By Theresa Stahl, RD, LDN Reviewed by QualityHealth's Medical Advisory Board
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
7 Immune-Boosting Foods
Your body's immune system is your natural defense system, fighting off thousands of attacks daily. While research reveals the important role that nutrition plays in improving immunity, there's still much to learn. Phytochemicals, which are beneficial compounds found in plant foods, probiotics and omega-three fatty acids all seem to play leading roles in boosting immunity. Registered Dietitian David Grotto, highlights immune-boosting foods in his book, 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life. Enjoy these 7 foods that help your body fight back: 1. Acai. Acai berries, grown in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil, has an antioxidant capacity or "ORAC" (Oxygen Reducing Absorbance Capacity) greater than blueberries, strawberries and red wine combined. Acai comes in juice, frozen pulp, bottled smoothies and powders. Fresh berries are found only in Brazil. Flash-pasteurized acai products preserve acai's antioxidants and beautiful purple color. 2. Red and green cabbage. Cabbage belongs to the healthy Brassica family which includes broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and kale, all of which improve immunity. While there are over 400 different varieties of cabbage, the most popular include green, red, bok choy and napa cabbage. Cabbage heads should be compact without discolored veins. Cabbage is versatile and delicious raw or cooked. 3. Yogurt with active cultures. Yogurt, one of the oldest foods in recorded history, is made by adding at least two special bacteria to milk. The mixture is warmed in an incubator, thickens and develops its distinctive flavor. In some types of yogurt, the bacteria survive the processing and in others they are destroyed. Many of the health benefits of yogurt come from the presence of live bacteria so buy yogurt with live and active cultures. The live bacteria that ferment milk into yogurt are probiotics that change and improve the bacteria in our GI tracts. Probiotics help improve immune function among other benefits. 4. Beans. Dry beans or legumes, such as red, black, kidney, navy and garbanzo, are considered "dry" because they are allowed to dry in the pod before harvesting them. They are available dry or canned. Canned beans are a great staple for quick, healthy and inexpensive meals. Beans are high in protein and fiber and immune-boosting antioxidants. Buy no-salt added versions of canned beans or rinse canned beans to cut sodium content by 40%. Rinsing also may help to decrease gas production. If you're concerned about gas from beans, add beans to your diet slowly to allow your body to adjust to the increased fiber intake. 5. Flaxseeds. Flaxseeds are high in omega-3 fats, lignans, and fiber. Grind whole flaxseeds in a /coffee grinder and sprinkle on cereals, salads, or cooked dishes. Flaxseed can be purchased in breads and cereals and is being used in many grain products, including tortilla chips. 6. Berries. Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, etc. are high in immune-boosting antioxidants. Check fresh berries when you get home and remove any moldy berries. Don't wash them before storing. To freeze, spread berries on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer until frozen then transfer to a freezer bag. 7. Garlic. Garlic is part of the lily family and is closely related to onions, shallots and leeks. Peeling and crushing or cutting fresh garlic increases the number of healthy compounds, so scientists recommend waiting 15 minutes between peeling and cooking.
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