Eating for Iron-Clad Immunity

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While washing your hands is the single most effective thing you can do to keep from getting sick, the powers we behold on the end of the fork can also make a huge impact on immunity. The foods that fuel our body can be the difference between an iron-clad immune system or a winter trapped in bed. Defend yourself against colds and flu this year with these immune-boosting medicinal foods:

  • Garlic– Small but mighty, garlic is nature’s best display of “food as medicine.” Its potent medicinal properties will battle anything from colds, flu, viruses, or infections. Two raw garlic cloves have the same antibacterial strength as one dose of antibiotics, but without the gut-harming effects antibiotics can leave. Garlic contains strong antioxidants that have been found to affect immune responses in the blood and have broad-spectrum antimicrobial properties.
    • Garlic Rx: Chew one raw chopped garlic and a spoonful of honey at the first sign of a tickle. The key is that the garlic must be chopped first, then let it sit for 10 minutes. Letting it sit will activate the germ-fighting compounds that make it the safest and most effective magic pill against illness. When paired with honey, not only does it make it more palatable, but honey alone acts as an antimicrobial (antiviral and antibacterial), and antioxidant. These two powerhouses to work synergistically and fight whatever stands in its way. It may taste potent, but it’s effective!
  • Elderberries- Research shows elderberries prevent viruses from attacking healthy cells in the lining of the nose and throat. When taken before an infection, it can stop the virus in its tracks. When taken after an infection, it can reduce the duration of the illness in half (think 3 days rather than 6).  Elderberries are packed with antioxidants, especially immune-boosting vitamin C and taste great too!
    • Elderberry Rx: Elderberry syrup, or Sambucus, can be purchased in most grocery or health food stores however making your own from dried black elderberries can save money.  Follow the label on the product, usually increasing the amount and frequency of the syrup until an illness has passed.
  • Turmeric- Curcumin, the bright yellow component that gives turmeric its signature color, is highly anti-inflammatory. When inflammation is down, the immune system is up. Its antimicrobial properties can target respiratory infections like bronchitis, influenza, and coughs. Turmeric also acts as a natural pain killer to help ease body aches from illness.
    • Turmeric Rx: Warm up to a mug of turmeric tea, also called golden milk, for a simple and effective cure-all. Simmer 1-2 cups of water or almond milk, adding in 1 teaspoon each of turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger. Add honey to sweeten and enjoy warm!
  • Bone broth- As one of the most nutrient-dense sources of vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes, bone broth is an ideal cold and flu remedy.  Bones and tissues of chicken, cow, or pork, are simmered and broken down leaving behind a great source of amino acids and gut-healing collagen to speed recovery.
    • Bone broth Rx: Pre-made broth can be purchased in most grocery stores but it’s also easy to make your own at home. Use 3-4 pounds of organic bones in just enough water to cover bones. Add vegetables like onions, garlic, celery, and carrots plus a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to help break down the bones. Simmer for 12-24 hours or until bones are soft and can easily be broken. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Enjoy a warm cup of the rich broth that remains, use it as a base for soup, or opt for the broth as the liquid used to cook grains like rice or quinoa.
  • Sauerkraut- Gut health plays a large part in immunity, and fermented foods provide probiotics to strengthen the digestive tract. Probiotics, or healthy bacteria, have been shown to lower your chances of getting a cold and reduce the severity of an illness if you do get sick. Sauerkraut is a superfood loaded with healthy probiotics and vitamin C, a one-two punch for warding off illness.
    • Sauerkraut Rx: Skip the pasteurized store-bought sauerkraut found in the center aisles. Most of the beneficial bugs have been lost during the high-heat pasteurization process and likely contain preservatives and sugar. Instead, buy sauerkraut from the refrigerated section or make your own using only two ingredients. Shred one head of purple cabbage as thinly as your knife allows and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sea salt. Knead for 10 minutes to draw out juices and pack in glass jars, ensuring enough juice covers cabbage. Seal tightly and let sit covered in a warm dark place for 2-4 weeks to ferment.  

Stock your pantry with these powerhouses and layer these foods within a low-sugar diet. Vitamin C and sugar compete for uptake, so the more sugar we eat, the less vitamin C we can absorb. Choose a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables daily to offer the best nutrients needed to ward off sickness. Let food be thy medicine as you eat for strong immunity this winter.

Photos and Content Copyright © Jaclyn Beaty Nutrition, 2020

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