The major components of the immune system are the:
- Lymph nodes
- Bone marrow
This network of cells, tissues, and organs work together to protect the body from harm, and just like every part of your body, they require protection from environmental assaults.
To keep the immune system functioning optimally, don’t smoke, exercise regularly, and enjoy a diet that includes these immune-boosting recipes:
White beans offer extraordinary health benefits and are loaded with immune-boosting antioxidants and folate, a B vitamin required for the production of new immune cells. A staple protein it’s high in soluble fiber, which has been found to increase the production of an anti-inflammatory protein that strengthens the immune system. They also offer a good supply of detoxifying molybdenum.
Sourdough is considered by some, the “staff of life” for its immune boosting qualities. When fermented properly wheat contains 18 amino acids (proteins), complex carbohydrate, B vitamins, iron, zinc, selenium, magnesium and maltase. This helps restore the functioning of the digestive tract, resulting in healthy assimilation and elimination.
- 1 can cannellini beans
- 1 clove garlic
- 1½ tbs extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh mint leaves
- ¼ cup fresh thyme leaves
- 3 tbs chives, chopped
- Salt and pepper
- Sourdough loaf, sliced
- Pulse all ingredients except the chives in a food processor to form a smooth paste.
- Brush a couple of slices of sourdough with olive oil and toast under the grill.
- Spread paste on sourdough and top with chives.
Sardines provides the body with a great dose of omega-3s, protein, vitamin E, and calcium - effectively becoming “nature’s Advil”. Diets low in omega-3 fatty acids are associated with chronic inflammatory conditions and autoimmune diseases, and while salmon, tuna and trout are all good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, sardines are thought to trump these counterparts. Not only are they extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids, due to their small size, they are also low in contaminants such as mercury.
- 85g fresh breadcrumbs
- Handful of black olives, stoned
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- ¼ cup chopped mint leaves
- 1 lemon, zested and sliced
- 8 sardines
- 4 anchovy fillets
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 25g pine nuts
- 25g sultanas
- 1 large fennel bulb, finely sliced
- 8 bay leafs
- Pinch of chili flakes (optional)
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
- Place breadcrumbs, olives, herbs, zest, anchovies and garlic in a food processor to combine. Stir through pine nuts, sultanas, chilli (if using) and a good grind of black pepper.
- Arrange fennel slices on a baking tray and lay the sardines on top skin side down.
- Sprinkle crumb mixture over sardines, drizzle with olive oil, and then roll up. Secure with a cocktail stick and stuff some more crumb mix in the sides if you can. Arrange on top of fennel slices.
- Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
Regularly eating “good bacteria”, such as that found in yoghurt, can improve digestion and strengthen your immune system. Look for “live and active cultures” on the label, which can stimulate your immune system to help fight against disease or labels that suggest the yoghurt is fortified with vitamin D, which helps protect against colds and flu.
Chicken contains a special amino acid when cooked called cysteine, which has a healing effect on the respiratory system and helps to fight the accumulation of mucus which can often carry more bacteria and pathogens into the body. It’s for this reason why chicken soup is a tried and tested cold and flu remedy.
You could also try mixing some kefir into this recipe, a tangy dairy product made by inoculating milk with a mixture of yeasts and bacteria. The beneficial critters take up residence in the intestines, where they alter the pH of the intestinal environment to a level that deters harmful microbes.
- 1 cup fat free plain yoghurt
- 1 small cucumber
- 500g skinless chicken breast
- 3 large cloves of garlic
- 2 tbs fresh mint
- 1 tsp coriander
- Zest of 1 lime
- 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
- 2 tbs nonfat dry milk
- 1 tbs ground flaxseed
- In a ziplock bag, combine ¼ of the yoghurt, garlic, cumin, coriander, zest, salt and pepper. Massage the bag to mix the ingredients together and then add the chicken. Massage to coat.
- Press out air and seal and lay in the fridge overnight (or at least 2 hours).
- Add remaining yoghurt, dry milk, flaxseed and a pinch of salt and stir to combine. Add cucumber, mint and spring onions. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Remove chicken from fridge and preheat a lightly oiled non-stick pan. Grill chicken for 4 minutes each side or until cooked through.
- Allow chicken to rest for five minutes before slicing, and then top with yoghurt sauce.
Kale is, believe it or not, a richer source of beta carotene than carrots and sweet potato, which makes it great for boosting the immune system. In the body, the liver converts beta carotene into vitamin A, which increases the production of white blood cells for seeking out foreign bacteria and viruses. Kale is also high in vitamin C, needed for optimal immune function.
