It’s that time of year when the weather is changing, and so many people are being hit by coughs, colds, and flu. Plus, with a pandemic sweeping the globe, there’s no time like the present to shore up your immune system.
If you’re not feeling 100 percent, it can be tempting to reach for the classic comfort foods, such as chicken noodle soup or a nice big bowl of mac and cheese. However, these foods are often filled with unhealthy, processed ingredients and too much sodium, so they aren’t actually the best way to support your body’s recovery. Often, typical comfort foods can cause inflammation and block our natural defense systems, making us more likely to get sick and causing us to take longer to get over an illness.
Whether you’re trying to dodge a seasonal flu or avoiding that nasty bug that’s going around, having a strong immune system is your best bet. No matter how many times you wash your hands or disinfect grocery cart handles, at some point, your body will become exposed to a bug.
Hopefully, when this happens, your immune system kicks in to prevent any illness from taking hold. Unfortunately, if your immune system isn’t top-notch, this doesn’t always work, and you get sick.
If you want to prevent illness, the trick is to reach for natural alternatives which can help reboot your immune system and kick nasty ills and chills to the curb. Packing your daily menu with nutrient-rich whole foods and immune-boosting ingredients can be a game-changer, especially during the colder months of the year.
Here are some of our favorite ingredients that you can throw into your morning smoothie to help rev up your immune system!
Top Immune-Boosting Smoothie Ingredients
Look for an organic greens powder where the ingredients have been freeze-dried to keep the nutrients intact. This is an excellent smoothie additive to boost your immune system and fight the oxidation of cells.
A high-quality greens powder can:
- Build immunity against bacteria, viruses, and toxins
- Provide powerful anti-inflammatory effects
- Boost cardiovascular and digestive health
- Support the health of mucous membrane growth which stops pathogens from entering the body
- Detoxify the liver to help excrete any nasties
Look for a greens powder with ingredients such as kale, wheatgrass, spirulina, and kelp. Organic is best if you can find it, and watch out for extra sugar or sweeteners.
Kefir is a type of yogurt made with milk (dairy or non-dairy) and culture. It can be made from any source of milk, such as goat, sheep, cow, rice, cashew, or coconut. It can even be made using coconut water.
The kefir culture “grains” contain a beneficial symbiotic mixture of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts, which is loaded with vitamins and minerals, and can help increase bone density, boost immunity, and improve digestion. Although kefir is a dairy food, the fermentation makes it safe for many lactose-intolerant people.
Kefir can assist with:
- Providing many nutrients, including calcium and vitamin B12
- Supporting the body with a wide variety of bioactive compounds, including organic acids and peptides that contribute to its health benefits
- Boosting the immune system with up to 61 different strains of probiotics
Collagen is a protein found abundantly in the body, present in connective tissues, such as the skin, tendons, ligaments, gut, blood vessels, bones, intervertebral discs, and muscle tissue. It’s one of the most common proteins; however, as we age, the natural production of collagen decreases, making it very important to include it as a supplement in our daily routine.
Adding collagen to your smoothies can help:
- Keep skin looking great and prevent aging
- Support the gut by reducing inflammation and repairing the digestive tract
- Improve the function of the immune system, of which 70 percent is located in the gut
Due to its strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, ginger may boost immune health. Upping your intake of antioxidant-rich foods like ginger can combat inflammation and keep your immune system healthy.
Ginger is packed with natural actives called gingerols, paradols, sesquiterpenes, shogaols, and zingerone, all of which have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
The powerful compounds in ginger are:
- Anti-inflammatory, working to heal the body and reduce pain
- Great for digestion, helping with nausea and motion sickness
- Rich in antioxidants, fighting harmful compounds in the body
- Very good for boosting the immune system
Dark Colored Berries
Berries are rich in vitamin C and bioflavonoids, phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables that may work as antioxidants and prevent injury to cells.
One cup of strawberries contains as much as 100 mg of Vitamin C, and dark berries such as blueberries are especially high in bioflavonoids. For an optimal immune system boosting effect, eat a bowl of mixed berries, or vary which berries you choose from day to day, rather than eating just one type.
Some of the best berries for boosting the immune system include:
- Black currants
Lemons are high in vitamin C, which provides strong support for the immune system. Vitamin C improves the function of what are called natural killer cells, which help to eliminate infection and aid in antimicrobial activity. It also supports the body’s own helper cells, such as lymphocytes, while supporting the body’s cells to maintain their integrity and resist oxidative damage.
Eating or juicing lemons – which also contain a good amount of immune-boosting zinc – helps to boost your immune system and keep you healthy, especially when you are battling a cold or other infection.
Vitamin C and zinc found in lemons has been shown to:
- Improve the severity of symptoms
- Shorten the time of illness with common illnesses
- Help with respiratory infections, viruses, and the common cold
Parsley is packed with essential oils and antioxidants, to the point that it’s often called a superfood. It benefits the body in many ways and is considered a naturally effective treatment for a wide range of symptoms and diseases. This herb has long been considered an all-natural free radical scavenger, heart protector, brain protector, antidiabetic, antibacterial, and digestive aid.
