5 Foods to Keep in Your Fridge to Boost Immunity

Lets go beyond the oranges, lemons, and peppers and really diversify our nutrition.  Here are the top 5 foods I keep in my fridge for immune system support:

  1. Brazil Nuts – Depending on the size, one Brazil nut contains about 68 to 91 micrograms of selenium. Selenium not only acts as a powerful antioxidant, it also promotes a strong immune system.We only need a small amount of selenium a day. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of selenium for adults is 55 micrograms with 400 micrograms being the Tolerable Upper Intake. High levels of selenium in the body over a long period of time could cause garlic odor to breath, metallic taste in the mouth, hair and nail loss, rashes, fatigue, or diarrhea. Due to this, it is important not to eat Brazil nuts like they are peanuts. One to two Brazil nuts is plenty per day.
  2. Hemp Seeds – I’ve been loving sprinkling these on top of my salads and oatmeal. It is also an easy addition to smoothies and baked goods.  Hemp seeds (also referred to as hemp hearts) are loaded with zinc which strengthens white blood cells to protect the body from infection and illness. This is a really easy, no fuss addition to meals or snacks.
  3. Broccoli Sprouts – Broccoli sprouts are the baby versions of full grown broccoli, easy to grow at home, and harvested at just 3-5 days old. Young broccoli sprouts contain 10-100 times more of the antioxidant glucoraphanin than mature broccoli.  When broccoli sprouts are chewed, glucoraphanin is then converted to sulforaphane which is known for turning on a set of antioxidant genes and enzymes in immune cells so they can then go fight invaders. Chewing is so powerful for our food to work correctly (please remember to slow down and chew). Everything I learned about sprouting I learned from SproutPeople.org. I personally love their Long Life Mix which contains broccoli seeds with other antioxidant rich brassica seeds.
  4. Ultraviolet Mushrooms – Mushrooms are one of the few plant foods that contains a precursor to Vitamin D2. The amount of Vitamin D2 in mushrooms can be significantly increased by exposing mushrooms to ultraviolet (UV) light.  Yes, that is right, give your mushrooms a sun bath! Simply put them in the sun for about 15-20 minutes. You might also start seeing UV-treated mushrooms in grocery stores. For example, portabella mushrooms treated in 20 minutes of UV light contained 446 IU Vitamin D2, vs. untreated mushrooms at 11 IU. UV treated mushrooms can provide appreciable amounts of Vitamin D2 to the diet, however this will vary depending on the type of mushroom and length of time exposed to UV light.
  5. Garlic – Garlic is such a healthy powerhouse that if a recipe calls for 2 cloves of garlic, I am bound to put in 3-4 cloves!  However, the powerful antioxidant in garlic, allicin, is not present unless chopping, mincing, pressing, or slicing occurs.  This allows a sulfoxide compound called alliin and an enzyme called allinase to mix together creating allicin.  After chopping, it is best to wait 5-10 minutes to allow the allicin to continue multiplying.  I usually press garlic as my first step in food preparation, so then I can do other prepping as the garlic becomes more potent in allicin.
For more on immune boosting strategies visit Your Guide for Staying Healthy During Winter (you can use these strategies all year long).


Katie Abbott, MS, RDN, INHC

Author Katie Abbott, MS, RDN, INHC

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