Nutrition Style

Vegetables That Boost Your Immune System

by Hara Hagikalfa

vegetables for strong immune system

Everyone knows that eating their vegetables keeps them healthy, but not everyone knows that eating vegetables can actually boost the immune system. Adding vegetables to your plate, in a rainbow of colors, is the best way to stay healthy and ward off things like colds and flu symptoms.  This cold and flu season, stay healthy by simply eating your vegetables!

Orange and Yellow Vegetables

Did you know that carrots deliver over 110% of the daily value of Vitamin A that you need?  In addition, carrots supply 250 mg of potassium and two grams of dietary fiber per serving.  Vitamin A helps support your body’s immune functions and it promotes skin and eye health. Additionally, one carrot has just 30 calories, so it is a great snack if you are watching your weight.

Other yellow and orange vegetables include bell peppers, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, yellow summer squash, rutabaga, and even yellow tomatoes.

Sweet potatoes, especially, are a power food.  They contain over 120% of your daily value for Vitamin A, and that is in just one medium-sized potato. They also have 440 mg of potassium and two grams of dietary fiber. Tried them baked, mashed, or even grilled.

These vegetables all contain beta-carotene, potassium and lycopene as well as a good healthy dose of Vitamin C. These nutrients all work to help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration as well as some types of cancers and they will lower LDL cholesterol (the ‘bad’ kind of cholesterol) and blood pressure. These nutrients also help to find off harmful free radicals in the body, boosting the immune system.

See also: Why do we need vitamins

Red Vegetables

Red vegetables contain the important compound lycopene, as well as Hesperidin. Hesperidin has been shown to repair impaired immune systems and lycopene has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer in the body.

In addition, compounds found in red vegetables get rid of free radicals in the body and they help to protect the DNA of our immune cells, keeping them from oxidative damage, promoting their proper immune function.

Lycopene is present in all tomatoes and tomato-based products, things like spaghetti sauce, tomato pastes, and tomato juice.  This compound has been shown to drastically reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men.

Other good red vegetable choices are red bell peppers, all types of tomatoes (yes, technically a fruit, but often called a vegetable), radishes, radicchio, red potatoes, rhubarb and beets.

Blue and Purple Vegetables

Blue and purple vegetables are chock full of antioxidants. These will help counter any strains put on your immune system by stress or exercise.  They are also anti-inflammatories, helping your body fight off infections.

Good blue and purple vegetable choices are eggplant, purple cabbage, purple cauliflower, purple asparagus, purple potatoes, purple endive lettuce and purple carrots.

Green and White Vegetables

Green vegetables may be the most familiar, and popular, in the vegetable family, but they have the same characteristics of white vegetables.

These vegetables, when consumed regularly, are the body’s biggest ally when it comes to warding off cancer cells. Broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are the big powerhouses in this group.

Broccoli has a great deal of Vitamin C; one stalk contains 220% of you’re the suggested daily value. Additionally, one stalk provides 460 mg of potassium and three grams of dietary fiber and, amazingly enough, four grams of protein.

Look to cauliflower for Vitamin C, too. One sixth of a head contains 100% of your suggested ddaily value, and 260 mg of potassium along with two grams of fiber.

They all contain powerful anticarcinogenic agents, compounds like sulforaphane, isothiocyanates and indoles.

Additionally, leafy greens like spinach and kale are also great choices. They contain high amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, chlorophyll, antioxidants and a number of essential fatty acids. These have immunostimulatory and immunoprotective effects on the body.

Garlic is actually a white vegetable, and it is packed with sulfur-rich molecules (called allyl compounds). These compounds go to work on the body’s immune pathways, as they are antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and anticarcinogenic.

Other white and green choices include artichokes, asparagus, turnips, shallots, onions, arugula, broccoli rabe, green onions, Brussels sprouts, celery, leeks, lettuces, mushrooms, parsnips, white potatoes, okra, peas (sugar and snap) zucchini, watercress, parsley, green beans, jicama, and bok choy.

The Rainbow Effect

All in all, these vegetables really pack a punch when it comes to beefing up your immune system, however, note that you should aim to eat a wide variety.  Look at your plate like a rainbow, and try to mix up the colors with every meal, or at least throughout the day.

Each of these colors provide your body with a different set of helpful, immune building compounds, so aim to eat as many different colors as you can, every day.

Not only will you notice you feel better, and your skin and hair look better, but you will notice that during cold and flu season, you breeze right through without a problem.

Vegetables are your best defense against cold and flu this season!