Grab a grain bar for breakfast, order a mocha frappe on our way to work, scarf down a donut as midday refuel, and pick up some pizza for dinner on the way home. While these eatables are undoubtedly delicious, the downside is that they’re not the immunity-boosting foods our bodies require.
Let’s face it, this fast-paced lifestyle we’re all accustomed to is doing us no favors. And with viruses running rampant and threatening to shorten our lifespan, it might be in our best interest to stop and take a minute to re-evaluate our health choices.
“Taking care of our health is the foundation of immunity,” says Eric Edmeades, creator of WILDFIT and trainer of the Mindvalley Quest with the same name. “Taking care of our health is the foundation of quality of life.”
Eric happens to be Mindvalley’s trainer for The Immunity Blueprint and WILDFIT Quests. Taking insights from his expertise as a pioneer in the field of evolutionary biology, nutritional anthropology, and behavioral change dynamics, here’s a mini guide on why it’s essential we incorporate immunity-boosting foods in this day and age:
Eat good, feel good, for sure. But more importantly, it’s about what you eat that’ll make or break how you feel.
How Does Food Help Boost Immunity?
What we consume can impact our immune health. There are a number of foods that can increase the risk of developing different diseases. But there are also superfoods that can help lower that risk.
A 2019 article in Nutrients explains that when there’s an infection in the body, the ‘activated’ immune system requires energy. Therefore, nutrition that supports immunity helps immune cells respond effectively and rapidly against pathogens.
“Some micronutrients and dietary components have very specific roles in the development and maintenance of an effective immune system throughout the life course or in reducing chronic inflammation,” the authors wrote.
One example they gave is arginine. This amino acid is essential to generate nitric oxide by macrophages, a type of white blood cell that fights infections, removes dead cells, and stimulates the action of other immune system cells.
What’s more, a 2020 study looked into the association between nutrition and the immune system. It found that what we consume can “influence systemic markers of immune function and inflammation,” and that includes the microbiome, gut barrier function, and white blood cell function.
So the next time you’re sick or looking to better support your immune health, it’s a wise idea to choose immunity-boosting foods.
7 Best Immunity-Boosting Foods
There’s a ton of chatter on food for health; so much so that even Mindvalley has covered it in several podcast episodes. And while there are many aspects of health that influence our immune system (including breathing, hydration, sleep, sunlight, movement, and social connection), food is one incredibly important element to be conscious of.
So what are some immunity-boosting foods that should be a staple in your diet? Here are seven of them, as recommended by Eric Edmeades.
#1: Root vegetables
Carrots, swedes, beetroots, radishes, and sweet potatoes — these are only a few of many examples of root vegetables. They’re packed with fiber and antioxidants as well as low in calories, fat, and cholesterol.
They’re a good source of carbohydrates, which provides the body with glucose that is, then, converted to energy.
#2: Dark leafy vegetables
Which greens are considered dark leafy vegetables? That would be spinach, kale, swiss chard, and turnip greens.
These vegetables are a top source of essential minerals the body needs — calcium, copper, iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.
Additionally, they’re known to be a source that helps the body reduce inflammation. A 2012 study found that an increased intake of vegetables improved antibody response to a vaccine that protects against infections such as pneumonia and meningitis in older people.
Moreover, they’re low in calories and make a great addition to any meal.
“Fruits, but very seasonally,” advises Eric. And here’s why:
Our biological makeup is meant to eat food based on the seasons. Some parts of the year require us to eat quite a lot of a certain thing while other parts of the year require us to eat less.
“Remember that in nature, fruit would appear on the tree and it would available for a short window of time and then, it would be gone,” Eric adds. Nowadays, we can buy fruit — apples, bananas, and all kinds of citrus fruits — any day of the year, and our immune system wasn’t designed for that.
So when picking out fruit for one of your immunity-boosting foods, make sure it’s in season.
#4: Raw honey
Using raw honey as a sweetener is a great alternative to raw sugar and syrups. It has antimicrobial peptides and medicinal properties, such as flavonoids, polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals. These help strengthen the immune system.
