We are living in uncertain times, and while the best way to combat COVID-19 may be unknown, one thing is for sure – maintaining a healthy immune system is more important than ever.
It may seem important only to focus on boosting your immune system when you’re unwell, but the truth is, maintaining a strong immune system can help you ward off illnesses more efficiently, and recover more quickly if and when you do get sick.
You may think of Vitamin C as just something you’re supposed to take a little more of when you have a cold, but this crucial vitamin is necessary for the growth and repair of tissues throughout your body, is a potent anti-oxidant, and has been shown to have potent anti-viral properties, with high doses treating everything from herpes to the flu.
The catch is that Vitamin C is not made by the body, and since it’s water-soluble, it’s not stored in the body either. This means that in order to experience the health benefits of Vitamin C, it’s important to make Vitamin C-containing foods a central part of your diet. Some of the most popular Vitamin C-rich foods are:
- Citrus fruits
- Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and kale
- Sweet potatoes
- Bell peppers
But one of the best sources of Vitamin C may be a fruit you’ve never heard of!
The Vitamin C Powerhouse: Camu Camu
Camu camu is actually a berry (Myrciaria dubia) which grows in flooded areas of the Amazon rainforest. The fruit itself is too fragile to ship, but it is exported in the form of a shelf-stable powder and is becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. and Europe – and with good reason!
Studies have shown that camu camu is an abundant source of crucial minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, and potassium, and its Vitamin C content is off the charts. The recommended daily intake of Vitamin C is 60 milligrams. One teaspoon of camu camu powder was found to contain 682 milligrams of Vitamin C (yeah, you heard that right.) The high mineral and Vitamin C are two factors that are likely responsible for the host of health benefits that camu camu can claim, and why we think you should add it to your daily rotation, along with other Vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables and the other immune-boosting foods we’ll discuss below.
The healing powers of bone broth have been known for centuries, even though it has only recently become popular as a highly-nutritious source of crucial vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. But the nutritional aspect of bone broth is only one part of what makes it such a crucial immune boosting food.
The not-so-secret healing powers of bone broth can be largely attributed to its potent gut-healing properties. Bone broth is incredibly rich in collagen, which is a vital nutrient for building and repairing your intestinal lining. A healthy GI tract can heal issues such as leaky gut that can contribute to immune-annihilating issues such as food sensitivities and intolerances, which are destructive to your overall health in and of themselves, and can also lead to issues like chronic inflammation, which have been known to cause a host of long-term health problems.
Bone broth helps to heal your body from the inside out. Bone broth boosts your immune function by:
- healing your intestinal lining
- keeping toxins and harmful bacteria from permeating the intestinal wall
- sealing nutrients in the gut
- repopulating the gut microbiome with beneficial bacteria
- aiding in detoxification
The many benefits of bone broth work together to create an ultimate healing environment. The fact that bone broth is easily digestible and chock-full of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids make it an integral healing food that should definitely be regularly consumed for optimal health.
The best part is, it’s SO easy to make! You can find instructions on making your own bone broth here, but if you don’t have the time or inclination to make your bone broth at home, you can order wholesome, nutrient-rich bone broth from The Osso Good Co. or Flavor Chef. These companies offer the next best thing to homemade, sourcing only the highest-quality ingredients for their small-batch made bone broth, and simmering their bone broth for 12-24 hours for maximum health benefit, not to mention savory and nourishing taste.
It’s common knowledge in the culinary world that garlic makes almost everything it touches more delicious, but the medicinal properties of garlic are almost as potent as its taste. In a study conducted by the University of Florida, it was found that garlic extract lessened both the severity and duration of cold and flu symptoms, likely by boosting the immune cell function of study participants.
Not only is garlic both antibacterial and antiviral, but it can help reduce the amount of stress hormones created by your adrenal glands. This may seem unrelated to immune function, but studies have shown that the body’s ability to fight off infection is lowered in times of stress. By reducing the production of stress hormones in the body, you have more energy and less stress, which helps keep your body in fighting form, immunity-wise.
Mushrooms are such a boon to the immune system that they have been revered in certain cultures for centuries due to their medicinal properties. There are a multitude of supplements on the market now, touting the benefits of medicinal mushrooms for everything from cognitive function to fighting cancer.
While medicinal mushrooms are an amazing way to target specific health problems, for general immune boosting, we believe that whole-food nutrition is the best way to take advantage of the healing properties of food. Some common culinary mushrooms that offer awesome immune-boosting properties are maitake, shitake, portobello, and reishi. They can often be used interchangeably in recipes, and offer benefits such as:
- lowering inflammation
- improved gut microbiome
- high antioxidant content (which helps prevent and fight certain cancers)
- improved cognitive function
Last but not least, let us not forget the lowly herb. And when we say lowly, we are being completely sarcastic. Herbs have been used medicinally since their discovery, and long before they were enjoyed for their culinary properties, herbs were used for healing. Always make sure to check with your healthcare provider before treating yourself medicinally with herbs, but using them in cooking still imparts their immune-boosting properties. Some of our favorites are:
- Thyme: good source of vitamin C and vitamin A, and contains antiseptic, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. Traditionally, thyme was used to heal lung issues – it’s a potent expectorant and soothing for coughs. Use often in cooking for general immune boosting, and it can also be steeped in boiling water for 10 minutes for a medicinal tea.
- Oregano: Oregano oil is a powerful source of healing – it’s a proven antifungal, antimicrobial, and antiviral agent and is one of the strongest and most effective medicinal herbs. When used in cooking, it’s a great source of antioxidants, decreases inflammation in the body, and boosts immunity.
- Rosemary: We’re starting to sound like a broken record here, but rosemary also is a powerful antioxidant with antimicrobial and antiviral properties (see why adding herbs to your diet is such a boost to your immune system!?!) Additionally, rosemary has been found to reduce inflammation and can even help lessen allergies.
Cooking frequently with the foods and herbs we’ve discussed above is both an easy and inexpensive way to add the immune-boosting properties of healing foods to your diet.