Top 12 Foods for Healthy Immune Response

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The
2009 flu season is upon us.

Staying well
while those around you sniffle and sneeze requires that you extract
as much nutrition from your diet as you can, loading up on the foods
that pack the biggest nutritional punch.

Avoiding processed
foods, grains and sugar will go a long way toward strengthening
your immune system. However, you can do even more by selecting foods
that are loaded with specific immune boosting nutrients.

Eating a diet
rich in the following foods will be far better for your health than
loading up on handfuls of supplements, or worse yet, falling victim
to vaccines
that expose you to health risks far worse than influenza.

Below, I have
outlined what I consider to be the absolute best foods you can eat
to help protect yourself this season, although the list is certainly
not exhaustive.

1. Unpasteurized
Grass-Fed Organic Milk

Raw organic
milk from grass-fed cows contains beneficial bacteria that prime
your immune system and can reduce allergies. It is an outstanding
source of vitamins, especially vitamin A, zinc, and enzymes. Raw
organic milk is not associated with any of the health problems of
pasteurized milk such as rheumatoid arthritis, skin rashes, diarrhea
and cramps.

Raw milk also
contains beneficial
fats that will help your immune system
.

Although raw
milk availability is limited in the US depending on where you live,
you can locate the source closest to you at RealMilk.com.

Whey Protein

Even if you
don’t have access to raw milk, you can use a high-quality
whey protein that comes from grass-fed cows
to receive much
of the same health benefits.

The protein
in milk is whey protein. Whey is the liquid that separates from
the curd during the production of cheese. When the liquid dries
into powdered whey, the nutrients become concentrated, and it can
be packaged and used in that form.

Whey protein
can help you fight off colds and flu because it contains beta-glucans
and immunoglobulins, which protect your immune system and support
your body’s natural detoxification processes.

2. Fermented
Foods

If you are
serious about boosting your immunity, then adding traditionally
fermented foods is essential.

One of the
most healthful fermented foods is kefir.
Kefir is an ancient cultured, enzyme-rich food full of friendly
microorganisms that balance your “inner ecosystem” and
strengthen immunity. Besides kefir, other good fermented foods include
natto, kimchee, miso, tempeh, pickles, sauerkraut, yogurt (watch
for sugar), and olives.

Friendly bacteria
have a powerful,
beneficial effect on your gut’s immune system
, your first
line of defense against pathogens, and aid in the production of
antibodies.

3. Raw Organic
Eggs from Free-Range Chickens

Before you
wrinkle up your nose, raw eggs are an inexpensive and amazing
source of high-quality nutrients
that many people are deficient
in, especially high-quality protein and fat. I am a proponent of
raw eggs because they have been so helpful to my own health.

As long as
you have a good source for fresh, organic raw eggs, you need not
worry about salmonella.
To find free-range pasture farms, try your local health food store,
or go to http://www.eatwild.com
or http://www.localharvest.org.

4. Grass-Fed
Beef or Organ Meats

This recommendation
is only valid if you are a protein or mixed nutritional
type
as carb types really should not be eating beef. Grass-fed
beef
comes from cows that eat what they were meant to eat –
grasses, not corn or grains. This results in far greater health
benefits for you and for the environment.[i]

Grass-fed
beef is very high in vitamins A and E, omega-3 fatty acids, beta-carotene,
zinc and CLA. CLA
(conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid) is three to five times
higher
in grass-fed animals than grain-fed animals and is an
immune system enhancer.

Don’t
confuse “organic” with grass-fed, since many organically
raised cows are still fed organic corn, which you don’t want.
However, most grass-fed cows are raised organically. And if you
can find organic AND grass-fed, that’s ideal.

5. Coconuts
and Coconut Oil

Besides being
excellent for your thyroid and your metabolism, coconut
oil
is rich in lauric acid, which converts in your body to monolaurin.
Monolaurin is the actual compound found in breast milk that strengthens
a baby’s immunity.

A great deal
of research has been done establishing the ability of lauric acid
to enhance immunity. This medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA) actually
disrupts the lipid membranes of offending organisms.

When selecting
coconuts and coconut oil, make sure you choose organic ones that
are unrefined, unbleached, made without heat processing or chemicals,
and are non-GMO.

