It is remarkable how our immune system fends off unwanted diseases. It works all year long, with no days off or holiday breaks and yet we take this unwavering shield for granted. We drink to the point of intoxication, smoke more than moderately and eat more than we pray and, or love. And for those reasons, our body’s security system loses its failsafe. How ironic, the dangers we pose to ourselves.
A nutritionist from Duke once said, “Our immune system is like a finely honed, intricately choreographed dance.” That analogy is a perfect way to describe this complicated defense mechanism. We could spend years studying the immune system and I could write the next 5 paragraphs discussing B-cells, T-cells, memory cells, lymphocytes (the list can go on) but the reader would probably stop reading by the second paragraph. Let’s leave the details to the doctors and science professions. For simplicity’s sake, we can just say that each cell has a specific function and their interplay allows the person to survive. Without this complexity, the human cannot thrive. So how do we protect this invaluable instrument of life? Simple: Eat Well. Knowing this is easy. But doing so is a whole new story. While you’re figuring out how to attain that healthy body, these nine foods can help you “kill the ill”.
To get a hold of food with benefits, one need not look very far. Allium sativum, also known as garlic, is a staple in most Filipino households. But its importance in health eludes us possibly because most just notice the pungent odor it releases. Calorie for calorie, garlic is highly nutritious but has very few calories. Aside from containing manganese, Vitamins B6 and C, selenium and fiber, it also has ability to inhibit the growth of germs. According to a Boston City Hospital study, garlic killed 14 strains of bacteria from the nose and throats of children with ear infections. Cooking garlic subdues its flavor and the gives it a nutty taste but in order to maximize the benefits of garlic which include fighting colds and flu and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, one must eat the entire bulb raw.
Native to East Asia, this mushroom has been used for culinary and medicinal purposes. Recent studies support the claim of Shiitake as a preventive measure for cardiovascular disease. It also has been long recognized as a good source of iron. Shiitake contains lentinian, which is a beta-glucan polysaccharide that boosts the immune system and was used as a cancer neoadjuvant in the 1980s. As wonderful as it is for the body, it is easy to slip in dishes like the miso soup. It can also be served sautéed and served with your favorite dressing or ingredients.
Not your sugar laden, Iced Tea or milk tea which has been assimilated into practically every culture, the tea might need a separate article on its own if I were to enumerate all its types and corresponding benefits. For starters, tea can help one maintain a healthy weight. Not to mention, it can provide the body with anti-oxidants, which can rid the body of unwanted chemicals, and free radicals that destroy healthy cells. There are powerful compounds in teas known as polyphenols, which help build resistance to our ever-damaging environment. Besides its health perks, if one is having a bad day, one can start brewing a batch and enjoy it’s soothing and relaxing benefits.
Orange for breakfast is a good start for a sunny day. And not all fruits feel right. Try having a cantaloupe or grapes and it won’t feel the same. But this bright start does not end there. It can power you in more ways than one. Aside from the energy it provides, the orange is a wonderful source of vitamin C, phytochemicals that protect against cancer and kidney disease, potassium to boost heart health and soluble fibers to help in lowering cholesterol. Vitamin C helps boost immunity by stimulating the growth of antibodies to fend off infections. It also helps produce prostaglandins which reduces inflammation. Though drinking orange juice is a popular way of including the fruit in the diet, extracting the juices can destroy nutrients. Thus, eating the whole fruit is preferred. Have some fun in peeling oranges.
Great things come in small packages. These little balls of navy blue may just provide you with the nutrients you need to fight off radicals. Known as a superfood, acai, these powerhouses of phytonutrients deliver abundant amounts of vitamins E and C. According to Readon, when vitamin C and E work together, it is when they produce their most potent antioxidant effects. While Vitamin C is a crowd favorite, known for treating colds and other ailments, Vitamin E escapes our attention. Though studies of Vitamin E as preventive measure for heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s, it is the key to strong immunity and healthy skin.
Sweet Potatoes/ Kamote
A perfect substitute for your potato fries, kamote or sweet potatoes may just be as delicious as those fast food counterparts while providing you with healthier options. Rich in carotene, these inexpensive and easily available alternatives are high in vitamin B6, vitamin C, D, magnesium, iron and potassium. They do not cause blood sugar spikes and at the same time, they help ward of cancer and protect against aging.
One might think the beef should have been removed from this list due to its bad reputation, only because we eat too much steak or burgers. But in the lean beef, one can reap many nutritional benefits as long as the saturated fat is avoided. Consuming lean beef can provide one with iron, Vitamin B12, Coenzyme Q10 (antioxidant) and zinc. These nutrients aid the body in red blood cell production, reduces anemia, facilitates fat and protein metabolism and as well as protecting one’s cells from harmful free radicals. Immune cells are short lived and non self-reproducing. Zinc aids in replacing and repairing the key players of the immune system. If one is looking for vegetarian alternative at par with lean beef, pumpkin seeds can do the trick.
Popeye had a good run during its time but spinach wasn’t as lucky. Though projected most positively as a vegetable that makes one strong, spinach is not appreciated, as it should be. Concentrated in health promoting phytonutrients, vitamins and nutrients, the immune system depends on the folate contained in the spinach to increase the supply of immune cells. It also contains 13 different compounds that serve as antioxidants. Plentiful amounts of anti- cancer epoxyxanthophylls are found in spinach leaves. Not only that, it is also known to decrease blood vessel related problems. I think it is about time we follow Popeye’s footsteps.
The sea of yogurt options is growing and it only makes sense that food with many health benefits should be given premium in groceries. Yogurts are known probiotics, which means they provide their benefits by adjusting microflora in the intestines. According to Reardon, probiotics increase natural killer cells, enhancing the immune system. Gamma interferon, on the other hand, aids in developing white blood cell. Aside from that, they contain other nutrients such as calcium, vitamin B2, B12, potassium and magnesium. Many of the health conscious make it a point to have yogurt daily. And they are making good choices. Benefits of yogurt include preventing osteoporosis and infection, reducing risk of high blood pressure, helping the gastrointestinal system avoid conditions such as constipation and lactose intolerance and making one feel fuller.
Now you know a little more yesterday, it’s time to put that knowledge into practice. Have fun boosting your immune system by putting a different take on these everyday foods!