In my last article I focused on the immune-boosting properties of probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria grown from cultured and fermented foods. This month, in the spirit of Chanukah – associated with the miraculous cruise of olive oil – I’d like to discuss a variety of different foods that Hashem endowed with miraculous immune-boosting qualities.
Here’s a summary of the most powerful foods proven to have immune-enhancing effects, which I adapted from 9 Power Foods that Boost Immunity, by Amanda MacMillan and Tamara Schryver, RD (2009):
1. Beta carotene-rich foods – sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, cantaloupe:
Suggested amount: Half a cup of any one of these foods.
Immune benefits: The body converts the beta-carotene contained in these foods into Vitamin A. Vitamin A is needed for the skin to serve as a first line of defense against bacteria and viruses, as well as for the body to produce connective tissue.
2. Oats and barley:
Suggested amount: One serving (1/2 cup cooked) a day of either one.
Immune benefits: These foods contain beta glucan, a type of fiber with antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. It boosts immunity, speeds wound healing, and may help antibiotics work better.
3. Fish, especially wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring:
Suggested amount: Two servings (3-4 ounces) a week.
Immune benefits: Fish is rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which reduce inflammation, increase airflow, and protect the lungs from colds and respiratory infections.
4. Zinc-rich foods – chicken , turkey, beans, lentils, chickpeas, nuts, whole grains, wheat germ:
Suggested amount: Select from these daily throughout the week.
Immune benefits: Zinc decreases the risks of infection and helps in the development of white blood cells and wound healing.
5. Chicken soup:
Suggested amount: Whenever you’re feeling under the weather.
Immune benefits: Chicken soup has antibiotic properties and soothes sinuses.
6. Garlic or garlic capsules:
Suggested amount: 1–2 raw or slightly cooked garlic cloves daily added to food; garlic capsules should contain 5,000 micograms of the active ingredient allicin.
Immune benefits: Garlic helps fight infection and bacteria.
Suggested amount: Two or more cups of organic green tea daily.
Immune benefits: Contains the amino acid L-theanine, which contributes to immune-boosting abilities; steeping and bobbing the tea bag may increase its antioxidant level.
8. Mushrooms, especially shiitake, maitake, and reishi:
Suggested amount: A quarter to one ounce daily; fresh mushrooms are best.
Immune benefits: Mushrooms increase the productivity and activity of white blood cells.
9. Live active cultures, found in cultured dairy (yogurt, kefir), fermented foods (sauerkraut, pickles), soy-based products (tempeh, miso, natto), and probiotic capsules:
Suggested amount: Vary your sources and eat several times a week.
Immune benefits: These foods increase antibodies in the digestive tract and may strengthen immunity throughout the body.
Dr. Shmuel Shields is a N.Y.S. Certified Nutritionist who works with children and adults. His Torah-based book on health, L’Chaim: 18 Chapters to Live By, is available directly through the author, online, and at Jewish bookstores near you. For more information about his book and unique line of multivitamin-mineral supplements, visitwww.drshieldsnutrition.com. To order directly through the author or for a consultation with Dr. Shields, contact him at Rmshields62@verizon.net or call (718) 544-4036. Most insurance plans are accepted. House calls, phone and e-mail consultations, and guest speaking can be arranged.