Immunity Power of Plants

Immunity Power of Plants Image

The COVID-19 has inspired concern about the condition of our immune systems. Therefore, this is a very important time to enlighten you of the facts about nutrition and its effects on the immune system. In other words, your nutritional choices will play a substantial role in the current state of your immune system. The more knowledge you have about what nutrients are important for your health the better choices you can make to keep yourself safe. We all are very aware of the health benefits of vegetables. However, do you know enough about their importance to want to choose whole food plants over processed pre-packaged products?

 

As a plant-based specialist, I have had the opportunity to study the impacts nutrition has on chronic health conditions that plague too many Americans today. I have also had the blessing of coaching many people to make significant lifestyle changes that saved their health. This has inspired a passion deep within me to tell as many people as I can that they can take control of their health by simply making nutrition changes. So, what can you do today that will strengthen your immune system?

 

One randomized controlled trial studied the question of strengthening the immune system of elderly patients, who are generally at greatest risk of developing respiratory infections (1). Patients randomly assigned to the experimental group were asked to increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables to five portions per day. Meanwhile, those in the control group were encouraged to continue with their normal diets (closer to two portions per day). The results were clear. Those who ate more fruits and vegetables saw a significant increase in nutrients critical to the immune system, such as in vitamin C, lycopene and zeaxanthin, as well as a significantly enhanced antibody response following vaccination. Researchers conclude that there is a link between this “achievable dietary goal [and] improved immune function.” One randomized controlled trial studied the question of strengthening the immune system of elderly patients, who are generally at greatest risk of developing respiratory infections (1). Patients randomly assigned to the experimental group were asked to increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables to five portions per day. Meanwhile, those in the control group were encouraged to continue with their normal diets (closer to two portions per day). The results were clear. Those who ate more fruits and vegetables saw a significant increase in nutrients critical to the immune system, such as in vitamin C, lycopene and zeaxanthin, as well as a significantly enhanced antibody response following vaccination. Researchers conclude that there is a link between this “achievable dietary goal [and] improved immune function.”

 

The answer seems too simple, eat more fruits and vegetables. I want to encourage you of accepting the simplicity of this answer. Evaluate how much fresh whole food plants you actually eat. Try new things in your kitchen and make a home cooked meal with fresh vegetables, whole grains, and beans. The cells in your body need the phytonutrients that only whole food plants deliver. Animal products and highly processed foods will not nourish your immune system. Some specific foods that will improve your immune response are:

  • Garlic
  • Green tea
  • Mushrooms
  • Ginger
  • Elderberry
  • Turmeric
  • Oregano
  • Spinach

Garlic contains allicin, a compound that has strong anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. Allicin only forms when the raw garlic is crushed.

Green teas are rich in antioxidants called polyphenols. Polyphenols are efficient infection fighters. They protect the body against potential viruses, infections and sickness.

Reishi mushrooms are renowned for its antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties. These mushrooms have also shown the ability to stimulate macrophages (a type of white blood cell) to produce more tumor necrosis factor to result in anti-tumor activity.

Ginger prevents the accumulation of toxins that make you susceptible to viral, fungal and bacterial infections.

Elderberries are packed with antioxidants and vitamins that may boost your immune system. They can tame inflammation, lessen stress, and help protect your heart too.

Turmeric is a natural way to help increase the immunomodulating capacity of the body.

Oregano is known for helping prevent and treat infections such as urinary tract infections caused by bacteria like E. Coli, Proteus, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Greens such as spinach are immune-boosting foods that contain high levels of vitamin C which helps fight off infection and regenerate other antioxidants in the body including vitamin E.

Your next meal will make an impact on your health. Choose the foods that are going to help your defense system.

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References:

  1. Gibson A, Edgar JD, Neville CE, Gilchrist SE, McKinley MC, Patterson CC, Young IS, Woodside JV. Effect of fruit and vegetable consumption on immune function in older people: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Dec;96(6):1429-36. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.039057. Epub 2012 Nov 7.