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One of the most important things we can do for our health and wellbeing is to protect our immune system. And while there are plenty of other tips to share, today I’m focusing on one of the most important: eating lots of immune-boosting foods!
While I was studying at The Institute of Integrative Nutrition, I got the chance to learn from many fantastic experts. One of them was Joel Fuhrman, a doctor and best-selling author of a book called “Super Immunity“.
“Our body is a miraculous self-healing, self-repairing organism that instinctually and innately is very resistant to disease. It’s not designed to get cancer, it’s designed not to get cancer. It’s not designed to be damaged by bacteria and viruses, it’s designed to be resistant, almost immune against bacteria and viruses when we have adequate immune system function.”Joel Fuhrman – Guest Talk at The Institute of Integrative Nutrition
Unfortunately, a big portion of people still eat badly. They eat far too little fresh whole foods, and far too many processed foods. And because if this, they’re getting too few essential micronutrients the body needs and they become immune deficient. And, when you’re immune deficient, viruses are able to take on a far more dangerous form. And this is what can cause damage to the body and lead to disease.
You don’t want to be immune deficient right? I assume you want to nourish your body with the foods it needs to stay strong and healthy right? Okay great, so keep reading!
Immune-boosting foods to fuel your body
To strengthen the immune system, it essential that people pay more attention to what they eat.
Firstly, avoid processed fake foods. These foods usually contain unhealthy chemicals and added sugars. And, the highly processed foods contain little to no essential micronutrients to support your immune system. So, processed foods can not only cause damage to the body, they also offer very little (if any) nourishment!
Secondly, focus on eating more natural whole foods that are rich in micronutrients – vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Foods like fresh fruit and vegetables and raw nuts and seeds. Opt for foods that are from the earth and in their natural state. These foods are packed with a variety of micronutrients that boost the immune system, making the body far more resistant to infection and disease.
While you can simply just focus on eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, there are particular foods shown to have superpowers when it comes to boosting the immune system and protecting the body from disease.
According to Joel Fuhrman, 6 of the most powerful disease-fighting superfoods on the planet are:
Beans and Berries
When in doubt, remember GOMBS!
So, when you next go grocery shopping, just remember GOMBS. This makes it super easy to remember.
1. Green Vegetables
Green vegetables are the most nutrient-dense of all foods. They are packed with essential nutrients like antioxidants, phytochemicals, folate, calcium, just to name a few. This makes them top of the list of immune-boosting foods.
I love what Dr Fuhrman says: “We should follow the example of our closest living relatives—chimpanzees and gorillas—who consume tens of pounds of green leaves every day.” Amen to that!
And, along with all these nutrients come many benefits. Leafy greens, in particular, help protect blood vessels and can help reduce the risk of diabetes. They’re also rich in carotenoids – lutein and zeaxanthin – which promote healthy vision.
Green veggies include Spinach, Kale and Collard Greens.
But, when talking about green vegetables, we mustn’t forget the powerful cruciferous veggies like Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower and Brussel Sprouts.
While all veggies contain essential micronutrients and phytochemicals, cruciferous veggies have their own superpower. When their cell walls are broken down by chopping, chewing of blending, a chemical reaction occurs that creates compounds that have many potent anti-cancer effects. How amazing is that!
Sadly, most people don’t get enough of them. I encourage you to make a mental note of the superpowers of green veggies. And, every time you go grocery shopping, add them to your shopping basket.
Yes, you heard it right, the humble onion is on this powerful immune-boosting foods list!
The Allium Family of vegetables includes onions, garlic, shallots, leeks and chives. So all of these are power foods to eat more of. This family of veggies have beneficial effects on both the immune system and the cardiovascular system. And, they’ve also been shown to have anti-cancer and anti-diabetic effects too.
With all the media messages and fad diets out there, ‘being healthy’ can often be made over-complicated. But, when you simplify it, you can simply just eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and you’ll be on your way to a much healthier you!
We eat A LOT of onion and garlic in our house. And I must say, I can’t remember the last time we got sick. There are a few simple ways we ensure we eat enough garlic and onion. For one, we use garlic and/or onions as the base for almost every cooked dish we make. Especially in stews, stir-fries and soups. We’also enjoy an onion, tomato and tuna topping on 100% rye toast for breakfast. The addition of finely chopped fresh onion adds a lovely zing to the tuna topping. And, we’re also getting an extra kick by eating the onion raw and as natural as it comes!
