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Best Foods to Boost Immune System for Seniors

The foods we regularly consume directly impact how our body functions. If our diet lacks balanced nutrition, we are more prone to chronic disease, illness, fatigue, a weakened immune system, and infection. On the contrary, when we are intentional about what we put into our body, deliberately choosing nutrient-dense foods, we experience countless health benefits. 

A robust immune system is just one of the many perks of eating foods rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients. Knowing what foods help boost your immune system is just half the battle; eating them is the other! Here is a list of some of the top foods to support your immune system. Small, consistent changes will help to protect you all year long, particularly throughout the cold and flu season.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C, an antioxidant that plays a vital role in protecting your cells from the effects of free radicals, is best known for strengthening the immune system when consumed as a regular part of your daily diet. Though it is not a food itself, it is found in various fruits and vegetables readily available to us.  

Citrus fruits, such as lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, and kumquats, are among the most common sources of vitamin C.  They can be eaten alone or zested and juiced in various dishes.  A fresh squeeze of citrus juice can turn an ordinary glass of water into an extraordinary, flavorful, immune-boosting beverage. Lemon, lime, and orange juice can be added to salad dressings, marinades, sauces, and more to elevate the flavor and nutritional value. 

Leafy greens, such as kale and spinach, also boast high amounts of vitamin C, serving as a wonderful base for a salad. Additionally, they can be cooked down as a side dish, incorporated into stews or egg bakes, and even blended into smoothies.  

Broccoli and red bell pepper are two more vegetables that pack a punch. Roasted or steamed broccoli is a great accompaniment to just about any meal. Red bell peppers are a great addition to stirfry, soups, and quiches, among other dishes. Roasted and pureed bell peppers can offer a unique flavor when added to hummus, pasta sauces, or even homemade pizzas. Raw red bell pepper makes for a tasty snack or salad topping.

Berries

Berries, particularly blueberries, are often considered a “superfood.”  They are low in calories and extremely nutrient dense. They are full of antioxidants and contain several minerals and vitamins, such as vitamin C and vitamin K. A handful of berries make for a delicious, easy snack. You can add them on top of a salad, in a smoothie, or on yogurt parfait. Berries are also delicious when cooked in sauces, served over meat, baked into cobblers or tarts, and served for dessert.  

Garlic

For centuries garlic has been used to help remedy colds and fight illnesses. It’s well-known for its antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties, making it a powerful immune booster. It’s commonly used to add flavor to countless culinary dishes. Raw garlic can be added to broths, teas, soups, and dressings for taste and health benefits. It can be roasted, sauteed, broiled, grilled… you name it!  Garlic is probably one of the most commonly used ingredients in the kitchen.  

Ginger

When it comes to wellness, ginger is best known for its anti-nausea benefits. Many people reach for a ginger-ale to settle an upset stomach or suck on a ginger candy to help ease morning sickness. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that make it an essential immune booster. It’s traditionally used in many Asian dishes to brighten sauces, glazes, and marinades; however, it can also add a nice twist to more Americanized meals. For a sweet treat, try ginger cookies and gingerbread squares. Add it to your tea, or grate some fresh ginger into your smoothie for an unexpected burst of flavor!

Yogurt

Not all yogurts are created equally; be sure to look for those that are labeled as containing “live active cultures.”  These include probiotics which play a critical role in promoting good gut health.  Autoimmune problems, digestive issues, fatigue, sleep issues, allergies, and more all stem from poor gut health. Plain Greek yogurt is lower in sugar and higher in protein than regular, flavored yogurt, and a great heart healthy breakfast. Add fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey for a healthy snack. Plain yogurt can also be a healthy substitute for mayo or sour cream in many dishes. The next time you make a chicken salad, try using it in place of mayo for a more nutrient-rich option!