What keeps us up at night, especially in recent months? Worrying about how to keep ourselves and our loved ones healthy and safe. And with cold and flu season upon us, our concern isn’t going anywhere soon. But the good news is, you can look to the kitchen to be proactive and find simple ways to prepare your body to fight off illness with proper nutrition and a well-balanced diet. Thankfully, these seven grocery store finds can help to support your hard-working immune system, while satisfying a few cravings in the process.
7 Items That Should Be on Your Immune Health Shopping List
1. Chia Seeds
Don’t underestimate these tiny guys; they pack a mighty health punch. Chia seeds are loaded with fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and various antioxidant micronutrients. Just one serving of chia seeds (one ounce) contains nearly 5 grams of protein—an essential nutrient that helps the development of antibodies and immune system cells. Plus, their high antioxidant content supports immunity by protecting cell membranes from free radicals. Our recommendation: stir them into a blend of coconut milk and maple syrup for a three-ingredient pudding that’ll help support your immune system while also aiding digestion.
2. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a fall and winter staple—frequently seen across tables throughout the holiday season. But these hearty, root vegetables are also highly nutritious and a good source of beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A. In fact, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements, a baked sweet potato is equivalent to 156% of your daily value of vitamin A. This micronutrient is key for helping to keep your skin and the linings of your respiratory and digestive tracts healthy. The best part? They’re versatile and easy to prepare—bake or roast in the oven or serve them up mashed.
3. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is known for its cultures, but not the “well-versed in classical music” kind. It has the kind of healthy bacteria, or probiotics, that help maintain your immune system. The probiotics may help control bad bacteria so they don’t build up and wreak havoc on your health, while also keeping your stomach and digestive tract happy and in working order. We like it best piled with fruit, nuts and manuka honey for a healthy and delicious probiotic-packed snack.
4. Ensure Max Protein
Even on our best days, many of us aren’t getting enough of the nutrients we need to support our immune systems. Take protein, for example. This powerful macronutrient is a major multitasker. It helps build muscle, repair tissue, provide energy, satisfy hunger and is a key ingredient for the creation of antibodies and immune system cells. But many of us are missing our protein mark. That’s when a nutrition shake like Ensure® Max Protein can easily help fill the gap. Whether you drink it as a quick addition to breakfast or a pick-me-up snack, you don’t have to skip a beat in your busy schedule. The tasty, ready-to-go shake contains 30 grams of high-quality protein, as well as 25 essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C and E, D, and zinc to help support immune health.
5. Green Tea
Besides being a great coffee alternative and one of our go-to energy sources, green tea contains natural compounds that work to build up the body’s immune response. Exhibit A: one study found that a type of compound found in green tea, called EGCG, has the ability to increase the number of regulatory T cells in the body. These T cells then play an important role in immune function by stimulating a more controlled and balanced immune response. If you feel like getting fancy in the kitchen, grab some matcha (the powdered form of green tea) and whisk your own matcha latte.
We love avocados for their “good” fat, but they also have immune-system benefits. Did you know avocado is one of a few foods that is a good source of both vitamins C and E? These two antioxidants work to help protect immune system cells so they’re ready to resist bacteria and germs as they defend against infection. Unlike some nutrients, our bodies don’t produce vitamin C, so it’s important to consume enough (typically 75-90mg for adults) each day for good health. Just one more reason to continue your weekly hunt for the perfectly ripe avocado at your supermarket!
We’re on high alert for cold and flu symptoms this year—like sore throat. Luckily, people have touted the therapeutic benefits of ginger for centuries and it is known for its powerful antioxidants. Studies have found that the anti-inflammatory compounds in this spicy root vegetable may help ease a sore throat and aid your immune system. It’s great for flavoring your stir fry or roasted veggies, but it’s also delicious in homemade juice form.