Some of the benefits of parsley include:
- High in antioxidants such as luteolin, apigenin, lycopene, beta-carotene, and alpha-carotene which fight oxidative stress, inflammation, and aging
- Contains essential oils which are chemoprotective (protect from cancer)
- Improves digestion and relieves bloating
- Has antibacterial and antifungal properties
The phytonutrients in raw honey have antibacterial and antiviral properties that can help to boost your immune system and fight sickness. It can also help with everything from low energy to sleep problems and seasonal allergies.
Here’s how to choose the right honey for the best health benefits:
- Choose local honey when possible (try the farmer’s market)
- Organic honey is best if it’s in the budget
- Make sure your honey is raw and unpasteurized
Acai berries come from South America and look a bit like grapes or blueberries. The dark fruit is reported to support the human immune system through the immune-enhancing effects of natural compounds called polyphenols.
Some of the benefits of acai include:
- Lower blood cholesterol levels
- Stop cancer cells from forming and spreading
- Boost brain function
- Support immunity to fight every day ills and chills
Turmeric contains medicinal substances called curcuminoids, the most important of which is curcumin. Curcumin is the ultimate health-promoting compound.
If you can get your hands on fresh turmeric root, it adds a delicious earthy flavor. Otherwise, use dried, preferably organic turmeric powder.
The compounds in turmeric have been shown to have the following properties:
Medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs, are a healthy fat which has become popular in the health food and nutrition space lately. This type of fat can reduce inflammation by killing off bad bacteria, such as candida or yeast, that can overgrow in our intestines. MCT oil is also known for increasing energy and mental clarity while helping with appetite control and weight loss.
Some of the key facts about MCT oil include:
- MCT oil most often comes from coconuts
- It’s a clear, tasteless oil
- Popular for intermittent fasting and the ketogenic diet
- Easy to add to smoothies for a nutritional boost
Immune Boosting Smoothie Recipe Inspiration
If you’ve made many smoothies before, you’ll know that you can’t just throw “anything” into the blender. Working with a recipe is the best way to prevent ending up with a foul-tasting sludge that is undrinkable and wastes valuable ingredients.
That said, here are some great ideas for immune-boosting smoothies using many of the ingredients mentioned above.
Orange Immunity Smoothie
This bright orange probiotic smoothie is perfect for breakfast on the go. This recipe is rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber and calcium, and has no sugars added.
Prep time: 5 minutes
- 1 large carrot, peeled
- 2 tangerines or 1 large orange (regular or blood orange)
- 6 oz fresh orange juice
- 1 tsp chia seeds (more if you are making smoothie bowls)
- 6–8 oz plain kefir or for a non-dairy option use coconut milk yogurt
- 3 to 4 dates, pitted
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 Tbsp grated ginger
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, optional
- 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil or MCT oil, optional
- Peel the carrot and oranges.
- Place carrots, orange, and juice in a blender. Blend until a thick juice is formed.
- Next, add the chia seeds, yogurt, spices, ginger, and coconut oil, and blend again. Your smoothie is ready to enjoy.
- To make smoothie bowls, add an additional 1 tsp chia seeds and let the blended smoothie mix sit overnight (or at least for a few hours) in the fridge. The chia seed will help it thicken. Pour into bowls and garnish with orange slices, cinnamon, gluten-free oats, and optional honey.
Mean Green Wellness Smoothie
This wellness smoothie is packed with nourishing ingredients. It sounds like a crazy combination, but it is absolutely delicious and delivers a wonderful boost for digestion and immunity.
Prep time: 10 minutes
- 1 banana
- 1 cup frozen pineapple
- 2-3 cups organic spinach
- 1 knob fresh ginger, peeled (about 2 inches of ginger)
- 1 knob turmeric root (about 2 inches fresh turmeric)
- 1/2 Tbsp manuka or raw honey
- 1/8 tsp black pepper (a couple of grinds)
- 1/2-3/4 cup almond milk or coconut milk
- In a large high-powered blender, add in all ingredients and blend on high for 1-2 minutes or until all ingredients are well combined.
- If necessary, add in more almond milk to thin the smoothie.
Acai Antioxidant Smoothie
This creamy smoothie is loaded with antioxidants and amino acids. The powerful ingredients are intended to help combat aging and support healthy skin and hair, while providing a natural “detox.”
- 1 packet of frozen acai berry puree (or 1 serving of powder)
- 1 1/2 cups coconut water
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1/2 avocado
- 1 tsp coconut oil or MCT oil
- Run the frozen packet of acai berries under hot water for five seconds to loosen it up, then drop into your blender.
- Add coconut water, almond milk, avocado, and coconut oil.
- Blend together and enjoy!
Why not add an immunity-boosting smoothie to your day today, or even every day this week, and see if you notice the benefits!
Disclaimer: “None of this has been proven to prevent, treat or remedy COVID-19, these are just things to consider”
-The Alternative Daily