Having a strong immune system is valuable throughout the year, and especially during the winter months when colds, cases of flu, and other illnesses tend to be more prevalent. A healthy immune system is even more important as you grow older, as the capability of the immune system declines with age. With these factors in mind, it’s a good idea to start taking inventory of what you’re doing to give your immune system a boost, and that includes monitoring the foods and herbs you choose to eat.
There are many foods that have immune-supporting properties and that you can incorporate into your diet at any time. Here are some of the top edible-focused immune system boosters for seniors
The health benefits of ginger have long been known. This spice is an immune system superfood thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. When your body is fighting off a cold or flu bug, it becomes inflamed; consuming ginger can help your body combat this effect.
Antioxidants are molecules that support the immune system by protecting cells from harmful free radicals, which are other molecules that can lead to a variety of illnesses. In doing this, antioxidants help boost the body’s natural defense systems.
Use ginger in your tea, mix it up in a smoothie or incorporate it as part of a marinade for an Asian-inspired dish.
Vitamin C plays a key role in the strength of the immune system and in the overall wellness of the body. It is a strong antioxidant, and its consumption can increase the level of blood antioxidants you have, helping your body better fight inflammation.
In addition, vitamin C encourages the production of lymphocytes and phagocytes, two types of white blood cells that support the body in avoiding the development of an infection. Vitamin C is found in a variety of foods, including fruits such as oranges, kiwis and strawberries, and veggies like spinach, broccoli, kale and red bell peppers.
Outside of combating sickness, vitamin C has been shown to shorten healing time for skin wounds, and offer memory support. In fact, those with dementia have been linked to having lower levels of vitamin C in their system.
Other vitamins that help seniors’ immune systems include:
Blueberries are one of the most antioxidant-rich foods of all fruits and vegetables. In addition, blueberries are rich in flavonoids (compounds found naturally in various types of food), that play a crucial role in supporting the immune system, particularly when it comes to the development of respiratory illnesses, like the common cold. In fact, research has uncovered that individuals who consumed flavonoid-rich foods were less likely to develop the common cold than those who did not.
Great by themselves, blueberries also make for a tasty (and healthy!) addition to many meals. Use them as a topper for your oatmeal in the morning or as part of a breakfast smoothie. Add them to your salad for a sweet boost or as a unique addition to desserts, like a blueberry buckle or pie.
Tea is known for its many health and wellness benefits, and different types of teas have different benefits for the body. When it comes to boosting the immune system, a few teas, in particular, have been shown to help: black tea, green tea, ginger tea and ginseng tea.
Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, radishes and cabbage, are high in a variety of vitamins that support immune health, like vitamins A and C. The antioxidant properties found in these types of veggies are also beneficial for keeping the immune system strong.
Cruciferous vegetables are great as a side dish to any dinner or would be great mixed together in a stir fry.
Sweet and healthy? You bet! By now you know the power of antioxidants when it comes to immune health, and dark chocolate is rich in these healthy molecules. It’s also been discovered that cocoa has a chemical that can help the body fight off symptoms associated with the common cold.
Not all chocolate is created equal, though. As a good rule, the higher amount of cocoa found in the chocolate, the healthier it is for you to consume. When selecting dark chocolate, first check the cocoa content. Aim for dark chocolate that is at least 70% total cocoa content. In addition, check the ingredients. Some dark chocolate manufacturers include higher levels of sugar to sweeten the taste of dark chocolate. To get the most health benefits out of your sweet treat, you will want to consume dark chocolate that has as little ingredients as possible.
In addition to the foods you consume, there are many other ways to strengthen and maintain the health of your immune system.
At Independence Village, every meal is crafted with our residents in mind. Not only are residents able to choose from multiple, customizable meal options each day, they also have access to our in-house registered dietitian and personal nutritional plans. To learn more about our dining options, contact Independence Village at 1-844-403-6569.