5 Foods to Help Support Immune Health

fresh field garlic

by Mandy King, holistic nutritionist (from Spring issue of LivePure Journal)

To be prepared for any health contingency, we all want to maintain our immune systems in the best possible shape. For centuries, many cultures have used specific ingredients for their healing properties, not to mention immune-boosting benefits. 

These five immune-supporting ingredients are foods you may already have in your fridge or pantry. 

Garlic 

Garlic contains the sulphur compound allicin, which is antimicrobial and antiviral, particularly so in the gut. 

Allicin has been found to work effectively against common bacteria like E. Coli, as well as yeast like candida. Unlike antibiotics, which can also kill the good bacteria in your gut, a main line of defence against illness and infection, allicin only kills the bad, more pathogenic bacteria.

During World War I, soldiers used crushed garlic on their wounds as an antimicrobial so the wound wouldn’t get infected. 

One study conducted for a 12-week time frame during the winter months showed that those patients who consumed garlic had fewer colds versus those who took a placebo. Further, if they did get sick, the cold lasted for a shorter amount of time versus those on the placebo.

How to use it 

I like to use garlic raw in salad dressings or cooked with roasted vegetables. Chopping garlic activates the allicin, so it’s best to chop garlic and leave it for a few minutes before cooking to maximize its immune benefits. 

Ginger 

Ginger has been used in India and in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. Ginger is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, so it can help clear up congestion. It’s also warming, which helps increase circulation, and therefore may help your body rid itself of toxins. 

How to use it 

I mince raw ginger in salad dressings, much like garlic, but I also love steeping hot water with slices of ginger and lemon to make a homemade tea. Ginger also tastes great in a stir-fry. 

Chamomile 

Chamomile is an herb that has anti-inflammatory properties and is thought to boost the immune system and help fight the common cold. 

In one study, 14 healthy volunteers each drank 5 cups of chamomile tea for 2 consecutive weeks. Drinking chamomile was associated with a significant increase in urinary levels of hippurate and glycine, which have been associated with increased antibacterial activity. 

How to use it 

Consuming chamomile is as simple as making a chamomile tea, but you can also use chamomile tea as the base of a smoothie instead of water or other beverages. 

Chaga mushroom 

Chaga is a type of fungi that has been used for centuries in Russia and Siberia as a traditional medicine to boost immunity and overall health. 

It’s thought to help fight infections ranging from the cold to serious illnesses.

Chaga stimulates white blood cells in the immune system that are essential for fighting off harmful bacteria and viruses. It can also prevent the production of harmful cytokines, which trigger inflammation and are associated with disease. 

How to use it 

While you can search out chaga  mushroom at a farmers’ market, it’s easiest to buy it in a powdered tea form. Simply mix it in water and enjoy as a coffee or tea replacement.

Oregano 

Oil of oregano contains active ingredients that have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. 

Carvacrol can actually break through a cell membrane to provide protection against bacteria. 

A 2011 in vitro study found that oregano essential oil may help to inhibit viruses in humans and animals, and was especially effective against respiratory viruses like the flu. 

Bonus: it’s also beneficial for digestion! 

How to use it 

While you can use the essential oil, you can also cook with fresh or dried oregano. I love adding oregano to Bolognese sauces, and I mix it with olive oil to drizzle over a Greek salad.  

Mandy King is a holistic nutritionist and the founder of HEAL - Healthy Eating And Living, a company providing corporate wellness programs and nutrition coaching.