Tuesday, May 14, 2013

5 Types of Power Foods That Boost Your Immune System

Your immune system is your body's defense system that keeps you from getting sick. In order for your immune system to do the best job it can, it needs to be healthy. Your immune system will be depressed if you eat a diet with a lot of junk food and don't get enough fruits and vegetables. Eating a well balanced healthy diet can go a long way to help supporting your immune system, but there are certain vitamins and nutrients that are known to give it an extra boost. For example, B2, B5, B6, B9 and B12 vitamins are known to help with antibody and blood cell production thus giving your immune system a boost. Protein also aids the body in white blood cell production and antibodies. Fish, chicken, eggs and dairy products are all good sources of lean proteins. Here are a few more ideas of how nutrition can be used as a natural solution to help strengthen your immune system.

1. Zinc Power Foods
Most people in the U.S. do not get enough zinc in their diets and zinc is a crucial mineral for boosting your immune system. This is especially true for vegetarians as beef is high in zinc. Zinc aids in the development of white blood cells that are a part of your immune system that destroy foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. If you are a meat eater, then eating lean beef, pork, oysters and poultry will add zinc to your diet. Other sources of zinc for you vegetarians include fortified cereals, sesame seeds, milk, yogurt, and miso. Miso which is a soybean paste also has protein and B12 which are immune system boosters.

2. Beta-Carotene Power Foods
Vitamin A is an antioxidant nutrient that comes from foods with beta-carotene. The body takes beta-carotene from foods and converts it into Vitamin A. Vitamin A is one of the vitamins that helps keep skin healthy and your skin is your body's first line of defense in the immune system for keeping out bacteria and viruses. Foods high in beta-carotene include sweet potatoes, apricots, blue green algae, carrots, squash, pumpkin and cantaloupe. Sweet potatoes also have the added benefit of phytonutrients that are good for healthy eyes and hearts.

3. Antioxidant Power Foods
Antioxidants fight the damage to our bodies' cells caused by free radicals. We get antioxidant enzymes naturally from the food we eat. Antioxidants come from fresh, raw foods that have minimal processing. Fruits and vegetables are the most commonly thought of source for antioxidants, but there are some that we can get more from than others and there are other consumables that also offer high levels of antioxidants.

Blueberries are a good source of antioxidants and there is some evidence that suggests the same compound that gives them their blue color can help with diabetes. Oregano is another good antioxidant source which has the added benefits of helping with digestion and clearing congestion. Cinnamon is the spice that has the highest levels of antioxidants of all herbs and spices. It has also been shown to be effective in balancing blood sugar levels. Walnuts are not only high in antioxidants, but also have vitamin E which helps nourish the skin, selenium, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids. Drinking black and green tea is another way to get antioxidants into your diet and actually have more than fruits and vegetables do. Studies have also shown that when brewing your tea, if you bob the tea bag or tea ball up and down several times then you can increase the amount of antioxidants released by 5 times the amount. Green tea also has EGCG that may help in preventing heart muscle damage. Chamomile tea has also been shown to help with boosting the immune system. A study at London's Imperial College found that subjects who drank 5 cups a day for 2 weeks showed an increase in a compound that has antibacterial properties. Dark chocolate is another good source of antioxidants. It has flavonioids that may improve blood flow and aid in skin health too. As far as vegetables go, tomatoes can't be beat for providing immune boosting antioxidants as the lycopene in them helps white blood cells in the fight against free radicals. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published one study showing people consuming a diet with a lot of tomatoes for 3 weeks and then no tomatoes for 3 weeks. During the time they ate a lot of tomatoes their white blood cells had 38% less free radical damage than when they were not eating tomatoes.

Eating fresh fruits and vegetables every day is the preferred method of getting antioxidant defense from free radicals and other nutrients that support your immune system function, and improve skin health. But we know sometimes it's hard with a busy lifestyle, traveling and eating out to get all the fruits and vegetables your body needs. When you can't get your antioxidants from the food you eat, you can supplement your diet with capsules of sprouts, algae, and a combination of the best of nature’s antioxidants for nourishing your body. This supplement is a convenient and hassle-free way to get your antioxidants.

4. Probiotic Power Foods
Your intestinal tract is also part of your immune system and is full of "friendly bacteria" or probiotics that keep harmful bacteria and other invaders from getting into your body through the intestinal wall. So many things we encounter today, such as antibiotics, chlorinated water, high fat high protein diets, environmental toxins, and other medications, destroy these populations of friendly bacteria that we need help replenishing them. Yogurt and kefir are two sources of these probiotics such as acidophilus and bifidus. These foods are also good sources of calcium, phosphorus and protein. Be sure to look at labels before you buy and get brands that contain live active cultures. You want to particularly make sure there are active cultures of acidophilus and bifidus.

Acidophilus is especially important for keeping the small intestine healthy since without proper cleansing, the small intestine can accumulate harmful byproducts that impair natural digestive function. Taking a high quality acidophilus supplement can help the body process food efficiently and eliminate waste. Bifidus helps creates a favorable environment for the growth of "good bacteria" in the large intestine which is responsible for absorption of water from food that is consumed and passage from the body of remaining waste products. Lactobacillus casei is another probiotic known to give a boost to the immune system.

5. Beta Glucan Power Foods
Scientists found in the 1960s that the complex carbohydrate beta glucan has immune boosting properties. Beta glucan activates macrophages, which are a type of white blood cell produced in bone marrow, that travel throughout the body fighting off bacteria, viruses and other foreign invaders. Oats are a great source of beta glucan and steel cut oats are reported to have twice as much as rolled or quick cooking oats.

You can also get your beta glucan through an immune system boosting supplement that contains a patented form of beta glucan called WGP beta glucan. Studies reveal that WGP beta glucan is able to activate macrophages (type of white blood cell in body's defense system). Activating these macrophages can result in a stronger immune system. Numerous studies conducted at such prestigious research institutions such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and Johns Hopkins University have documented this supplements potential for boosting the immune system through WGP beta glucan's ability to activate macrophages.

Now you know some of the key ingredients for cooking up a stronger immune system. By adding these power foods that have natural immune system boosters and adding a few select supplements to your diet, you can help your immune system in helping you stay healthy.

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