Magical medicinal mushrooms!
Mushrooms have a long history of being used for medicinal purposes. So it was no surprise that they were included on the immune-boosting foods list.
Joel Fuhrman shared a Chinese study that was done. It showed that women who ate at least 10 grams of fresh mushrooms daily had an incredible 64% decreased risk of breast cancer. And it’s not only breast cancer. Eating mushrooms regularly is associated with a decreased risk of stomach and colorectal cancers too.
There is a lot of really interesting information – like this article – out there on the healing powers of mushrooms.
All mushrooms are great, even the regular white button mushrooms. One simple side dish we make is to lightly fry up some fresh garlic in extra virgin olive oil. Then add in sliced white mushrooms and stir fry for about 10 minutes. At the end add in a handful of freshly chopped parsley and serve. Delicious!
Something worthwhile to remember though, which I found on his website is to: “Keep in mind that mushrooms should only be eaten cooked: several raw culinary mushrooms contain a potentially carcinogenic substance called agaritine, and cooking mushrooms significantly reduces their agaritine content.”
Beans are actually the most nutrient-dense carbohydrate source. Just like the humble onion, I think beans are also highly underrated!
In this section of food, we can include other legumes, like lentils and peas.
Legumes break down slowly in the body. This helps keep blood sugar levels stable, keeping you full for longer and preventing food cravings. So, for that reason, legumes are a great addition to your diet when you’re looking to lose weight.
Beans, in particular, are very high in fibre and resistant starch. Resistant starch is basically carbohydrates that aren’t broken down in the gut by digestive enzymes. Because both the fibre and resistant starch aren’t easily broken down, they are fermented by the gut bacteria. This fermentation process produces fatty acids. These fatty acids have been shown to prevent colon cancer.
Eating humble legumes like peas, beans and lentils regularly have been shown to protect the body from the risk of many cancers.
Food truly is medicine!
I can’t rave enough about berries!
When I wrote an article a while back on low, medium and high sugar fruits, I was so surprised that berries were on the low sugar list. I’d always thought of sweet, juicy berries as high in sugar, perhaps because of their sweetness but also because they just felt indulgent.
Then, when Dr Fuhrman shared berries on this power list, they got extra brownie points from me!
Blueberries are raved about in countless articles for their benefits on vision. But blueberries, strawberries and blackberries are all superfoods. They are some of the best immune-boosting foods you can eat, jam-packed with essential nutrients.
They also contain more antioxidants than most foods, making them powerful fighters of inflammation, one of the primary causes of disease. This high amount of antioxidants offers both cardio-protective and anti-cancer effects. And, to top it off, they’re also excellent food for the brain.
Berry berry delicious, and berry berry good for you!
This power list by Joel Fuhrman really excites me because it highlights the power of some foods that are so undervalued.
Everyone goes on and on about nuts, but many sideline the humble seed.
My love affair with seeds began a few years ago when I was on a tight budget. I LOVE nuts, but needed to find cheaper solutions, and started buying sunflower seeds as a replacement. I fell head-over-heels in love with sunflower seeds and never looked back. Seeds are one of my go-to simple superfoods.
Seeds contain a range of essential micronutrients, including minerals, antioxidants and phytosterols. They also contain healthy fats. And while nuts and seeds have similarities, seeds are higher in protein and contain lots of trace minerals.
There are also a variety of seeds to choose from, each with their own something special. Some examples that you can look into include sunflower seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds and sesame seeds.
Are you ready to boost your immune system with food?
I hope this article has inspired you to appreciate food as medicine.
By eating more of these immune-boosting foods, aka GOMBS, you’ll give your body the essential nutrients it needs to function optimally.
As Dr Fuhrman says, “Our body is a miraculous self-healing, self-repairing organism that instinctually and innately is very resistant to disease.” We just need to nourish our precious body with the nutrients it needs, and it will work hard at keeping healthy for us.
And, if you’re inspired by Joel Fuhrman and want to learn more about the how-to power-up the immune system, check out his book “Super Immunity“