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  • Laren Rusin

Boosting Immune Function with Food

Tis the season for colds and flu. Eating a diet rich in varied nutrients is the best way to support your body through the entire year, but a plant-rich diet with a wide variety of colors and types will offer a range of phytochemicals that provide an immune-system boost, and fight inflammation. I'll address foods beside the ubiquitous orange, that can help you stave off sickness this winter! Here's a list of nutritious, immune-boosting foods to add to your menus this winter:

1. Red peppers: higher in vitamin C than oranges (per serving), red, orange, and yellow peppers are vitamin C powerhouses and lower in sugar than their fruit counterparts. Vitamin C helps with the development and production of lymphocytes. Other vitamin C-rich foods include kiwi, guava, broccoli, black currant, and elderberry.

2. Broccoli: contains high amounts of vitamin C, along with A and E, and the powerful sulforaphane, which has anti-inflammatory, cognitive, and blood-sugar stabilizing benefits. Other foods containing sulforaphanes include cauliflower, kale, cabbage, bok choy, and watercress.

3. Almonds: high in vitamin E, an immune booster and antioxidant. Much of the benefit is found in the skins, so try to eat unblanched versions. Sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and peanuts also contain high amounts of vitamin E.

4. Green tea: for L-theanine, which keeps you alert yet relaxed, and promotes healthy T cells. Green tea is also high in flavonoids, phytochemicals that improve immune function. Cranberries, apples, blueberries, broccoli, and strawberries also contain high levels of flavonoids.

5. Turmeric: the curcumin found in turmeric has more well-researched health benefits than I can list here, but it's a potent anti-inflammatory among other things. Use turmeric with black pepper and a healthy fat to maximize absorption!

Other foods that help support your immune system include prebiotic (garlic and onions) and probiotic foods (miso, tempeh, pickles, kraut) to support gut health, as much of your immune function starts in your gut!

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