5 Vegan Foods for a Healthy Immune System

The key to good health and a strong immune system? Look no further than your kitchen.

The old wives' tale said to feed the cold, but there is research that supports doing just the opposite, too. Whichever route you take, it is important to nourish your body with simple, easily digested foods. (And, for an added boost, kick the sugar while you are sick.) Here are my top-five fantastic foods for immune support. The key word is foods, not herbs or supplements. They can help, too, but the foundation for good health must be rooted in food.

When we are sick with a cold, flu, or fever, the most important thing our body needs is fluids. Andrew Weil, MD, once said that if you want to get sick, just stop drinking water. It's really that important. Water, vegetable broths, and herbal teas are optimum nectar for revitalization. Research shows that room-temperature and warm fluids are more beneficial than cold drinks. Cold liquids can hinder wellness by taxing the immune system as your body works to heat the liquid up for digestion. Eight to 10 glasses of warm fluids each day can help loosen mucus and congestion, and prevent dehydration that's common with fever. Herbal and medicinal teas are perfect warm elixirs. Several commercial varieties offer a slew of health-supporting, cold- and flu-fighting teas.

When this warm broth is doctored up with strands of seaweed, slivers of ginger, and small squares of tofu, miso is true flu-season comfort food. Miso is fermented soybean paste and, since it's fermented, it is high in beneficial enzymes and supports immunity with its natural probiotics. It's also rich in antioxidants. Brew up a soothing cup, but take care not to boil the miso and kill all the lively benefits.

Just like carrots and sweet potatoes, pumpkins advertise their health benefits through their radiant hues. Orange veggies are good sources of carotenoids, including beta carotene. This powerful nutrient supports production of infection-fighting cells in our body. So steam, purée, or mash up something orange for a healthy immune system. Doesn't a warm bowl of whipped pumpkin sprinkled with cinnamon sound like a perfect treat?

Dark, leafy greens
Florets of broccoli and compact Brussels sprouts are winners for wintertime health. These cruciferous veggies are high in minerals like calcium and zinc, which means they are as good for immunity-boosting as they are for your bones. Along with bell peppers and tomatoes, these colorful morsels are high in vitamin C, which bolsters immune function.

Garlic is the mother of antibiotic, antifungal, and antiviral foods. Some diehards, at the first signs of a cold, chew a piece of raw garlic each day. Consumed raw, garlic is pungent and powerful. One tiny clove of garlic is packed tight with an army of garlicky compounds that help our bodies prevent and fight infections. Crushing garlic releases more allicin, one of the powerhouse compounds, so if you're feeling brave, mince some up, spread on toast, and eat your way to good health.

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