The key to eating a healthy and balanced diet is to consume different types of foods, nutrient sources, or nutritional supplements. This can cure, as well as prevent many diseases, especially those caused due to nutritional deficiencies. Also, it has the added advantage of boosting the immune system as it helps to reduce the chances of falling sick. For those following a plant-based diet, this means eating whole foods that contain all the essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Read on to know more about plant-based foods that help to boost the immune system.
Dark Leafy Greens
It is common to hear mothers coaxing their children to eat greens and there are good reasons for it. Nutrients found in leafy vegetables like iron, vitamin C, and folate have a positive effect on the immune system function. Iron is essential for red blood cell production, and its deficiency causes anemia that can reduce immunity. Vitamin C increases the absorption of non-heme iron which is found in almost all plant-based food, and folate is required for cellular level DNA synthesis. In a nutshell, dark leafy greens are an all-in-one source of nutrients that ensures a healthy immune system.
You can add arugula, kale, cabbage, spinach, beet greens, red leaf lettuce, and collard greens in your salads. This can be topped with a nut-based dressing that has high amounts of antioxidants that improve immune system function. Otherwise, you can add them to green smoothies and grain bowls to add bulk.
Vitamin C is the most important nutrient associated with immune system health, and broccoli is a rich source of it. Apart from this, it contains other phytochemicals that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that help to prevent the development of certain diseases. The other plant-based foods with similar nutritional values are cauliflower, citrus fruits, cantaloupe, and strawberries. You can consume broccoli by adding it to stews, stir-fried vegetables, broccoli rice, salads, etc.
Orange Sweet Potatoes
Orange sweet potatoes are a rich source of vitamin A; its orange color is due to beta-carotene which is also found in carrots. Beta-carotene acts as a precursor to vitamin A which is required for maintaining mucosal barriers that prevent the entry of harmful pathogens into our bodies. Besides, beta carotenes are one of the many carotenoids that promote healthy immune system function.
You can consume orange sweet potatoes in different ways because it is a highly versatile plant-based food like regular potatoes. It can be used as a filling, roast it, or used as a toast with almond butter for breakfast. The other vegetables that are a good source of beta-carotene are apricots, yellow and red bell peppers, winter and summer squash, and cantaloupe.
Lentils are an excellent source of plant-based proteins, as well as other essential nutrients like iron, vitamin B6, zinc, selenium, and folate. Besides, it has high fiber content that is essential for good gut health, which is linked to good immunity. A cup of cooked lentils provides 40 to 60% of daily dietary fiber.
Lentils are popular plant-based food because of their high nutritional value, affordability, and they are also easy to cook. They have a mild and neutral flavor; because of this, it can be added to a wide variety of dishes like soup, stew, or as a base in other dishes. Also, keep in mind that lentils are good for those who are working out. The other plant-based foods that have similar nutritional value are kidney beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, and pinto beans.
Hemp seeds are a nutrient-rich plant-based food that helps with healthy immune system function. It has high protein content which is one of the essential building blocks of our body. Besides, it is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory properties and helps to maintain good cardiovascular health. The combination of these two nutrients helps to boost immunity.
Hulled hemp seeds, also known as hemp hearts, have a mild, neutral flavor. So, it can be added into a wide variety of healthy plant-based dishes. It can be added as an ingredient in making granola, in salad dressing, smoothies, while baking cookies, muffins, or waffles. Chia seeds, flax, and walnuts are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Garlic is used in many traditional medical practices across the globe for thousands of years, because of its pharmacological potential. Research shows that this is due to its high amounts of antioxidants and Sulphur-containing compounds. Also, there is the practice of eating garlic on an empty stomach in some oriental cultures to improve immune system function.
Garlic can be added as a healthy flavoring agent to a wide variety of dishes like soups, stews, stir-fries, sauces, salad dressing, casseroles, and many more. Besides, onions, chives, leeks, and scallions also have similar benefits.
We hope that you will include these plant-based foods into your meal preparation to ensure good immunity.