7 Foods that Boost your Immune System Naturally
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” ~Hippocrates. This is one of my favorite quotes from one of the founding fathers of modern medicine.
Why would we want food to be our medicine? This goes back to the principle of self-reliance. If we eat foods that keep us healthy naturally, then we will rely less on prescription and over-the-counter medicine, doctor visits, and ultimately medical bills. Not only does this make us more self-reliant, it makes us more healthy and saves us money!
My family and I eat these foods regularly so that we stay healthy, out of the doctor’s office, and ultimately save money. So, what foods should you eat on a regular basis to boost your immune system and keep you healthy? Let’s jump in.
Elderberry is high on my list to give to my family because it has SO many wonderful immune boosting properties. We eat this in some form everyday. Elderberry syrup is our favorite, and my kids line up to eat it (literally – I give them a spoonful every morning)!
This little wonder berry packs a very nutritious punch! Elderberries contain a myriad of nutrients, including minerals like iron, potassium, phosphorous, and copper, as well as vitamins, such as vitamin A, B, and C, proteins (amino acids), and dietary fiber. Add some of the beneficial organic compounds that function as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agents in the body, and you have one powerful berry!
Some of the most important health benefits of elderberries include their ability to boost immune system function, protect against bacteria and infection, slow down the spread of cancer, moderate the digestive process, prevent the development of diabetes, reduce the pain and speed associated with autoimmune diseases, help with weight loss, lower blood pressure, and alleviate allergies. Whoa! Sign me up.
Homemade Elderberry Syrup Recipe:
You can buy Elderberry at your local health food store, but why not be more self-reliant and make your own? Here’s an awesome recipe from Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist (one of my favorite health food bloggers).
Simple 3-Ingredient Elderberry Syrup
Makes about 6-8 small bottles of elderberry syrup
1/2 – 3/4 cup organic, dried elderberries
3 cups filtered water
3/4 – 1 cup raw, local, unfiltered honey
Place dried elderberries (or 1 cup fresh, ripe elderberries if you have them locally) and filtered water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer on medium-low for 30 minutes. Mash the elderberries to release any remaining juice. Strain the mixture into a glass bowl using a cheesecloth. When the liquid has come to room temperature, gently stir in the raw honey and mix thoroughly.
Store and label in small, 8 or 12 ounce glass, amber bottles.
This mixture will last many months in a cool, dark pantry or in the refrigerator.
A single teaspoon once or twice a day is sufficient as a preventative measure. If illness strikes, use more as necessary, with up to 3 teaspoons, 4x per day as used in the randomized study described above. For young children who cannot have raw honey yet, half the maximum dosage is recommended and either dilute the syrup with hot water or heat on the stove before administering.
2. Bone Broth
Bone Broth is so delicious and nutritious, it is also included in our daily regimen. We drink some in the morning and in the evening (this majorly helps with digestion!).
Bone Broth is chock-full of nutrients! It contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons–stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, which by the way are now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain. (Why not save money on some supplements and add this to your daily routine as well?)
A cure-all in traditional households and the magic ingredient in chicken soup, broth assuages sore throats, nurtures the sick, and puts vigor in the step –so say grandmothers everywhere. Turns out, grandma knew best when she told you to eat chicken soup when you are sick. Broth not only helps to alleviate the common cold, it also helps with digestion, healing the lining of the intestines (leaky gut), and heals arthritis and joint pain.
Homemade Chicken Stock Recipe:
We make stock once a week in our big pressure cooker. One batch usually makes about 10 quarts or so and last for about a week. And actually, my husband has been the stock-maker recently. So ~ let’s face it, if he can do it, anyone can!
1 whole free-range chicken or 2 to 3 pounds of bony chicken parts, such as necks, backs, breastbones and wings*
gizzards from one chicken (optional)
2-4 chicken feet (optional)
4 or more quarts cold filtered water (as much water will fit in your pot)
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
*Note: Farm-raised, free-range chickens give the best results and the most nutrition. Many battery-raised chickens will not produce stock that gels.
Place chicken or chicken pieces in a large stainless steel pot with water, vinegar and all vegetables. Bring to a boil, and remove scum that rises to the top. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 6 to 12 hours. The longer you cook the stock, the richer and more flavorful it will be. (My husband likes 24-hour broth).
Remove whole chicken or pieces with a slotted spoon. If you are using a whole chicken, let cool and remove chicken meat from the bones. You can reserve the left over chicken for other uses, such as chicken salads, enchiladas, sandwiches or curries. Strain the stock into jars and reserve in your refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and congeals. Skim off this fat and reserve the stock in covered containers in your refrigerator or freezer.
Add to your favorite soups & stews or just enjoy by itself.
For Beef Stock/Broth just add ox tails and knuckle bones instead of Chicken. Enjoy!
3. Raw Honey
Raw Honey is my favorite sweetener. It’s versatile, it’s natural, and it can replace almost any sweetener. The best part? It doesn’t spike the blood sugar in the same way as sugar and it boosts the immune system (whereas sugar depresses the immune system). I like to add honey to our kids’ plain yogurt everyday and they absolutely love it.
Why choose raw?
Commercial honey is often heavily processed and may even have been chemically refined. Excessive heat destroys the natural enzymes, vitamins, and minerals in honey. Filtering and processing eliminates many of the beneficial phytonutrients including pollen and enzyme-rich propolis. The only way to achieve sparkling clear honey is by heat, so avoid the golden syrup-like honey in favor of opaque organic raw honey.
