Our marvelous immune system acts like a protective physical and biochemical bubble around the human body, defending against threats from both outside and inside. Most often, the external threats are infections caused by invading bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi, while abnormal or cancerous cells pose the major internal threats. In addition, this complex system oversees the repair of tissues that are injured by wounds or disease.
The immune system is capable of making more than 100 billion types of antibodies, so it can recognize and attack just about anything it comes into contact with. Its most remarkable characteristic is its memory for every foreign protein it encounters. Confronted with a virus or other invading organism, the immune system creates an antibody that will recognize and attack against it at any future encounter. It will remember, and if the germ ever comes back, the appropriate antibodies will quickly go into action. By constantly adapting, the body can also fight against bacteria or viruses that change over time.
Feeding the body certain foods will keep the immune system on guard, having a major influence on immune health. The body’s most powerful protection is achieved by eating a well-balanced diet containing a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seeds, and nuts. These foods are high in nutrients and antioxidants that protect cells from damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals. In a study at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, researchers found that people who got the most of a variety of nutrients, including antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamins C and E in their diets, were able to produce greater numbers of natural killer cells (immune cells that search out and destroy bacteria and other invaders) and virus-killing lymphocytes (specialized white blood cells), than those getting the least.
Foods high in beta-carotene include orange-colored foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, yams and squash. Red pepper, spinach, kale, watercress, mangoes, and apricots are also excellent sources. Eating just one sweet potato and one carrot, providing nearly 30 mg daily value (DV), can have a significant impact on immunity.
Sources of high antioxidant vitamin E foods include hazelnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, avocados, tofu, peanuts, olives and olive oil. Also included are tomatoes, bell peppers, papaya, and dried herbs.
Because our body does not synthesize vitamin C internally, it is a crucial nutrient to consume. Many fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of vitamin C. Black currants and guava are excellent sources as well as cantaloupe, strawberries, peppers and pineapple. Spring greens, brussels sprouts, broccoli, onions, garlic, ginger, berries, rose hip tea and citrus fruits are highly rated sources as well.
Keeping our immune system healthy is important, no matter the season, but increasing antioxidant foods during cold and flu season will provide nutrients to fend off illness or shorten the duration if one does succumb.
Cold and Flu Home Remedy Drink
|⅛ red onion, diced||1 lemon, juiced|
|1–2 garlic cloves, crushed||1 large orange, peeled and chopped|
|1 thumb-size piece of ginger||2 Tbsp. honey|
|Add to blender onion, garlic cloves and ginger; pulse. Add lemon juice and orange chunks and pulse until orange is finely blended. Pour into glass; whisk in honey. Sip slowly.|