6. Locally
Grown Organic Vegetables Appropriate for Your Nutritional Type

When it comes
to fighting off pathogens, you simply can’t do any better than
eating a variety of fresh, organic and preferably raw vegetables
for the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes they contain.
However, the amount and type of vegetables you should eat daily
will depend
on your nutritional type
.

Make sure
the veggies you choose are fresh. The nutrient value drops to practically
zero once a fruit or vegetable is canned. For example, take a look
at the ORAC value of peaches.

ORAC Values

ORAC stands
for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, and an ORAC unit or ORAC
“score” is a standardized method of measuring the antioxidant
capacity of different foods and supplements. The higher the ORAC
score, the more effective a food is at neutralizing free radicals.
The less free radicals you have, the healthier you will be.

Back to peaches.

A raw, fresh
peach has an ORAC score of 1,814. A can of peaches in heavy syrup
has an ORAC score of 436, meaning that more than 75 percent of the
antioxidants are lost in the canning process.

You can check
the ORAC score for many different things at www.oracvalues.com.
The higher the score, the better. Please be aware, though, that
the total antioxidant capacity of a food alone does not determine
its health benefit, which depends on how it is absorbed and utilized
by your body. ORAC score is a useful guide, but it is only part
of the picture.

7. Blueberries
and Raspberries

Blueberries
and raspberries rate very high in antioxidant capacity (ORAC of
6,520), compared to other fruits and vegetables. Wild blueberries
in particular are potent immune boosters. They contain powerful
phytochemicals, such as anthocyanin, which is the pigment that gives
blueberries their color. And they are lower in sugar than many other
fruits.

8. Mushrooms

Mushrooms
strengthen your immune system because they are rich in protein,
fiber, vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium and other minerals, and even
vitamin
D
– one of the only foods that can provide you with this
essential immune strengthener.

Mushrooms
make up a large part of the fabric of the earth. According to Paul
Stamets
, one of the world’s leading authorities on the
health benefits of mushrooms, one cubic inch of soil can contain
eight miles of mycelium.[ii]

Mushrooms
also contain powerful compounds called beta glucans, which
have been long known for their immune enhancing properties. The
beta glucans in medicinal mushrooms (especially Reishi, Shiitake
and Maitake) are notable for their ability to activate/modulate
your immune system.

Beta glucan[iii]
enhances immunity through a variety of mechanisms, many of which
are similar to those of echinacea or astragalus root. For example,
it binds to macrophages and other scavenger white blood cells, activating
their anti-infection activities.[iv] Numerous
studies support this.

9. Chlorella

As foods go,
chlorella is nearly perfect.

Chlorella
is a single-cell freshwater algae that acts as an efficient detoxification
agent by binding to toxins, such as mercury, and carries them out
of your system. It is the chlorophyll in chlorella that makes it
so powerful. Chlorophyll helps you process more oxygen, cleanses
your blood and promotes the growth and repair of your tissues.

For a full
review of all the benefits of this superfood, go to my
chlorella page
.

10. Propolis

Propolis is
a bee resin and one of the most broad-spectrum antimicrobial compounds
in the world, if not the broadest spectrum, according to master
herbalist Donnie Yance. Propolis is also the richest source of caffeic
acid and apigenin, two very important phenolic compounds that aid
in immune response.

11. Teas

The two best
types of tea for fending off microinvaders are Matcha green tea
and tulsi tea.

Green Tea
and Matcha

Matcha is
the most nutrient-rich green tea and comes in the form of a stone-ground
powder, completely unfermented. The best Matcha comes from Japan
and has up to seventeen times the antioxidants of wild blueberries,
and seven times more than dark chocolate.

Green teas
are rich in polyphenols, in the form of natural chemicals called
catechins. The most powerful catechin in tea is epigallocatechin
(EGCG), which was found in one study to be 25 to 100 times more
potent than antioxidant vitamins C and E. And Matcha
is more than 100 times as potent in EGCG as regular brewed green
tea
.

Tulsi

Tulsi
tea
, coming from the holy basil herb, has been used for thousands
of years in the Ayurvedic medicine of India. Not only is this tea
loaded with antioxidants, but it has multiple positive health benefits,
including supporting your immune health, memory, heart health and
vision.

