It’s a popular expression in the fitness world: “You can’t undo what you put on your plate!” In other words, no amount of working out will atone for poor dietary habits. Did you know you can take it a step further? In addition to eating a well-balanced diet comprised of real food, adding superfoods to your runner’s diet can boost your immune system.
What Is a Superfood?
Superfoods are nutrient-rich foods that do a body good. Rich in antioxidants, they are considered nutritionally dense. Although some superfoods are plant-based, others are fish, dairy, or fall into other categories.
How Do Superfoods Boost Your Immune System?
One way to boost your immune system is through a plant-based diet. Since white blood cells that produce antibodies help the immune system to combat viruses, bacteria and other bad stuff, it stands to reason you want healthy white blood cells.
People who eat a diet rich in vegetables and other plant-based items statistically show more effective white blood cells compared to those who eat less plant-based matter.
✓ Beta Carotene
Found in a variety of food items, in particular leafy greens, beta-carotene is rich in antioxidants. Known for its ability to reduce inflammation, beta-carotene can also boost the bodies ability to fight diseases by increasing the function of your immune system.
To increase the beta-carotene in your diet, look for dark greens such as kale, spinach and broccoli. In addition, you can add other vegetables such as carrots as well as fruits like cantaloupe, peaches and mangoes.
✓ Vitamin C
Colorful red peppers, broccoli, oranges, strawberries and kiwi are examples of foods rich in vitamin C. Vitamin C is well known for giving your bodies natural immune system a kick start into high gear. This means your bodies natural healing response goes into overdrive!
✓ Vitamin E
Having many of the same health benefits of Vitamin C, Vitamin E helps your body to fight sickness. This is like a quick boost to your immune system! Vitamin E is commonly found in nuts, seeds, broccoli and spinach.
Coupled with Vitamin C, zinc is well known for prevention and shortening the duration of the common cold. Foods high in zinc are avocados, blackberries, pomegranates, raspberries and cantaloupes. While zinc may not offer immunity, if you’ve ever had a nasty cold even shortening the life of the cold is a great perk!
What To Choose?
Assuming you know nothing about superfoods one good rule of thumb is to go straight to the produce aisle and load up your cart. Focus on foods bright in color first. What does that mean? Bright blueberries, beautiful red tomatoes, red peppers, other berries, and greens such as kale and spinach should definitely be included.
Swap out your coffee for some green tea, add avocado to your sandwiches, snack on some nuts and substitute whole grains in for potatoes. If you are looking for a specific list, check out the following list. Adding just some of these are sure to boost your immune system!
10 Best Superfoods for Immune System
Low in calories yet high in nutrients, blueberries are high on the list of superfoods where you get a lot of bang for your buck! According to Healthline.com, they are packed full of vitamins and antioxidants.
Benefits include regulating blood sugar and helping your heart to stay healthy. Comprised of 84% water, they are also an excellent source of hydration.
An excellent source of lean protein, salmon is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Unlike fats we try to avoid, Omega-3 is a healthy fat that all bodies need to run properly. Salmon is also high in vitamin B which benefits red blood cells, helps turn your food into energy.
Also rich in potassium, salmon can help lower blood pressure. Lastly, salmon contains antioxidants.
Chuck-full of fiber, Vitamins C and K, antioxidants, iron and calcium, kale is a superfood for sure! There is evidence that kale can help with blood sugar regulation which is crucial for diabetics, can support heart health, and has exceptional antioxidant qualities. The one caveat is that you can get too much kale in your diet. Yes, you can get too much of a good thing.
4. Green Tea
Following the common theme, green tea is rich in antioxidants. It also may help improve cardiovascular health and prevent type 2 diabetes. Known to suppress your appetite, many people drink green tea when trying to lose weight. It is also reputed to reduce brain fog which can improve focus.
Avocado is rich in Vitamins B5, B6, C, E, K, and potassium. If you have read through this article so far, you recognize those enough by now to realize this is an excellent addition to your diet!
Containing more potassium than a banana, they are also full of monounsaturated healthy fats. There are so many great reasons to eat this superfood.
There are so many beautiful, colorful, delicious berries to choose from. Whether you are talking about raspberries, black raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, berries are full of nutrients. Full of antioxidants, they also tend to be packed full of the “letter vitamins,” in particular vitamin C.
Berries work as anti-inflammatories, can lower cholesterol, and have a high fiber content with low calories.
7. Spinach & Other Leafy Greens
Spinach and other dark, leafy greens are typically rich in vitamins A, C and K, as well as iron and magnesium. Known for blood pressure reduction and improving eye health, studies also link leafy greens to healthy lifestyles that may help protect a body from certain proclivities to cancer.
Generally speaking, nuts are an excellent source of protein and fiber. In addition, they can have healthy fats such as Omega-3 and 6 polyunsaturated fats. Also packed with some vitamins, nuts are definitely a good addition to the diet. Nut consumption is known to raise good cholesterol and lower blood bloodpressure.
However, they are also high in fat and calories, so they should be enjoyed in moderation. Also, not all nuts are created equally. Do some research to get the specific benefits you are looking for!
A member of the cruciferous family, broccoli is a relative to cabbage and cauliflower. Did you know that a serving of broccoli has as much vitamin C as an orange? Also rich in vitamin K, fiber, potassium and folate, broccoli is a heart-healthy, fibre rich superfood that can boost your immune system and overall health.
10. Whole Grains
Eating grains in their most natural form will reap you the most benefits. Grains have three parts to them, the bran, endosperm and germ. As long as you are consuming them with all three components still in the food, you are eating a whole grain. Eaten in this form, whole grains are high in fiber and nutrients, as well as having antioxidant qualities.
Easy Implementation Tips
Deciding to incorporate superfoods into your diet may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Just like with anything, the key is to start small. Making huge dietary changes can leave you feeling frustrated and like your life has been turned upside down. Instead, choose two or three small things you can do to incorporate change.
For example, if you are currently either skipping breakfast or grabbing some type of convenience food, start your day with a smoothie. You can grab some colorful berries, add some spinach, throw in low-fat milk, almond milk, yogurt or the liquid of your choice, and blend up vitamin and mineral-rich breakfast for yourself.
If you drink coffee, consider substituting one cup of coffee each day with a cup of green tea. Maybe you can try adding slices of avocado to your sandwich or almonds to your salad. Have salmon for supper once a week. Swap your white bread for a whole grain version.
You see, making dietary changes don’t have to be huge ones in order to make a big impact. Incorporating just a few of these superfoods into your diet can have a big impact on your immune system and overall feeling of wellness.