It's no secret that I like to eat a healthy diet (MOST of the time... I eat healthy 80 percent and treat myself the other 20 percent!), and do this not only because I enjoy the taste of many superfoods, but also because I want to keep my immune system and digestive systems running smoothly! I wasn't always so diligent about considering what I ate, but as I hit my 50s and 60s, I really noticed a shift in how I felt when I was eating superfoods versus less healthy options: I felt like I had more energy, better focus, and was fuller even when I was eating less.After beginning to look more closely at what I was eating and how it made me feel, I discovered that the following foods have had a beneficial impact on my health, and in particular my immune system. With cold and flu season coming up, let's all do our part to eat healthy and stay healthy! Add these six superfoods to your diet to help give you that extra boost come the cold-weather months!
- Garlic. More than an herb that makes your foods taste delicious, garlic is a wonderful way to boost your immune system. Part of the onion family, garlic is often called a superfood because of its antibiotic and antiviral properties. It's been linked to lowered blood pressure and cholesterol, and is considered a prebiotic - meaning it sets your gut up to maintain a healthy balance of gut flora. And now that we know gut health is so closely linked to immune health, why not add some garlic to your meals this fall and winter? Chop it up and add to stir fries, soups, and - if you are feeling under the weather - consider eating a chopped raw clove with a little honey.
- Yogurt. Just like our gut needs prebiotics, they also need probiotics to stay healthy. The microbiome of the gut is where much of our immune system is housed... and probiotics help to keep it healthy and thriving, which in turn supports a healthy immune system. Yogurt is a great way to get more probiotics into your diet - I like to add a dollop to my Healthy Aging Oatmeal recipe from my DeniseAustin.com meal plan in the morning. Other good sources of probiotics include sauerkraut and kimchi, as well as my tasty EVER BETTER™ Protein Cookie Bites, which have 1 billion CFUs of probiotics in every serving!
- Salmon. A perfect cold-weather food in part because it offers up omega-3 fatty acids that will help keep skin supple in the drier months, salmon is my go-to savory superfood! The unsaturated fatty acid that salmon provides may protect against age-related memory loss, and offer up joint protection and heart healthy benefits. But did you know salmon also provides vitamin D? Getting enough vitamin D may help lower the incidence of upper respiratory infections, common in the colder months. Try my tasty Glazed Salmon recipe!
- Green Tea. I looove green tea - it can be both cozy in colder months, and refreshing in warmer months. Plus, the health benefits are outstanding (check out my post on 6 Benefits of Green Tea!), especially when it comes to keeping your immune system healthy. According to research, the catechins in green tea may inhibit the growth of bacteria and some viruses, which can lower the risk of infections. So sip up and promote health!
- Beans and Legumes. As we hit our 50s, staying regular can become a challenge. Foods such as beans and legumes can not only help you to stay regular, they are also a good source of zinc, which has been linked to regions where people live longer. Zinc is also a mineral that helps to boost production of white blood cells, protecting the body against microbial invaders... so add some beans and legumes to your meals this winter. They are excellent replacements for meat in stews, soups and casseroles!
- Blueberries. Let's end this list on a sweet note with one of my favorite smoothie ingredients, blueberries! These little gems are packed full of good-for-you nutrients, in particular a flavonoid called anthocyanin, which has multiple immune-boosting properties. Studies have shown it to improve the amount of immune natural killer cells in the bloodstream. Plus blueberries are loaded with antioxidants - a win-win for anyone who wants to age gracefully!