> Roots & Flowers: Top 10 Immune Boosting Foods

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Top 10 Immune Boosting Foods

Nourishing ourselves with wholesome foods and herbs is one of the best ways to stay healthy - especially during the winter months. Here are some of the best foods we can eat to help keep our immune systems strong.

The juice from the biblical fruit of many seeds is thought to reduce the risk of most cancers, thanks to polyphenols called ellagitannins, which give the fruit its color. In fact, a recent study at UCLA found that pomegranate juice could significantly slow the growth of prostate cancer cells.

Green Tea
Studies show that green tea—infused with the antioxidant EGCG—reduces the risk of most types of cancer. The phytonutrients in tea also support the growth of intestinal bacteria. Specifically, they inhibit the growth of bad bacteria—E. coli, Clostridium, Salmonella—and leave the beneficial bacteria untouched. Which is important because up to 70 percent of your immune system is located in your digestive tract.

Chili Peppers
Chilis stimulate the metabolism, act as a natural blood thinner, and help release endorphins. They're also a great way to add flavor to food without increasing fat or calorie content. Chilis are also rich in beta-carotene, which turns into vitamin A in the blood and fights infections, as well as capsaicin, which inhibits neuropeptides (chemicals that cause inflammation). A recent study in the journal Cancer Research found that hot peppers even have anti-prostate-cancer properties. All this from half a chili pepper (or one tablespoon of chili flakes) every day.

Contains many living compounds that improve your health. Chief among them is gingerol, a cancer suppressor that studies have shown to be particularly effective against that of the colon. Chop ginger or grind it fresh and add it to soy-marinated fish or chicken as often as you can. The more you can handle, the better.

Recent studies show this potent little fruit can help prevent a range of diseases from cancer to heart disease." One serving (3.5 ounces) contains more antioxidants than any other fruit. Drizzle with lemon juice and mix with strawberries for a disease-fighting supersnack.

Known for making desserts sweet and Indian food complex, cinnamon is rich in antioxidants that inhibit blood clotting and bacterial growth (including the bad-breath variety). Studies also suggest that it may help stabilize blood sugar, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. What's more, it may help reduce bad cholesterol. Try half a teaspoon a day in yogurt or oatmeal.

High in lycopene, tomatoes help protect against degenerative diseases. Cooked tomatoes and tomato paste are thought to work best, though fresh tomatoes eaten raw or juiced are excellent sources of vital nutrients and enzymes that benefit the immune system.

Packed with potassium, manganese, and antioxidants, this fruit also helps support proper pH levels in the body, making it more difficult for pathogens to invade. Plus, the fiber in figs can lower insulin and blood-sugar levels, reducing the risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Select figs with dark skins which contain more nutrients.

Mushrooms (Reishi, Shiitake, Maitake)
Delicious when added to brown rice or quinoa, these mushrooms are rich in the antioxidant ergothioneine, which protects cells from abnormal growth and replication.They have been used traditionally to reduce the risk of cancer. Cooking them in red wine, which contains the antioxidant resveratrol, magnifies their immunity-boosting power.

Garlic is a potent immune system booster. It is also an active anti-microbial, agent - effective against bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. It is also an anti-inflammatory and acts as shield against radiation therapy. It also has analgesic and fever reducing properties. is a natural antimicrobial and unlike most antibiotics, garlic does not destroy the body's normal flora.

What are some of your favorite foods and herbs for staying healthy during the winter months?


  1. Great list! I like adding a fresh sprig of rosemary and star anise to my tea. It tastes wonderful and helps alleviate my asthma symptoms when they act up. (Like after coming in from the cold!)

  2. Garlic is my friend! And rosemary too. But I cannot get enough raw garlic these days and so far I've been very healthy this winter - knock on wood. That's interesting about pomegranates! Didn't know that. My girls love them.
    Great post today.

  3. I really love ginger in the winter - it's so warming. I put it in soup stocks and even put fesh ginger through the juicer with my apples. I think it helps the immune system. I also like cayenne pepper when I get a cold. I stir it into irange juice and chug it down.

  4. getinthegarden - I've been sipping on rosemary tea with a sage leaf today - staves off headaches. Never heard of it helping asthma. That's interesting.

  5. DD - My kids love pomagranates too! They're so beautiful. My 9 y/o is obsessed with Greek mythlogy right now and she thinks she is Persephone when she eats them ;)

    NFN - Speaking of ginger, I have been rubbing infused ginger oil on after my evening bath. Feels soooo good!

  6. Ginger is amazing for motion sickness! My husband and I fish on Lake Michigan where the waves can get pretty rough. I tried every drug and technique under the sun to calm my motion sickness with no success or major side effects (like narcolepsy!).

    Now I eat a crystallized ginger root candy before I go and bring a few with. A little goes a long way and cures the nausea for me with no side effects.

  7. I am just getting into adding MORE garlic to my diet than just the normal amt that is in regualr cooking. Like making extra garlicky hummus from scratch, making dressing with lots of raw garlic. But my question is, are any of you folks experiencing the whole shrinking back of loved ones from all that garlic breath?? I don't want to offend but I know there is so much value in a garlicky diet! Suggestions?