acids have been shown to improve sleep. “Without sufficient sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, effectively creating an immune response,” warns the National Sleep Foundation.
- Bone broth may improve gut health and digestion, and improved gut health has been linked with better immune function.
Bone broth can be enjoyed in a big bowl on its own as a light meal, as a stock for stews and gravies, or heated up in a mug as a cozy snack and as a substitute for your herbal teas.
You can purchase bone broth at your health food store, or simply make your own! Click here for our recipe: Bone Broth for a Younger You Recipe.
2. Italian Immune-Boosting Foods
Some of the most common herbs used in savory Italian cuisine have powerful, well-researched antiviral and immunity properties.
For instance, oregano can help defeat many different viruses (if you’re worried about respiratory illnesses like COVID-19, oregano oil has been shown to help with respiratory infections).
Sage is a rich source of safficinolide, a substance that has antiviral properties.
And in a month-long study (albeit with a small sample group, so more research needs to be done), basil increased the number of killer cells in your immune system, which would suggest better resistance to infections and disease.
Unfortunately, some of the most popular Italian foods in North America aren’t the healthiest (think Americanized pizza, dripping with heavy cheese). Healthy ways to incorporate the above herbs include whole grain pastas, light and fresh caprese salads, and in soups like fagioli soup.
We all know how crucial antioxidants are for boosting our immunity, protecting against chronic disease, and improving our overall wellness.
And while there are many immune-boosting foods that are rich in antioxidants, such as kale and citrus fruits, none can beat the humble blueberry.
In fact, a report published in the Journal of AOAC INTERNATIONAL found that blueberries have more antioxidant activity than any other commonly eaten vegetable or fruit.
An easy way to incorporate blueberries every day (and all year long) is by keeping a bag of blueberries in your freezer.
This helps preserve their antioxidant properties, and makes it simple and quick to add to smoothies, breakfast bowls, and baked goods.
Fennel stalks and fronds are often used in dips, with meals like meat or roasted poultry, and in soups and stews.
But this delicious immune-boosting food does far more than just add flavor and texture to your favorite meals.
Trials done on animals have found that fennel powers up your immune system and speeds up immune responses.
And in humans, the oils in fennel have even been shown to work as antiviral agents against viruses like herpes!
Try adding fennel to your next stew and see how it transforms both your food and your health.
As you add these surprising immune-boosting foods to your day, don’t forget to also think outside the box when it comes to immune-strengthening supplements. Many people turn automatically to supplements like echinacea or zinc when they’re trying to enhance their immunity. And while such supplements are helpful, they aren’t the only thing you can do!
Don’t forget thymic proteins, which help your body to identify and respond to invading pathogens, viruses, etc. Every single dose of BioPro-Plus 500 contains 500 mcg of bio-identical thymic proteins to support your immune system at the cellular level.