Foods that strengthen your immune system | by Nutritional Therapist Phoebe Liebling

Foods that strengthen your immune system | by Nutritional Therapist Phoebe Liebling

The best way to describe your immune system is to imagine an army of tiny soldiers living in various parts of your body. Their job is to identify and protect you against potential threats. When the army finds a foreign invader (bacteria, cold, flu or virus) they launch a protective attack to bring your body back to balance.

A common misconception is that we want to boost or heighten our immune response but this isn’t the case. A lot of chronic diseases can be a direct cause of an overactive immune response. We want to strengthen your immune system, not boost it. So what can we do to support this delicate and complex system? 

There are foods for your immune system you can add to your diet to keep you fighting fit. Here are my top 5…

Omega-3 

Omega-3 is a key component of a balanced immune system. The primary fat source (in terms of essential fatty acids) in your diet is going to make up your cell membranes. When your body responds to an illness the quality of your cells will determine if it’s a pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory response. By upping your omega-3 status you will be putting yourself in the land of anti-inflammatory which is what we want!

I keep a tin of small tinned oily fish (sardines, mackerel, anchovies) in my pantry and I also love Bare Biology’s Life & Soul pure omega-3 liquid.

Vitamins

We tend to eat more vitamins in the summer months when salads and fresh foods are more appealing. In the winter you can use fresh herbs instead. Buy some dark, leafy greens like dill, rocket or watercress and make a fresh herb sauce.

Water-soluble vitamins like vitamin c also help if you have a dry, tickly cough or a blocked nose this will help.

An essential vitamin to support immune function is vitamin D3. Foods that are rich in vitamin D3 include eggs, seafood and leafy greens. Natural sunlight is the most powerful source!

If you struggle to get enough vitamin D3 in your diet, Bare Biology’s Rise & Shine capsules combine essential omega-3 (as mentioned previously) with vitamin D3 for a powerful two in one supplement to support your immune system.

Rise-and-shine-at-kitchen-table

Fermented foods

Digestive function is a front line defence of our immune system. Foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, fresh miso paste, tempeh and kombucha are live with probiotic bacteria. An important part of your immune system is in your intestine. It’s where you absorb nutrients and it also acts as another protective barrier. By upping your probiotics these live organisms will start to work their magic.

If you find you have a stomach bug, start introducing one of these foods slowly. Start with a teaspoon every day and gradually increase the amount over time.

Top tip: Raw and unpasteurized is best. 

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are fabulous for your immune health. They are potent antivirals, anti-fungals and antibacterials. If you’re starting to introduce them into your routine then any kind of mushroom will do. If you want to go a step further, look out for speciality mushrooms like porcini or shiitake as they will be slightly more active in the body.

Go for organic ingredients and make sure you cook them. I love grilling portobello mushrooms and adding pesto. You can also add them to stews, sauces and soups. 

mushroom-soup

Spices

Anything that adds flavour or colour to food is amazing for immune modulating. Remember quality is key! Here are my favourites…

  • Ground turmeric
  • Fresh root ginger - I like to grate it and freeze it¬†
  • Cardamom¬†
  • Cumin¬†

Phoebe began Natural Nourishment to share her recipes and give clear, unbiased nutritional guidance. This evolved into a clinical practice. Phoebe helps her clients utilise ingredients, methods and positive lifestyle choices to optimise all aspects of mental and physical wellbeing.

By Liv Evans

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