"Let food be thy medicine" is an ancient saying that modern science has recently proven. But when it comes to health and immunity, in particular, not all foods can heal in fact, some can harm!
However, a number of foods from various plant families have been found to benefit the immune system due to the special healing compounds they contain.
One group of plants with flowers that are shaped in a "cross" configuration called cruciferous contain potent healing sulfur-based compounds. Vegetables in this family include broccoli, kale, collards, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, watercress, and horseradish. The sulfur compounds that give these veggies their characteristic scent and sharp flavor have been found to increase the body's ability to detoxify and help your body produce glutathione, one of the best detoxifying compounds. While our bodies are naturally built to detoxify, our environment has become more toxic than ever, meaning that most people are carrying more toxins than their bodies can handle.
The second group of plants that can boost immune function is adaptogens. While these are less well-known compared to cruciferous, they contain a wide range of special immune-modulating compounds that can help the body recover from stress, lower inflammation, and boost cell repair. Every culture has its go-to adaptogens, which are considered "super healers" from their indigenous or ancient medicine systems. The list of adaptogens is long, but the most widely known ones are turmeric, ginseng, ginger, and reishi mushroom while lessening known ones like Rhodiola, Ashwagandha, Schisandra berry, and moringa. Each adaptogen has its unique healing properties and is traditionally used for different conditions or imbalances.
The third group of foods that can boost the immune system to prevent disease and enhance health is known as antioxidant-rich plants. The normal wear and tear on our bodies every day as a result of stress, the environment, unhealthy foods we eat, smoking cigarettes, and so on is called oxidative stress. It is thought to be a major cause of aging in the body.
Other healing plants to consider are those that are high in antioxidants that don't fall into the cruciferous or adaptogenic family. This includes nutrient-dense plants, also termed "superfoods," that contain antioxidants in the pigment of their leaves and skins-- hence the advice to "eat the rainbow." All berries, pomegranate, spinach, red bell pepper, sweet potato, winter squashes, red lettuce, and olives contain these naturally protective antioxidants. These foods are also high in vitamins and minerals as well.
Antioxidants combat oxidative stress, decreasing the wear and tear on the body and reducing the effects of aging. Some antioxidants are so powerful they have even been associated with cancer prevention.
Eating more anti-inflammatory foods while cutting back on inflammatory ones, and adding delicious antioxidants to your diet, is the best way to boost your immune system, reduce the effects of aging, and prevent disease.
1. Cruciferous Vegetables
3. Olive Oil
5. Walnuts and other tree nuts
6. Red, Orange, and Yellow Peppers
9. Green Leafy Vegetables Such As Spinach
10. Berries Such As Blueberries
3. Standard Cooking Oils
4. Trans fats
5. Red Meat
6. Processed Meats/Cold Cuts
7. Refined Carbohydrates
8. Artificial Sweeteners and Flavorings, such as aspartame and saccharin; Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
10. Conventional Dairy Products
1. Small red beans
2. Blueberries, wild
3. Red kidney beans
4. Pinto beans
5. Blueberries, cultivated
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