Keeping your immune system healthy doesn't mean you have to eat boring meals or a lot of oranges. There are plenty of nutrients that help the immune system stay strong. This translates into tasty meals. I'm going to share with you recipes specifically designed to support your immune system. But before I do that, let's take a look at the nutrients that are key to keeping your immune system strong enough to fight illness.
Vitamin C is a major nutrient that is needed not only by the immune system but most of the systems in the body. It is an anti-viral which is why it is so well known for keeping your immune system healthy. There have been several studies on Vitamin C showing that by taking Vitamin C daily, your chances of developing a cold are reduced by 50%. Vitamin C is found not only in citrus but also in bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, romaine lettuce and tomatoes.
Vitamin A helps to support the respiratory system and may stimulate the immune system. Carrots and sweet potatoes are well known for their vitamin A content. But did you know Vitamin A is also prevalent in spinach, kale, winter squash and asparagus?
Vitamin D can reduce the frequency of upper respiratory infections and protect against viral and bacterial respiratory infections. Unfortunately, Vitamin D is not readily available in a lot of foods. It is only found in shrimp, sardines, cod, milk, and eggs. Regardless of what type of eating lifestyle you are following, supplementation is necessary to support the immune system. I recommend a daily dose of 400 IU of Vitamin D to help your body get the nutrient it needs.
Vitamin E helps the immune cells respond to a pathogen when it exists in the body. Vitamin E is found in sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, kale, olives, blueberries and kiwi.
B vitamins are necessary for ensuring the right amount of antibodies are produced. Most of us are deficient in B vitamins especially as we get older. If you eat a lot of protein, drink alcohol or use oral contraceptives, you are B vitamin deficient. Not having enough B vitamins means our bodies have reduced responses to antibodies. B Vitamins are difficult to get in large quantities through food so taking a B Complex everyday is a good idea.
Selenium is a critical nutrient for the immune system. It affects all parts of the immune system. Lack of selenium results in a depressed immune system. This nutrient is difficult to get from a wide variety of foods. As far as plant based foods go, Brazil Nuts have the highest levels of selenium. I recommend taking a supplement of 500mg daily to ensure you are supporting your immune system.
Another nutrient that I have recently fallen in love for immune support is Cordyceps mushrooms. That's right! Cordyceps mushrooms. I drink cordyceps 5 days a week mixed with some warmed soy milk. Sometimes I add a little honey. It is such a great drink. It helps with immune system support and vascular function. I buy MicroIngredients Organic Cordyceps on amazon. The serving size is 1 scoop which is equivalent to a really tiny spoon that comes in the bag. There are 113 servings per bag. It is really economical, only about 20 cents per serving, and tastes good. If you are leery about drinking mushrooms, the small scoop of cordyceps powder can be put into soup as an immune booster. You'll never know it is in there. Below are 6 additional benefits of Cordyceps from Healthline.
Now that we've reviewed the nutrients necessary for supporting a healthy immune system, let's get to the recipes. I recommend eating an immune boosting meal at least once a day during peak times of cough/cold season, flu season and allergy season. This is the minimum, it is better if you can weave these meals into your routine at least twice a day. The immune system needs to be strong when you are going to come into contact with others who are predisposed to getting sick. Allergy season is often overlooked for immune system support. Allergies can turn into nasty infections so a strong immune system is necessary.
SMOOTHIES: As I mentioned, try to get at least two of the meals you eat to contain the nutrients needed to support the immune system. Smoothies are a great option to start your day with an immune boost. I make them as economical as possible by relying on frozen fruits and veggies. Here are some recipes that contain veggies and fruits that support the immune system.
Immune Booster Sweet Green Smoothie from Foodie Crush.
Immunity Boosting Smoothie from Fountain Avenue Kitchen.
Loaded Vitamin C Immune Booster Smoothie from Easy Cooking with Molly.
Immune Boosting Green Smoothie from Feed Me Phoebe.
Immune Boosting Smoothie from The Wholesome Fork.
SALADS: While you may not think salad when you think immune system, it is easy to craft one that has the key nutrients mentioned above. A lot of vegetables that support the immune system lend themselves well to salads. Vegetables like spinach, carrots, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and mushrooms to name just a few. Try some of the below for lunch!
Super Immunity Power Salad from The Garden Grazer.
Broccoli Kale Spinach Salad from the Reluctant Entertainer.
Raw Chopped Veggie Salad from Veggie Inspired.
Mediterranean Salmon Salad from Eating Bird Food.
Shrimp Cauliflower Salad from I Breathe I'm Hungry.
MAIN DISHES: Dinner may be the easiest to plan for immune boosting meals. A little planning, meal-prepping and even cooking dishes ahead of time so all you have to do is reheat and you'll have delicious dinners. Some of the dishes will even have left-overs for lunch. If you feel the main dish is a little light for dinner, add an immune boosting side salad made with spinach, romaine lettuce, tomatoes and mushrooms.
Vegetarian Black Bean Chili Stuffed Sweet Potatoes by Ambitious Kitchen.
Turkey Stuffed Peppers from Skinny Taste.
Kale Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Casserole from Becky's Best Bites.
Easy Chicken Soup with Greens from The Lemon Bowl.
Easy Pork Stir Fry from Low Carb Maven.
I hope this blog post inspired you to make immune boosting meals. If you try any of the recipes, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram as @heather_lee_donahue and use the #heathershealthhabits hashtag. I love seeing your takes on the recipes I share!
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