If you Google “foods to boost immune system," you’ll find that many of them are seasonal — fall included. And it won’t be long before temperatures (and the leaves) start dropping. Luckily, seasonal fall foods aren’t just packed with flavor — they can also boost your immune system and may help to keep the common cold and the flu away.
Research suggests that the nutrients your immune system needs to function efficiently include essential amino acids, vitamin A, vitamin E, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, iron, zinc, and selenium. Almost all forms of immunity may be affected by deficiencies in one or more of these nutrients. These components act on various immune cells.
Here are seven fall foods to boost immune system function and keep you healthy all year long.
Oats Are a Great Food To Boost Immune System
Now that the warm mornings of summer are going to start fading, consider starting your day with a hot bowl of oatmeal. Oats contain a specific type of fiber called beta glucan, which can help improve your immune system’s response to bacterial infection.
To maximize the health benefits of oats, avoid pre-packaged flavors that are typically high in sugar. Instead, buy in bulk and make your own oatmeal on the stovetop or in the microwave. Add your favorite toppings like banana, nut butters, raisins or maple syrup.
Pumpkin Isn't Only Good For Pie
More than just an ingredient in your favorite Thanksgiving pie, pumpkin is a rich source of carotenoids, which keep your immune system strong. Pumpkin also contains the powerful antioxidant beta carotene, commonly found in other healthy orange foods such as carrots and sweet potatoes.
Though it might be the most famous in pie form, pumpkin is a popular ingredient in other baked goods. However, it doesn’t have to be surrounded by sugar to be delicious. Try adding pumpkin to plain yogurt or oatmeal with a little cinnamon.
Sweet Potatoes Packed With Vitamin C
In addition to their high levels of beta carotene mentioned above, sweet potatoes also contain immune-boosting vitamin C and are easier on your digestive system than regular potatoes.
Though a classic baked sweet potato is hard to beat, try slicing and roasting for a healthier French fry, or add cubes to your favorite fall soups.
Butternut Squash Loaded With Vitamin A
If you need a food to boost immune system function put butternut squash on your menu. A single cup of cooked butternut squash contains nearly 300 percent of your recommended daily vitamin A. The same serving provides more than 50 percent of your daily vitamin C requirements as well, plus a substantial amount of vitamin E—which shields immune cells from free radicals and may boost production of bacteria-busting white blood cells.
For easier preparation, see if your grocery store stocks fresh cubed butternut squash and add it to your favorite fall recipes. Or, buy one whole, slice it down the middle, stuff it with fall flavors and roast in the oven.
Apples Provide Antioxidants
Citrus fruits are a great source of vitamins and minerals you need to boost immune system function. But there’s a reason the old saying recommends “an apple a day” to keep the doctor away. In addition to their numerous other health benefits, red apples contain quercetin, a type of antioxidant that fortifies your immune system, especially during times of stress.
While there’s no better way to consume an apple than simply taking a bite, you can ensure you don’t get tired of this fall fruit by smearing it with nut butter, baking slices with cinnamon or making homemade applesauce.
Probiotics For Gut Health
Results of one study demonstrated that probiotics were safe and effective for fighting the common cold and influenza-like respiratory infections by boosting the immune system.
Foods like kimchi, yogurt and sauerkraut are all packed with probiotics.
Green Tea Is A Great Choice
What’s a better way to boost immune system function on a cool fall day than by sipping a hot cup of green tea. There are numerous studies touting the benefits of green tea and boosting your immune system is one of them. Green tea contains many immunity-boosting properties that will help prime your immune system.
A healthy immune system is a big part of fighting colds and flu during the fall and winter months. Remember, your best defense against influenza is the flu vaccine. But you can optimize your immune response by eating a healthy diet.
Even though we can certainly understand mourning the end of summer produce season, saying goodbye to watermelon, corn on the cob and fresh berries is hopefully easier with these healthy fall foods popping up at your local farmers market. Let us know your favorite way to prepare these immune-boosting fall favorites in the comments section below.
Need more cooking inspiration? Check out our free entrée cookbook with recipe ideas from North Ohio Heart | Ohio Medical Group employees!