It’s my favorite time of year for food. Everything is sweet and savory (and I love warming my hands on a good mug of soup on a chilly day.) Not only does fall food taste yummy and smell amazing, but it boasts some of the most gut-friendly and immune-supportive foods available all year. I’ve rounded up the Top 10 Immune System Boosting Foods for Fall!
But first, if we’re talking about the immune system, let’s talk about the gut. Studies show that 70% of the immune system lives in the gut. That’s why it’s so important to keep the gut strong and healthy.
The gut protects the immune system in two ways:
- Its physical lining is a protective barrier covered with tightly packed cells. Their job is not only to aid in digestions and absorption but to keep pathogens (bacteria and viruses) out.
- On top of that lining is the microbiome, made up of trillions of microorganisms including bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses. The microbiome stimulates the immune system, breaks down toxins, and produces vitamins (B vitamins and vitamin K) and amino acids (the building blocks of the body) from protein.
Food is the most modifiable thing you can do for your gut and your immune system, and there are two crucial steps:
- Get rid of the foods that are damaging the gut and microbiome, and initiating an immune response
- Include foods that support the gut lining and the delicate balance of the microbiome.
You need to feed your gut, and this is the best time to do it. Add these immune system boosting foods to your next meal!
10 Immune System Boosting Foods for Fall
‘Tis the apple picking season! Take those bushels your kids insisted on grabbing and cook them up. Because cooked apples increase enzymes in the small intestine to help with nutrient absorption, detoxify and neutralize toxins, and they’re high in fiber to improve digestive function and cleanse the colon. Pectin in cooked apples increases a substance in our gut known as intestinal alkaline phosphatase (IAP) that protects our bodies by grabbing hold of bacterial toxins and moving them out through the bowels. IAP also helps protect against tiny tears in the intestinal lining.
The fermented kind. Just two forkfuls per day of a fermented veggie (fermentation grows probiotics) increase the good bacteria in your microbiome by 10,000x. Put them in a salad, or dig in for a quick snack. You can find them in the specialty refrigerated section of most grocery stores. Here’s a quick salad recipe that can be eaten all year round that’s topped off with a gut boost.
This is a super gut sealer. Bone broth is high in gelatin, which has antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. But its real superpower helps to seal and restore the gut, reducing toxins that enter the bloodstream and giving the immune system the physical protection it needs against pathogens. Unfortunately, you can’t buy bone broth like this. But there are endless recipes online with a quick search (and you’ll be getting one from me soon!) Sip alone, use in recipes, or create your favorite soup. Perfect for the chilly days ahead of us!
You have to feed what feeds your gut. Follow me? There are probiotics (see fermented beets above), and then there is “pre” biotics. The prebiotics feeds the probiotics, or good bacteria, in the microbiome (conversely, sugar feeds the harmful bacteria). Root vegetables like carrots offer loads of this prebiotic fiber, providing the good bacteria and helping aid in a healthy, clean colon.
Part of the cruciferous vegetable family, cauliflower is a powerful detoxification vegetable by supporting the liver to do its thing. Meaning it removes toxins from the body and protects against illness. Super quick and easy to make: Preheat oven to 400, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, roast until it’s crispy (this is how I initially got my kids to eat veggies, getting them nice and crispy!) Walk away and in about 30 minutes you’ve got your detox veggie.
Fun fact: there was a time that cinnamon was worth more than gold! And I pretty much can’t think of a scent that says fall more than cinnamon. One of the most well-studied spices out there, cinnamon has been linked to improved digestion (indigestion, heartburn, nausea), blood sugar balance, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant. Sprinkle it on yogurt, oatmeal, apples, tea, coffee…
I added kale not only for its dose of Vitamin C (fights viruses) but it’s high in Vitamin K, which is made in the microbiome and then used to usher calcium from your blood to your bones. And that’s precisely where you want calcium to be. A trick to kale is that if you massage it with some olive oil and lemon, it becomes less chewy. Use it as a base for a salad, or saute it in a pan with olive oil.
I’m not talking a spicy raw onion, but roast these up to make any meal more sweet and savory, plus feed your good gut bacteria. Some people find it hard to digest cooked onions. If this is the case, there’s something going on with your digestion that should be addressed. Reach out for a quick chat to see how you can tolerate this superfood again one day.
Pumpkin season has arrived, but pumpkin seeds can be found all year round. My favorite way to eat them is a handful for a snack, sprinkled on a salad, or topped on my favorite creamy soups. These seeds pretty much nail it in terms of the perfect food. They’re considered a healthy fat and contain antioxidants, but most importantly, pumpkin seeds have high levels of zinc for the immune system. Zinc is crucial for the development and function of the immune system fighting cells. If you eat one thing on this list, make it pumpkin seeds, especially now in the virus season that shall not be named…
Okay, so salmon doesn’t quite say “crisp air and orange and red colored leaves.” But it does say Vitamin D. Vitamin D modulates the immune system response. A deficiency opens you right up to viruses and infection, making it much more difficult for the body to do its job and heal. Since so many of us don’t get out in the sun all year long for our dose of this sunshine vitamin, we need to get our levels checked, supplement, and eat as much as we can to up our Vitamin D load.
Now go Pinteresting for some recipes, add these to your grocery list, and support your gut so that it can help your immune system all winter long!