You’ve heard the phrase “feed a cold.” It turns out the opposite may be true: Moderately restricting calories can actually enhance immune-system activity. In one study, a group of men and women who were overweight (not obese) lowered their caloric intake by 10–30 percent for six months. At the end of that time, researchers found that those who followed the calorie-restricted diet had improved immune-system parameters, including increased T-cell proliferation, compared to a control group.
So are you ready to eat your way to a healthier winter? Ward off colds and flu with these low-cal, high-immunity foods that feed your immune system—not your cold.
1. Brazil nuts are one of the best food sources of selenium, a well-researched antioxidant that improves immune response. In one study, a daily Brazil nut was more effective than supplements in increasing blood selenium levels. Snack on: Two Brazil nuts chopped and sprinkled on a cup
of steamed broccoli florets.
2. Grapefruit contains hesperidin, an antioxidant that has been shown to repair damaged immune function and lower inflammation. Snack on: Half a grapefruit drizzled with raw, unfiltered honey.
3. Spinach is a low-calorie source of vitamin E, which is essential for immunity. Studies have shown that even a small vitamin E deficiency can impair the response of certain immune system functions. Snack on:
2 cups of chopped spinach tossed with balsamic vinegar and ¹/₄ cup sliced strawberries.
4. Oysters are the best food source of zinc. Many studies have shown that even a mild zinc deficiency suppresses immune function. Snack on: Three small oysters with a dash of inflammation-busting hot sauce.
5. Pumpkins are loaded with alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, which the body converts into immune-supportive vitamin A. Snack on: 1 cup steamed pumpkin, mixed with cinnamon and nutmeg and drizzled with raw, unfiltered honey.
6. Okra supports the body’s production of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that supports the immune system. Snack on: 1 cup of cooked okra drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with (immune-boosting) turmeric.
7. Brussels sprouts are high in cysteine, an amino acid that lessens inflammation and promotes white blood cell activity. Snack on: 1 cup of thinly sliced Brussels sprouts sautéed in 1 teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkled with smoked paprika.
8. Oats contain beta-glucan, a type of fiber that enhances the ability of immune cells to move quickly
to infection sites and eliminate bacteria. Snack on: ¹/₂ cup cooked oatmeal, sweetened with stevia.
Lisa Turner is a certified food psychology coach, nutritional healer, intuitive eating consultant, and author. She has written five books on food and nutrition and developed the Inspired Eats iPhone app. Visit her online at inspiredeating.com.
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