Autumn is here. Along with the brisk air and pretty leaves on the ground, it also brings some other things: sniffles, coughs, and the flu. While some people are already running to the drug store seeking remedies and flu shots, turning to mother nature first can give you a head start on the sickness that comes with the changing of the seasons. There are many fruits, veggies, and herbs that boost your immune system naturally. And, they usually cost less and are more enjoyable to ingest than the cough syrups and other medicines you'll get at the drug store. Check out these herbs, fruits, and veggies that will keep your body strong and happy.
Licorice root is an herb that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for years. Now studies have shown the science behind its purported immune system-boosting properties. The herb contains Glycyrrhizin, a chemical that has been shown to boost natural killer cell activity; natural killer cells are part of the immune system's defence. They pick out infecting viral and tumour cells and kill them before they can start making you unwell.
Besides making nearly any dish more flavourful and delicious (and warding off vampires, of course), garlic has similar immune system building properties to licorice root. It also boosts natural killer cell activity, and makes the body better at getting rid of invading viruses. Just make sure you brush your teeth afterwards, or it can help ward off any kisses or conversation as well!
The upcoming winter does mean one tasty thing: citrus is in season. You'll be able to find tangerines, tangelos, oranges, and grapefruit by the bag in your local grocery. While you've heard it a million times, that doesn't make it any less true: Vitamin C does wonders for your immune system. In studies, animals deprived of Vitamin C are less able to fight off antigens and viruses invading their cells. And, over time, the phytochemicals in citrus can help decrease your risk of cancer and other cellular degeneration.
Almonds are an excellent source of the anti-oxidant Vitamin E. Vitamin E eats up free radials, oxygen atoms that wear away cell membranes and inhibit immune system function. The vitamin also lowers cell inflammation by interfering with an enzyme that causes cell oxidation. Over time, this reduction of inflammation can decrease your risk of cancer.
Brazil nuts are incredibly high in the trace element selenium. Selenium is necessary for the correct formation of selenoproteins, a type of antioxidant which increases immune system function. Selenoproteins get rid of free radicals, the cell-damaging by-products of regular metabolism. Selenoproteins also help keep your thyroid functioning correctly.
Carrots, Spinach, and Kale
Vitamin A is a super-vitamin, and these three veggies have it in the highest amounts. Vitamin A not only helps your vision, bone grown, and cell division, but it's also a helper to the immune system. Vitamin A increases the amount of white bloods cells that your body makes; white blood cells help destroy infections by seeking out harmful bacteria and viruses.
So now you know what to load up on your plate this winter, to stay in tip top shape. But you don't necessarily have to buy all of it at the store: it's more fun to grow the foods that are going to ward off this season's colds.