The Best Herbs + Superfoods to Boost Your Immune System

With the flu season fast approaching and Covid19 still looming large, now’s the time to give some extra love to your hard-working immune system. This important system works around the clock to eliminate viruses and bacteria that might make us sick. The good news is, according to health experts, we can play an important role in keeping our immune system in tip-top shape. Rev up your immune system and spice up your diet with nourishing superfoods and herbs you’ll find at your local grocery or farmer’s market.

The Superfood Six

Superfoods are foods that have a high concentration of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, making them extra good for your health.  Incorporate them into your regular diet as part of your cold and flu prevention plan this fall. Get started with these six easy-to-find and easy-to-use superfoods: 

1. Kale: Dark green vegetables are powerhouses of nutrition, and Kale is the best of the best. It packs in more nutrients than almost any other whole food. In fact, cooked kale offers more iron per ounce than beef.  One cup gives you 134% of your daily vitamin C, 206% of daily vitamin A and more than 684% of your daily vitamin K.  Kale’s high antioxidant content strengthens the immune system and protects the body from diseases like Alzheimer’s and arteriosclerosis. And kale is versatile and easy to add to recipes. Chop raw kale into your salad, or toss it in with pasta smoothies or soup. Check out Blendtopia’s Detox Smoothie which combines kale with other delicious, health-giving ingredients in an easy-to-use serving.

Superfood Your Meal: Chop raw kale into your salad, or toss it in with pasta, smoothies or soup.

2. Oysters: Low in calories and loaded with nutrients like protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, oysters are a small but mighty nutritional package. For example, one serving (3.5-ounce) provides over 100% of the RDI for vitamin B12, zinc, and copper, and over 75% of your daily needs for selenium and vitamin D. And when it comes to immune-boosting qualities, their high zinc content gives them real virus-fighting powers. Zinc helps create and activate white blood cells involved in the immune response and healing.

3. Mushrooms: Mushrooms contain over a dozen vitamins and minerals, including copper, potassium, magnesium, zinc and a number of B vitamins such as folate. Among its peers in produce, mushrooms are the leading source of the antioxidant nutrient selenium.  Antioxidants like selenium help strengthen the immune system and protect body cells from damage that might lead to chronic diseases.  In addition, mushrooms provide ergothioneine, a naturally occurring antioxidant that may help protect the body’s cells.

4. Green Tea: Green tea is packed with flavonoids and polyphenols – antioxidants that actually seek out cell-damaging free radicals and destroy them.  Among teas, green tea stands out due to its high levels of antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Unlike black tea, green tea is steamed in its processing, which preserves the EGCG. Green tea is also rich in the amino acid L-theanine which is believed to aid in the production of germ-fighting compounds in your T cells.

Matcha is available in many grocery stores. Look for matcha sourced from Japan, stone-ground into powder.

The tea-of-the-moment is matcha, a finely ground green tea bursting with free radical scavengers, vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. Matcha is considered to be a powerful ally in fighting a cold or flu and contains the most antioxidants of all the teas. It comes from the same plant but is grown and prepared differently. Since the leaves are ground into powder, you consume the whole leaf, receiving even more nutrition than regular green tea.  In addition to the drink (think Matcha Latte) it is also a great addition to baked goods.

5. Blueberries: Berries as a group average nearly 10 times as many antioxidants as other fruits and vegetables and among those, blueberries are the most nutrient-dense. A 1-cup serving of blueberries contains a healthy dose of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese and small amounts of various other nutrients. Studies have linked blueberries with a reduction in oxidative stress and an increase in NK cells, white blood cells that lead the fight against virus-infected and cancerous cells.

The pigment that gives blueberries their distinctive color—called anthocyanin—is
the same compound that makes blueberries a health-enhancing superfood.

6. Yogurt: Yogurt contains probiotics, live cultures that stimulate your immune system to help fight disease. It is also a great source of Vitamin D, which helps to regulate the immune system and is thought to boost our body’s natural defenses against diseases. When shopping for yogurt, look for one that has the phrase “live and active cultures” printed on the label, like Greek Yogurt. These cultures may stimulate your immune system to help fight diseases and also help your cells maintain an antimicrobial barrier.

The Triple Threat

Garlic, ginger and turmeric are three superherbs that not only boost the immune system but also work to fight any virus that might squeak past the body’s defenses. All three have been consumed for centuries and share a long history of culinary and medicinal significance. Add this “triple threat” of spices and herbs to your superfood resources for an even bigger immune-boosting punch.

1. Garlic: Garlic has powerful anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. Studies have shown garlic enhances immune health by stimulating protective white blood cells. It also functions as a prebiotic, feeding the beneficial gut bacteria tied to immunity and positive mood. Garlic contains calcium, potassium and sulphuric compounds, all of which aid the immune system’s fight against germs. 

Turmeric is the ingredient in curry that gives it its vibrant yellow color.

2. Turmeric: Turmeric contains curcumin, a substance with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Curcumin is the most studied ingredient in turmeric and has been shown to block free radicals and also boost the activity of your body’s own antioxidant defenses. In addition to immune system benefits, curcumin is an anti-inflammatory that may improve symptoms of depression, colitis and arthritis. When cooking with turmeric, make sure you add a dash of pepper to help your body better absorb curcumin’s health-giving qualities. 

3. Ginger: Like turmeric, ginger is rich in inflammatory fighting properties as well as anti-oxidants. Ginger reduces inflammation and relieves pain. It also helps reduce nausea and comforts a sore throat, making it good for both the prevention and treatment of cold and flu. In fact, a recent study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology suggests that fresh ginger affects airway mucus production to discourage viral attachment.

Avoiding the seasonal flu and keeping Covid19 at bay is a multi-step effort, including best hygiene practices and getting the flu shot. Add the “Superfood Six” and their “Triple Threat” partners to your grocery list and diet to help give your immune system a fighting chance this winter.

How do you support your immune system? Do you have a favorite superfood-rich recipe? Please share below! Be sure to come follow Blendtopia on Facebook to stay connected, and follow us on Pinterest to learn more ways to help support your mental, physical, and emotional wellness.