Our immune system and mental health are two aspects of our lives that we need to look after, and this certainly became even more evident during the pandemic. Most of us can tend to feel low and despondent when our health isn’t in tip-top shape. And even worse, certain infections have been known to trigger mental health issues including severe depression. So, what are some of the ways that we can proactively help prevent this?
There’s plenty of research that backs up, that by looking after our immune system and which includes regular exercise and eating the right foods, we can maintain a healthy body and mind.
It’s common knowledge that eating a varied and balanced diet can support the optimal functioning of our immune system. Getting all the essential nutrients into our bodies including proteins, carbohydrates, fats are important as well as the right balance of vitamins, minerals, and fibre. All these factors contribute to ensuring that the immune cells in our body have enough nutrients to do their job properly.
So, as well as having a balanced diet, there are reported to be certain foods that supersede others when it comes to helping support our immunity and mental health. Some of the top 5 include:
Ginger is often referred to as a key superfood. It has numerous benefits and can reduce inflammation, and if used at the first signs of a cold and flu, it can help ease symptoms. It also helps reduce nausea, bloating and other GI issues. This rather spicy, aromatic root contains compounds called gingerols, which have been said to prevent cardiovascular disease, by reducing oxidative stress in blood vessels, as well as inflammation in the heart area.
You can incorporate it into your diet in several ways. You can drink it in the form of herbal tea or add it to a smoothie. As ginger is quite flavoursome, it’s great for adding to pretty much most savoury dishes, too!
Garlic is another plant that has been revered for its medicinal and healing properties for centuries. It’s great for stimulating our immunity and is claimed to benefit well over 100 different conditions ranging from anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antifungal, to antioxidant. Garlic is great for the gut, which we know has a direct impact on our mental health, and acts as a great probiotic.
Again, it is another one of those foods that you can easily incorporate into most diets and recipes, including savoury dishes for a real injection of flavour. It’s such a diverse food, there’s no excuse not to incorporate it into your diet. And if you’re not a fan of the taste, you can get it in supplement form.
This is one vegetable, or member of the fungi family, that has become increasingly popular for its health properties.
Often overlooked, mushrooms have however been a staple in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. And now, even modern science has backed up the positive effects it can have on our immune activity.
Containing protein, vitamins, and antioxidants, some of the more beneficial types of mushrooms include shiitake and maitake. These species of mushrooms are said to stimulate our cellular immune response when fighting bacterial infections, lowering inflammation, and improving cell functionality. Clinical studies also evidence that mushrooms have benefits that range from improved cognition to weight management and lowering the risk of cancer.
Another versatile food you can chop up and add to most savoury dishes including salads, eggs, curries – pretty much most things.
Another clear front runner in eastern medicine is this wonderfully brightly coloured root which we have seen cropping up more and more over the years. This superfood contains a special compound called curcumin, which has a whole host of key benefits. It’s considered to have antiseptic, analgesic and immune-boosting properties and is great for fighting off colds, flu, and inflammation. It is also said to be a good buffer for cortisol levels and again helps with gut health, as it encourages the growth of certain strains of bacteria in the gut, helping lower disease-causing bacterial strains.
Turmeric again is easy to incorporate into food, and most of us have seen the rise in juices, lattes and other drinks being infused with this super spice. You can use it when cooking most dishes and toss it into your salads.
This is a more recent veg that has been receiving great press of late. There are increasing bodies of research proving that an amazing compound called Sulforaphane Glucosinolate, which is known as a disease-fighting agent, is found in broccoli. It is said to lower inflammation, boost immunity and even helps take the stress off your other organs, helping you to fight off viruses.
Just on its own, sulforaphane has been shown to increase the levels of several antioxidant compounds and helps increase the production of other antioxidants.
Go for broccoli sprouts if you can, as they contain between 10 and 100 times more sulforaphane than mature broccoli. You can incorporate broccoli sprouts into your diet in many ways and the best way to eat them is raw. It’s a great tasty addition to salads and acts as a great side dish too.
There is a huge body of evidence that shows that maintaining a healthy diet and eating vitamin-rich and superfoods like these can have a significant impact on our health and wellbeing. Incorporating some of these foods into your daily diet will provide that much-needed boost to your immunity. And when your body is in balance and healthy, your mental health will be too.