With illnesses more prevalent in winter, many people are looking for ways to protect themselves and bolster their immune system to feel good and fight infection.
Developing a stronger immune response
A strong and healthy immune system is crucial for reducing the risk of inflammation and is the best form of defence from viruses, illness and environmental factors. Fortunately, there are ways to keep your immune system functioning at an optimal level.
One way to keep your immune system fighting fit is by ensuring you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. There have been multiple studies showing how a plant-based and plant-priority diet can help keep your immune cells healthy, thanks to the nutrients that many plants provide. So, if you’re looking to boost your immune system, which fruits and vegetables should take priority?
Plant expert Shannen Godwin at J. Parker’s (www.jparkers.co.uk) said: “We help our customers grow fruits and vegetables easily and with enjoyment. We know that growing plants can be great for mental health and is a fantastic form of exercise, but it’s even better to know that the plants our customers grow could be helping their immune system too!”
Top five immune-boosting plants
Generally, when looking for immune strengthening foods, colourful fruit and vegetables are a safe bet. Red peppers are full of beta-carotene, which can help to promote healthy eyes and skin. However, for immune boosting, a medium-sized red pepper offers 152mg of vitamin C. This is twice the amount of vitamin C compared to an orange and can help the body to fight infection by encouraging the production of white blood cells.
In terms of growing your own, red peppers love sunny spots and work well in large container pots – ideal for giving a patio a Mediterranean feel.
Broccoli is often touted as a superfood; this is because it contains high levels of immune-supporting vitamin C and antioxidants that can help fight damaging free radicals. Broccoli also contains zinc, iron, magnesium, and potassium, which supports the body and keeps the immune system running optimally, while B vitamins help support energy levels.
If you’re new to growing vegetables, broccoli is a great one to start with. Generally, it works well in many soil types. However, broccoli is best in fertile, well-drained soil and usually has high disease resistance, making it an enjoyable, easy maintenance vegetable to grow.
As well as being incredibly versatile to cook with, sweet potatoes are packed with nutrients to promote healthy living. Beta-carotene offers a high level of vitamin A which can help reduce inflammation and enhance the immune function. Sweet potatoes also contain vitamin C and B6 too.
Growing sweet potatoes means choosing a sunny position for the plants. They are best planted in March/April and harvested in September/October.
Echinacea is popular in cold remedies, thanks to its role as an immunostimulant that can help boost the function of white blood cells. It is a popular plant for purifying and regularly features in immune-boosting tea.
You can make echinacea tea by pouring hot water over a pan containing the flowers, leaves and even the roots of the echinacea plant. However, it’s wise not to drink echinacea on an empty stomach as it can cause discomfort. Growing your own echinacea can also help brighten your garden as well as boost your immune function as it offers pretty summer flowers.
The age-old saying that an apple a day keeps the doctor away may have some merit as apples are packed with health benefits. Research has found that apples can help improve gut health and offer high levels of vitamin C, which helps keep the body healthy. With plenty of fibres and antioxidants, the benefits of apples go far beyond simply being good for the immune system.
If you want to increase your apple intake, having your own apple tree or two can be an excellent investment. There are many apple varieties, so you can choose your favourites and have the right tree for your green space.