Raw honey contains up to 80 different substances important to human nutrition. Besides glucose and fructose, honey contains: All of the B-complex, A, C, D, E, and K, minerals and trace elements: magnesium, sulfur, phosphorus, iron, calcium, chlorine, potassium, iodine, sodium, copper, and manganese. What a sweet symphony of nutrition!
Honey has strong anti-microbial properties. It boosts the immune system, acting as a preventative against any number of ailments. It is a natural remedy for coughs and sore throat, and can be as effective as over-the-counter cough medicine. The propolis (stuff on top) in raw honey also actually helps with seasonal allergies.
When my kids have a cough I like to give them a teaspoon of honey with a drop of lemon essential oil (I use Young Living). It works wonderfully as a cough suppressant and boosts their immune system. There are also lots of cough drop and natural remedy recipes on pinterest. (follow me here).
Lemons are powerful little fruits. They are known to be very cleansing and a great way to gently detox your body. (Ever heard of the lemonade cleanse? It works.) Although we don’t have lemons daily, we do try to use lemon often, whether in the lemonade or essential oil form. As I mentioned above, I like to use a drop of lemon essential oil with honey for a natural cough remedy.
Lemons contain many nourishing elements including vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin A, vitamin E, folate, niacin thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, copper, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus and protein.
Lemons can help the immune system battle germs that cause a cold or flu due to its well-known antibacterial properties. Lemon juice assists in relieving respiratory problems and breathing problems, including a persistent cough. Being a rich source of vitamin C, it also helps in dealing with more long-term respiratory disorders.
Garlic is one of nature’s most powerful immune boosting secrets. I definitely wouldn’t want to live without it. I like to use minced garlic and onions in almost everything and I cook with it daily.
Garlic contains over 100 biologically active components including alliin, allicin, alliinase and unique sulfur compounds. When garlic is crushed or chewed it forces the allin and allinase enzyme together and causes a chemical reaction to produce allicin. Allicin -along with sulfur based compounds- act as powerful antibiotic, anti-viral, and anti-fungal agents that have an incredible immune stimulating effect.
Eating garlic can boost the number of virus-fighting T-cells in your bloodstream (important because colds and the flu are caused by viruses).
Nutrition scientists from the University of Florida reported in the journal Clinical Nutrition in 2012 that taking aged garlic extract reduced the severity of cold and flu symptoms and that the symptoms went away faster in those who took the garlic extract than among those who didn’t The scientists speculated that the garlic extract worked by boosting participants’ immune cell function.
When my kids have an ear ache I use garlic ear drops. I like gaia herbs.
Yogurt and other probiotics are a MUST for a healthy immune system. I cannot stress the importance of probiotics for health enough. I drink kefir daily. My husband loves kimchi. I give my kids yogurt with raw honey every.single.day.
Probiotics are foods or supplements that contain friendly bacteria (that your body needs to function well), and are supposed to help colonize our guts with health-boosting microorganisms. It is thought that up to 80% of our immune system (our body’s ability to fight infection and disease) is found in our gut (intestines).
Probiotics have numerous health benefits – too many to list here. But as for immune function: several different probiotic strains can enhance the immune system and lead to reduced risk of infections, including the common cold.
This is a really great in-depth article about Probiotics 101 if you’d like to read more: https://authoritynutrition.com/probiotics-101/
Homemade Yogurt Recipe
1/4 – 1/2 cup good quality commercial whole milk plain yogurt, or yogurt from a previous batch
1 quart whole milk*, can be pasteurized, but preferably non-homogenized
You will also need a candy thermometer
The final product will be thinner than commercial yogurt, but is easy to make. Gently heat the milk to 180 degrees. Stir in the yogurt and place in a shallow glass, enamel or stainless steel container. Cover the container and place in a warm oven (about 150 degrees, or a gas oven with pilot light) overnight. In the morning, transfer to the refrigerator. Throughout the day you may want to drain some of the excess whey off the yogurt.
*If you’re using raw milk: place the quart of milk in double boiler and heat to 110 degrees. Remove 2 tablespoons of the warm milk and add it to 1 tablespoon yogurt (commercial or from the previous batch). Stir well and pour into a quart sized wide-mouth mason jar. Add a further 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons yogurt to the jar and stir well. Add the rest of the warmed milk. Cover tightly and place in a dehydrator set at 95 degrees for 8-12 hours (in your turned off oven with the oven light on may also work). Transfer to the refrigerator.
Strawberries are a delicious treat filled with nutrients. It’s amazing how a little berry can contain so much goodness. We try to eat strawberries and other berries with breakfast everyday.
Strawberries are an excellent source of antioxidant-promoting vitamin C and manganese. They are also a very good source of dietary fiber, iodine, and folate. Plus, strawberries are a good source of copper, potassium, biotin, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin B6, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Vitamin C is a huge booster for the immune system and has long been known as a helpful cure for common colds and coughs, along with its impact on any other infections as well. Vitamin C also stimulates the activity of white blood cells (the body’s first line of defense against toxins and foreign bodies). A single serving of strawberries has approximately 150% of your daily requirement of vitamin-C!
These are my top pick for 7 foods that boost your immune system.
I hope you will find these beneficial and give them a try the next time you are sick – or better yet – add them to your daily routine. What other immune-boosting foods do you like to eat?
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