Cooking for yourself is an opportunity to give your body exactly what it needs. Your food can be an expression of your particular tastes, an extension of your health and wellness goals, and a radical act of self-care.
Additionally, cooking for yourself can be a great way to support a healthy immune system. Your immune system might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you head into the kitchen, but the choices you make can profoundly impact your body’s ability to fend off sickness.
Essentially, there are two ways that you can support your immune system with your cooking. First, you can make all-around healthy choices that promote general bodily wellness, which in turn helps you fight illness. And second, you can select foods that target mechanisms and processes specific to your immune system.
In this article, let’s briefly review some key advice in cooking for your immune system.
Time and again, research demonstrates the merits of a plant-heavy diet. In general, cooking with abundant vegetables and fruits helps your body absorb all those micronutrients it needs to function properly. And a properly functioning body is a body that’s ready to fight.
But you can also target your immune response with the vegetables and fruits you eat. For instance, blueberries are rich in flavonoids, which research shows may help ward off the common cold. Garlic and turmeric, two ingredients central to most curries, have also demonstrated immune-boosting potential in several studies.
Finally, mushrooms (while not strictly a plant, per se) can be powerhouses for your immune system. Functional mushrooms like Chaga might be particularly effective, as studies show that this superfood fungus may broadly improve your immune response. You can read about the science of Chaga mushrooms, as well as dosage and usage ideas, on the Rritual Superfoods journal.
Fats are essential macronutrients and can play a pivotal role in your immune-boosting efforts.
According to a study in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Omega-3 Fatty Acids “have important immune-regulatory functions” that help protect you against foreign pathogens. You can find Omega-3s in several sources, but fatty fish (like salmon and mackerel) are probably the best source.
Other healthy fat sources that may help support your immune system are avocadoes, nuts and olive oil.
Pro- and Prebiotics
Probiotics and prebiotics aid your microbiome, the ecosystem of gut flora that protects against “bad bacteria.” The microbiome is an exciting topic in scientific research presently, as experts are learning that its scope of influence is much larger than previously thought; it can impact everything from our mental health to our immune response.
Common probiotics include yogurt, kefir, kimchi and naturally fermented sauerkraut. Prebiotics (essentially food for the probiotics) include healthy carbohydrates like fruit and whole grains, and also functional mushrooms like Chaga (mentioned above), reishi mushrooms and lion’s mane mushrooms.
Next time you’re in the kitchen, whip up a garlic- and turmeric-rich salmon curry with a dollop of yogurt on top. Or make a smoothie with blueberries, Chaga mushroom powder, kefir and almonds. By choosing smart superfoods, healthy fats and potent probiotics, you can help support your immune system and stave off the sniffles.