Bioactive compounds found in whole grain spaghetti also strengthen the immune system, as not only is whole grain full of fibre and vitamins, they contain a substance known as benzoxazinoids, which enhances your immune reaction.
- 6 ounces whole grain spaghetti
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 bunch of kale, leaves torn
- 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
- ⅓ cup roasted almonds, chopped
- ¼ cup pecorino cheese
- Cook pasta according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pan and fry off saute onion and garlic with a good grind of salt and pepper.
- Add kale and toss until tender. Add tomatoes and toss for a further two minutes.
- Drain spaghetti, keeping back ¼ cup of the water. Combine all ingredients and toss to combine.
- Serve with pecorino cheese.
Whole grain oats contain beta-glucan, a compound shown to activate immune cells that fight infectious microorganisms. Choose steel-cut or old-fashioned rolled oats for the best source of immunity-building zinc.
Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, which increases the production of white blood cells. Research tells us that strawberries can reduce the severity and duration of cold-like symptoms.
- ½ cup rolled oats
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 medium banana
- 1 cup strawberries
- 1 tbs chia seeds
- 1 tsb hemp powder
- In a mason jar, mix up all ingredients.
- Cover with a lid and place in the refrigerator until morning.
Mushrooms are rich in selenium, B vitamins, and antioxidants - all important nutrients to keep your body running strong. Mushrooms increase the production and activity of white blood cells, with maitake, reishi and shiitake mushrooms thought to have the most benefit. The varying mushroom varieties all offer something different, so try combining several varieties in your diet.
- 50g butter
- 1 small brown onion, thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 200g maitake mushrooms
- 200g portobello mushrooms
- 200g shiitake mushrooms
- 1 cup plain whole grain flour
- 2 cups milk
- 3 eggs
- Olive oil spray
- Melt butter in a frying pan over high heat and saute onion until translucent. Add garlic, thyme, and mushrooms and stir for 5 minutes until browned and tender. Add parsley and stir to combine.
- Meanwhile, make crepe batter by sifting flour into a bowl. Whisk milk and eggs together in a jug and add to flour. Whisk until smooth.
- Heat a non-stick frying pan with a thin layer of oil. Pour 2 tablespoons of batter in and swirl to cover base. Allow to cook for 2 minutes before turning over for a further minute. Repeat with remaining batter.
- Serve mushrooms with crepes.
This all natural superfood smoothie provides amazing health benefits, like reducing inflammation, aiding digestion, and helping the body to naturally detoxify. Containing fresh ginger it may also boost immunity and help alleviate pain, from arthritis to menstrual pain.
Bananas are a good source of vitamins and minerals that impact the immune response. Copper found in just one banana can support the immune system by protecting cells from damage during chemical reactions. It’s also a functional component of enzymes that metabolise iron, and iron has an important role in the immune response.
- 2 cups spinach
- 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
- 3 bananas
- 1 large piece fresh ginger, peeled
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ⅙ tsp ground cardamom
- Blend the spinach and coconut milk until smooth.
- Add the bananas, ginger, cinnamon and cardamom and blend again.
Almonds are packed with vitamin E and manganese, a strong immune-boosting duo that both enhance natural killer cell activity. Vitamin E is essential for the normal functioning of white blood cells, particularly the ones which respond to cells that have been infected by viruses. Research has found that even after almonds are digested, they prevent viruses from replicating and spreading inside the body.
For this reason, almonds make an excellent snack for both adults and kids.
- 2 cups vanilla almond milk
- 1 cup water
- ¼ tsp milk
- 1 cup steel cut oats
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 tbs honey
- In a medium saucepan, bring almond milk, water and salt to a boil. Add oats, cover, and reduce to a simmer.
- Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and almond extracts, cinnamon and honey.
- Top with blueberries and almonds to serve.
Boost your immune system
Research continually shows us that nutrition plays a major role in supporting the production and action of both the cells and the soluble factors of the immune system, and that maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal barrier is essential for optimal immune function. The foods you eat can provide support for this barrier or can cause damage to it.
Protein, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and other vitamins and minerals all work to strengthen your immunity and fight against disease and illness. Processed foods can be problematic for your immune system, so eat fresh whenever possible. Toxic metals such as cadmium, lead and mercury are immunosuppressive, and food additives can alter nutrient content.
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