Immune health is top priority for just about everyone this year, and the Yes Health coaches have been getting a lot of questions on how to boost your immune system. We’ve already covered some lifestyle tips on how to strengthen your immune system, but what about food?
Our nutritionists recommend a well-balanced diet to make sure you’re getting enough nutrients to power a healthy immune system. But did you know there are also foods that can actually prevent and fight viruses? Here are some of the top antiviral foods to boost your immune system during the Covid pandemic, and beyond.
You may be thinking, “isn’t that the stuff we put on pizza?” That’s right! The Italians were on to something by adding this herb into almost all of their food groups. Oregano is one of the most powerful antimicrobial food sources, thanks to its major component carvacrol. Test tube studies have shown oregano and carvacrol to lower, prevent, and destroy virus activity after minutes of exposure.
Oregano is often referred to as “nature’s antibiotic.”
While oregano oil supplements are the most potent form, sprinkling a generous amount of this household herb into soups and other dishes, will put up a good fight against a virus.
Garlic is another common household staple that can fight off infections. Not only does it have anti-viral properties, it’s also antibacterial and antifungal. Studies have shown garlic to cause antiviral activity in certain cases of influenza and pneumonia.
You get the most benefits when eating garlic raw, but we don’t blame you if you can’t stomach it. Just chop it and let it sit for about 10 minutes before cooking. This way, the garlic will release and activate the enzymes and antiviral benefits.
Everyone knows that Vitamin C is good for the immune system. Although it doesn’t necessarily have antiviral properties, it works to combat oxidative stress (which can suppress your immune system), and promotes cell turnover.
Citrus fruits are the most commonly known sources of vitamin C, but fun fact: red bell peppers actually contain higher amounts of vitamin C. One cup of chopped red bell peppers has about 3x more Vitamin C than one orange. Red bell peppers also contain less sugar, which you should try to avoid when sick.
Elderberry (or sambucus) is another antiviral food that has been tested and shown to have a preventative effect on respiratory viruses. Unlike most antiviral foods and supplements that work best at the beginning stages of infection, elderberry works effectively at all stages, and particularly stronger towards the late stage.
The most common forms of elderberry are syrups (the most concentrated and effective), lozenges, pills, and tea. You can find these at your local health food store for both kids and adults.
Zinc is arguably the most important supplement when strengthening your immune system. According to Harvard School of Public Health, it’s main function is to support and strengthen the immune cells that protect your body from viruses and bacteria. Even a mild Zinc deficiency can weaken the line of defense against viruses like Covid. So, it’s best to make sure you’re getting enough.
Food sources with the highest levels of zinc are shellfish (oysters, crab lobster), beef, poultry, and pork. Plant food sources, such as soy and legumes, also contain zinc but a less absorbable form.
Make sure to eat a well balanced diet (or at the minimum, take a multivitamin to fill in nutritional gaps) to avoid any deficiencies, in addition to these antiviral foods. Also, make sure you consult a physician or registered dietitian before taking any supplements.
Do you need ideas for immune boosting recipes? Or want a full list of anti-viral foods? Try Yes Health free for 14 days, and ask your health coach.