Carrots are, of course, very healthy for our eyes. Just look at any rabbit you come across, and you will observe they are not wearing glasses. Chicken soup, of course, is healthy for everyone but the chicken. An old friend of mine told me that Mexican food also keeps us healthy. The green chilies kill germs, and the beans help to blow the dead germs out of us. That friend was generally a very healthy gal. And a great cook.
Our immune system is of primary importance in keeping us healthy. Bugs, germs, and various diseases are most often no match for our body’s natural immunity. Fatigue, both physical and spiritual/emotional, often lowers our immune system, making us more prone to getting sick.
Other physical imbalances also contribute to a lowering of our immune system’s ability to ward off illness. Eating healthy foods, and certain foods, in particular, gives our immune system the ingredients it needs to function at its best. Below is some necessary information about what can make us sick and some of the vitamins that are beneficial to our health. Following that are some foods rich in those and other vitamins and minerals.
Free Radicals and Antioxidants
Our bodies have a natural level of free radical molecules, which help our immune system ward off harmful illnesses and infections. When the amount of free radicals outnumber our natural antioxidants, our bodies can suffer significant harm. Antioxidants in foods, mainly fresh fruits and vegetables, help to maintain a healthy balance. Vitamins such as A, B, E, and C are effective antioxidants.
Vitamins for our Immune System
Vitamin A -- Skin, mucous membranes, and our respiratory tract are all barriers that keep viruses and germs at bay. Vitamin A helps keep the cells in those areas in peak shape. This vitamin also helps white blood cells, which is instrumental in eliminating infections.
Vitamin E – Like vitamin A, vitamin E keeps the membranes of cells healthy throughout our body. It boosts the effectiveness of our immune system.
Vitamin C – Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps our immune system in all areas. It raises the number of antibodies we produce when the immune system is responding to invasion. Vitamin C also stimulates white blood cell production while protecting those cells from damage caused by free radicals.
B Vitamins – The entire spectrum of B vitamins are crucial for the health of our immune system. They are critical players for the proteins which alert our bodies about the presence of harmful intruders. B vitamins ensure the growth of white blood cells, and they let our immune system know what needs to be done to fight off germs, viruses, and disease.
Foods Which Boost the Immune System
Berries of all Types
Blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, blackberries, and all of their relatives are rich in vitamin C. There is a powerful antioxidant called “flavanol,” found in dark berries. Flavanols, in particular, are touted as a protection against cold and flu bugs. Berries are easily mixed into salads, breakfast cereal, oatmeal, smoothies, and cocktails. Mix some fresh berries with a vegetable dish during dinner. The contrast in tasting sweet berries with cooked vegetables is sure to please the palate.
In addition to warming us up from the inside, teas have excellent disease-fighting properties in them. They are rich in antioxidants and caffeinated or decaffeinated makes no difference. Whether you enjoy green or black tea, each one provides disease-fighting polyphenols and flavonoids. These are antioxidants that cleanse our bodies of harmful germs.
Extremely rich in beta-carotene and vitamins E, C, and A. Carrots also contain the minerals iron, zinc, and copper, all of which are critical elements of a healthy immune system.
(aka Jewish penicillin) -- I learned how to make chicken soup from my dearly departed Jewish Mother. Mom was rarely ill, and she made a great chicken soup. The soup is packed with healthy immune-supporting ingredients, and a bowl of it heals mind, body, and spirit. For about 20 minutes, slowly cook down parsnips, carrots, celery, and onion in a covered soup pot with just a bit of water. Add some cut up roasted and de-boned chicken, water, salt, pepper, parsley, garlic powder, dill, turmeric, and black pepper to taste. Mom always added a teaspoon of orange juice concentrate, and I do that as well.
I use kosher chicken, which I have roasted and then skinned. Taking off the skin reduces the amount of fat in the soup. I find kosher chicken to have more flavor, probably due to it being salted in the koshering process. NOTE: After roasting the chicken, I pour the drippings into a small container and put it in the refrigerator. After it cools, I remove most of the fat, which has risen to the top and congealed. The gelled drippings are then added back into the soup. This eliminates any need for bullion. A little of the fat gets added to the vegetables as they cook down. This adds flavor and helps the veggies not to burn.
An excellent source of antioxidants is the ginger root. Ginger powder is often used in cooking, but nothing compares to using the fresh root. Steeped in hot water for tea or sautéed with vegetables and meat dishes is the best way not only to enjoy the flavor of the root but also to reap the benefits of its immune system-boosting properties.
Good enough for Popeye the Sailor Man… good enough for me and you! Spinach is packed with folate. Folate assists our bodies in producing new cells and repairing DNA. This vegetable also has fiber, antioxidants like vitamin C, and is an excellent energy booster.