12. Herbs
and Spices

Herbs and
spices are at the top of the list of high ORAC value foods on planet
Earth.[v] There are simply too many good ones
to summarize here! So I will simply highlight a few that deserve
special mention.

Garlic

Garlic, although
not at the top of the ORAC chart (5,346), is incredibly beneficial
to your immune system because it offers a triple-whammy: it’s
antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal
. You should be eating
garlic every day. One of the best things about garlic is that bacteria,
viruses, and yeast build up no resistance to it, unlike with synthetic
antibiotics.

For optimal
benefits, garlic should be fresh since the active ingredient is
destroyed within one hour of smashing the garlic cloves. In other
words, garlic capsules are basically useless.

Garlic contains
allicin, a chemical that is anticarcinogenic. It also has been shown
to lower LDL, lower total cholesterol, lower blood pressure, reduce
your risk of blood clots and stroke, lower homocysteine, and even
prevent insect bites – including mosquitoes and ticks.

Herbs and
Spice and Everything Nice

Immunity from
common infections involves not only preventing pathogens from taking
hold, but also moderating your immune response to invading pathogens.

Complications
arise when you experience an over-response to the infection,
which is why H1N1 is taking its toll on healthy young adults. Their
bodies are over-responding – something called a “cytokine
storm.” It’s basically a severe inflammatory response.[vi]

One wonderful
thing about plants (and herbs especially) is that they don’t
all stimulate your immune system – some modulate it, or act
as a buffer.

Here are some
of the best herbs and spices for building a strong immune system
that functions correctly:

  • Honeysuckle
    and chrysanthemum: good antivirals
  • Artemisia:
    antimalarial
  • Andrographis,
    aka “King of Bitters”: antiviral, and helps modulate
    inflammatory response[vii]
  • Licorice:
    buffers the inflammatory response by increasing steroid output
    by the adrenal glands; a good buffer if your immune system is
    over responding to the flu.
  • Turmeric:
    ORAC score of 159,277; general immune system booster due to its
    high antioxidant capacity, and an anticancer agent as well; turmeric
    is 5 to 8 times stronger than vitamins C and E, and even strong
    enough to scavenge the hydroxyl radical, which is considered by
    some to be the most reactive of all oxidants
  • Black Pepper:
    Increases the bioavailability of just about all other foods –
    herbs and other things
  • Oregano:
    ORAC 13,970; active agent is rosmarinic acid, a strong antioxidant;
    one tablespoon of oregano has the antioxidant capacity of one
    medium apple
  • Cinnamon:
    ORAC 267,536; powerful antimicrobial agent – found to kill
    E. coli and many other bacteria; also has anti-inflammatory compounds
  • Cloves:
    THE BIG ORAC GRAND PRIZE WINNER AT 314,446, highest of all foods
    tested! Contains eugenol; its mild anesthetic benefits are useful
    for toothaches and sore throats; good anti-inflammatory[viii]

Finally, I
recently had a fascinating interview with herbalist Donnie Yance,
who shared his basic remedy for flu, should you come down with one.

Make this
special tea from a combination of herbs that synergistically cause
your body to sweat – which is very desirable if you want to
eradicate a virus from your system. And then drink it hot and often:

1. Elderflower
(this has been used for hundreds of years for flu)
2. Boneset (eupatorium)
3. Yarrow
4. Linden
5. Peppermint
6. Ginger

By incorporating
some of these fantastic foods, you’ll not only evade the circulating
viruses but improve your overall health and longevity at the same
time.

Notes

[i] Bryan
Walsh, “Getting
Real About the High Price of Cheap Food
,” August 21, 2009
Time Magazine,

[ii] Fungi
Perfecti LLC
, website of Paul Stamets,

[iii] Beta
Glucan Research Organization

[iv] Carmia
Borek, “Beta-Glucan
Boosts Immunity
,” Nutrition Science News, January
2001,

[v] Oracvalues.com:
The Internet Antioxidant Database

[vi] Tara
Smith, “Swine
flu and deaths in healthy adults – cytokine storm?
,”
Aetiology, April 6, 2009

[vii] “Andrographis:
In-Depth Review
,”

[viii] “Cloves,”
The World’s Healthiest Foods

December
9, 2009

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