But take it occasionally, according to Eric. He says, “Honey is not something that you’re able to find every single day in the wilderness.” It, like fruits, is seasonal.
Pecans, almonds, pistachios, macadamia nuts, walnuts, and hazelnuts are some of the sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins, and fats around.
In fact, a five-year study published in 2018 found that nuts are a great option of immunity-boosting foods for adults. The results showed that a higher intake of nuts is associated with reduced weight gain and a lower risk of becoming overweight or obese.
#6: Fatty fish
“Fats are one of the most important and healthy things, and we need it in our diet,” Eric explains. He adds that it’s one of the great ways to trigger fat release.
Now, he’s not talking about just any type of fat. He’s talking about the healthy fats — the kind you find in fatty fish, which includes tuna, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and trout.
These fishes contain large amounts of unsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids, playing an important role in your heart and brain health. That’s probably why the American Heart Association recommends two servings of it each week. Moreover, it’s one of the best immunity-boosting foods for kids.
On a side note, if you’re vegan or vegetarian, some good sources of healthy fat would be avocados, nuts, and tofu.
“Where’s the beef?” as that 80’s Wendy’s commercial goes. And with good reason.
Beef contains vitamin B12, selenium, and zinc that help produce immune cells. Additionally, it’s known to be a source of iron, which helps those cells stay healthy.
It’s also one of the easiest sources to get the necessary amino acids that combine to form protein. And according to Eric, when you eat meat, “you’re eating whole complete proteins and you’re getting all of your amino acids requirements.”
He also emphasizes that the meat should be ethically sourced, organic, and natural. Consuming processed meat does more harm than good and is not on the recommended list of immunity-boosting foods.
For vegans or vegetarians, on the other hand, you have to assemble all of the amino acids from a variety of plant sources because “there are no plants that have whole complete proteins.”
Other Ways to Improve Immunity
Food is definitely a great way to help with your immunity. However, the system requires different aspects of your lifestyle to work in synergy in order for it to function optimally.
In his other quest on Mindvalley, The Immunity Blueprint, Eric covers additional ways that can work with immunity-boosting foods to support your immune system. Here they are:
- Breathing. It’s an essential component of optimizing your health, especially nowadays when many of us spend most of our time indoors or exposed to polluted environments. So, find ways to take in some fresh quality air, like going for a walk in the woods or meditating under a tree.
- Hydration. In adults, around 60% of the body is made up of water. So ensure you’re keeping yourself hydrated by drinking six to eight glasses of water daily (maybe with your immunity-boosting foods).
- Sleep. This state of rest, or lack of it, influences how you respond to circumstances, people, and how you feel daily. Allow your body to get optimal sleep in a dark, clean room with cool-fresh air.
- Sunlight. It’s the best source of vitamin D, which helps improve your sleep. So find ways to soak in that midday sun, like spending time outdoors.
- Movement. Moving and exercise help move lymphatic fluid throughout your body, cleansing and strengthening your immune function. Do some yoga, go for a run, or do 10X.
- Connection. The human need for connection is vital in supporting our health, yet it’s often overlooked. So reach out to a friend who makes you feel worthy or make new ones to expand your network.
If you’re looking to take care of yourself, make adjustments to these aspects of your lifestyle.
Feel Stronger; Go Further
As Eric aptly puts it:
This is the time for giving your body the things that it really needs.
It needs really good nutrition. It needs a variety of fruits and fresh vegetables.
It needs good healthy fats and proteins. It also needs really good hydration.
It needs to rest. It needs sunlight and it needs fresh air. And it needs love and support.
You can start here, at Mindvalley.
As a Member, you have full access to quests like The Immunity Blueprint and WILDFIT where you can learn from experts like Eric. What’s more, you won’t have to go at it alone; there’s a tribe for each quest so you can be amongst like-minded people who’re also immersing in their own personal growth.
So first you eat. And then, you change the world.