As we all know, citrus fruits are packed with vitamin C and minerals. Citrus fruits are also known to have anti-inflammatory properties. Enjoy these fruits in juice, eaten freshly peeled, or cooked in your favorite dishes.
Just like in watermelon, an antioxidant called glutathione is found in broccoli. Containing vitamins C and A, eating broccoli is yet another way to strengthening our immune systems. Rather than boiling it, try roasting broccoli with other vegetables or browning it in a pan. Roasting versus boiling release two completely different flavors in this vegetable.
Red beets are sweet when roasted or juiced. Golden beets have more of a sweet potato flavor. There is no need to peel them. They are sweet and meaty when used in soups. Beets are packed with folate (Vitamin B-9), which is vital for healthy cell growth and the formation of red blood cells. Vitamins C and B-6 and many minerals are also prevalent in beets. The benefits of beets cannot be beat! And fresh beets taste great.
Sweet potatoes and carrots have lots of beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. Bake them, add to stir-fried vegetables, or cut them up and roast with other vegetables. They taste great and are good for the immune system.
Mushrooms are widely used as a remedy for combatting fatigue and improving immune system function. In particular, Cremini mushrooms have lots of various B vitamins, including pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and niacin. Antioxidant properties of creminis also help boost our immune systems. Also known as baby Bella, mini Bella, or portobellini mushrooms, creminis are firmer than the ordinary white mushroom. They are excellent in soups, meat dishes, and roasted with other vegetables.
Ripe watermelon has a boatload of a polysyllabic antioxidant known as glutathione. Watermelon boosts our immune systems, tastes excellent, and is a very refreshing fruit. The melon nearest the rind has the highest level of antioxidant.
Garlic powder is found in most spice cabinets. The powder does not compare with using real garlic from a bulb. Once cooked, the flavor mellows. The benefits of garlic require the use of the fresh stuff. Garlic wards off bacteria, viruses, infections, and fungus. It takes a few minutes to peel and slice the individual cloves, and the effort is worthwhile.
If I had to name one fruit as my personal favorite, persimmon would be the one. Generally available from November through early January, persimmons freeze well for future use when they are out of season. The taste is like honey! Fuyu and Hachiya are the most famous varieties. Hachiya is heart-shaped, and Fuyu has a sort of a donut shape to them. These are best enjoyed when they are soft and wholly ripe and are packed with vitamins and minerals.
Using a banana bread recipe, I substitute peeled persimmon for the banana. The result comes out sort of like bread pudding. Sort of. The bread will rise nicely. As soon as taken out of the oven, though, it will fall as the moisture in the persimmon takes over. Serve with a few tablespoons of the fresh fruit on top and enjoy this sweet treat. All the while, you will be boosting your immune system.
Of all the fruits and vegetables available to us, bell peppers provide some of the most vitamin C. Even the citrus fruits only have half as much vitamin C as bell peppers do. Roasted, cooked with meat dishes, or used raw in salads, these are a must-eat for healthy immune systems.
Root Vegetable Soup
Beets, carrots, celery, onion, cremini mushrooms, ginger root. Slice these up as you see fit, and then slowly sauté them in a soup pot. This allows the flavors to come out much better than boiling the vegetables. When they are softened, add water and season to taste. If you have chicken drippings in the refrigerator, add some to the veggies as they cook—no need to peel anything other than the ginger root.
I use carrots as a base every time I use my juicer machine. They are healthy and economical. No need to peel anything that goes into a juicer! Many vitamins are in the skins of fruits and vegetables, and we do not want to lose them. Some things I add to the carrots are beets, ginger root, apples, and spinach. Beets and spinach add an energy kick to a glass of fresh juice. Refrigerated juice will need to be shaken before use, as the solids sink to the bottom of the jar.
Use a cookie baking sheet or large glass Pyrex roasting pan when roasting fresh vegetables. Cut up red peppers, yellow peppers, garlic cloves, beets, and onion. Broccoli and Brussel sprouts work well also. You can either drizzle olive oil over them, coating them thoroughly, or marinate them for an hour or so before roasting. My preference is also to add some balsamic vinegar when marinating veggies. Roast at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes or until tender. Serve with couscous, tabbouleh, or salad. This stuff is excellent cold out of the refrigerator as well.
Here is an article on several more immune-boosting recipes.
At the top of this article, I shared the benefits of carrots and chicken soup. For us non-rabbits and non-chickens, i.e., humans, some foods are of high value in maintaining our health. I’ve shared a few of my ways of preparing some of the top foods that boost our immune system. I hope you benefit from my favorite picks for keeping illness, cooties, and various bugs at bay. Bugs Bunny is cool, though, since he does not make my nose stuffy. Note also that he does not wear glasses!
Article by Aaron Ainbinder