Foods to Boost Your Immune System

Winter weather is slowly creeping up on us! With the colder weather comes the threat of catching a cold, the flu or something even worse for those with weakened immune systems. For seniors with weaker immune systems, a common cold or episode of influenza can turn into something more dangerous like pneumonia or bronchitis.

A strong immune system will help your body fight infection and bacteria. Packing your diet with super foods to give your immune system strength increases your ability to ward off illnesses. Research has shown that it is more challenging for our bodies to stay healthy when the temperatures are very low. This is especially dangerous for elderly persons who already have a more difficult time retaining body heat due to natural aging processes.

The good news is that there is a wealth of delicious foods that will help your immune system beef up its natural defences against illness.

The dietary and culinary staff at The Villas Senior Care Community is committed to providing healthy, satisfying meals that are nutritious. Below is a short list of some of the immune system boosting foods you should include in your winter diet.

Sweet Potatoes, Kale & Carrots

Colorful and delicious, these veggies are packed full of Vitamin A, which our skin needs to stay healthy. Our skin is our largest organ and the first line of defense against bacteria and germs that can invade our bodies. Enjoy sweet potatoes, carrots and spinach or kale to help keep your skin healthy.

Fruits with Vitamin C

Older people tend to have lower levels of Vitamin C which can severely affect their immune system and leave them open to illness. Our immune systems need Vitamin C in order to produce antibodies that fight infections, however it is not naturally produced by the body and has to be ingested through various food sources. Grapefruit, pears, kiwi and oranges are all delicious sources of immune-boosting Vitamin C.

Another flavorful way to get a little Vitamin C boost is to add lemon to your water or hot tea. Almost any citrus fruit can be added to your water for a colourful and tasty addition.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower is especially powerful in maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal barrier. That means it keeps bacteria safely contained in your gut, where it belongs. And, it contains a powerful antioxidant that actively fights off infection. Broccoli and Brussel sprouts are also part of the cruciferous vegetable family and good for bulking up your immune system.

Oats & Barley

These grains contain a specific type of fiber that has antioxidant and antimicrobial capabilities that boost immunity, can help antibiotics work better and can speed up the process of a healing wound. You can add flaxseeds or ground chia seeds to oatmeal to inject more fiber and a little protein. Ground flaxseeds are rich in lignans, which contain powerful antioxidant properties that help your body fight infection.

Yogurt & Probiotics

Probiotics are most often consumed in yogurt or via supplements to help balance our digestive system with healthy bacteria. As we age, the natural levels of healthy bacteria declines, so being mindful of adding this into your diet can make a huge difference to the immune system. There are different strains of probiotics, some of which appear to specifically stimulate white blood cells. Researchers have found that a significant portion of our immune system's ability to function well is directly related to the health of the bacteria in our digestive tracts.

Probiotics are found in more than just yogurt and cheese; you can also find them in pickles, buttermilk and sauerkraut. Be sure to choose options that are labelled as containing "active live cultures".

Beef

Red meat has developed a bad reputation over the past few decades, but finding lean red meats at the grocery store is easy these days. Beef is high in zinc which our immune systems need to heal wounds and fight infection. However, many people do not eat enough beef, choosing lower fat protein options that leave them with a zinc deficiency. Even a mild deficiency can increase the risk of infection and lower the development of white blood cells which are needed to clear out bacteria and viruses.

Cinnamon

Thank goodness cinnamon is an ingredient in so many holiday baking items! Cinnamon is a stealthy superfood that does more than just give the immune system a leg up. It actually fights pathogens that can cause illness.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms, specifically shiitake mushrooms, are immune system superfoods that increase the production of white blood cells and make them more aggressive in fighting an infection. Add them to a stew or soup, or add them to your scrambled eggs! (Egg yolks are also good for your immune system, AND packed with protein!)

Other foods available during winter that will help keep your immune system in good health include garlic, almonds, chicken soup, almonds, rosemary and eggs. Talk to the culinary team or dieticians at The Villas Senior Care Community to learn more about what healthy immune-boosting superfoods are available on our menus.

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Monday, June 17, 2019

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