Heal Your Body: 8 Disease Fighting Foods

fight disease with super foods

It happens every summer.

Thanks to either too much time at the beach or too many beers (or maybe a combination of the two), after a few weeks of fun in the sun, I find myself stuck on the couch watching Boy Meets World reruns and feeling more like a sniffly slug than a summer sprite.

Indeed, the dreaded summer cold seems to hit me harder every season- but not this year.

This summer, arm your body against the annual bugs by ramping up your intake of disease-fighting, immunity-boosting, free radical-zapping super foods.

A group of researchers at the University of Michigan infected 17 volunteers with the flu. While all the participants had an immune response, only 9 of them actually got sick.

What stopped the other half from getting sick or showing any symptoms?

The answer: Eating nutrient dense foods high in anti-oxidants.

More specifically, the researchers theorize that consuming foods high in anti-oxidants helped protect against inflammation and tissue damage.

Super foods have been revered for their health benefits since their use way back in ancient civilizations.

They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which help keep your body running through those long summer days. In fact, in his book, “Super Immunity,” Dr. Joel Furman describes these powerful antioxidants as “the natural enemy of free radicals.”

More super foods = more antioxidants = less free radicals = less inflammation, slower aging, and ultimately, less disease.

Sign me up.

If you want to get in on the immunity-boosting love fest, here are a few good places to start:

1 - Coconut Oil

heal your body with coconut oil

Why you need it:

Coconut oil has 2 types of fat that keep our body working in top shape: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

These fatty acids are used by our bodies for energy, brain function, growth, and to strengthen our immune system, this list of features has everything you need to feel young and stay healthy.

Furthermore, it increases the good form of cholesterol, and decreases the bad cholesterol too.

It also has caprylic acid which is antiviral (can kill viruses in the body).

Where to get it:

I buy my coconut oil in bulk online- stored in a sealed container, away from direct sunlight, even a huge container of coconut oil will stay good for up to two years- because I use it for everything (and because I believe those tiny $12 packages at the grocery store should be considered extortion).

Organic is best, and if you’re going the refined route, just make sure to skip over the brands that use a chemical refining process. Instead, look for coconut oils labeled, “cold-pressed” or “expeller-pressed.”

How to use it:

I will admit, my love affair with coconut oil runs pretty deep. I use it for everything from sunburn to flyaways, but I also make sure to scoop out a tablespoon for my morning smoothie.

Drop a scoop in your morning smoothie, use it in place of olive oil for sautéing veggies, or eat it right off the spoon. Because it is solid at room temperature, coconut oil also makes a great baking substitute!

2 - Chia Seeds

healthy chia seeds

Why you need it:

Chia seeds are seriously super. Chock full of protein, fiber, omega fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, these tiny guys aren’t just for your chia pet anymore.

Where to get it:

Most grocery stores and health food stores carry chia seeds- but don’t be alarmed by the price. The seeds expand when they’re added to liquid (be warned: chia seeds are the fastest way to turn your smoothie to sludge) - so a little goes a long way!

How to use it:

Use chia’s gelatinous tendencies for good, instead of evil.

Fill a mason jar with milk, a splash of vanilla, and a tablespoon of chia seeds, shake it, and leave it in the fridge overnight. Top with fresh fruit and nuts for a super food-filled breakfast!

3 - Acia (and other purple produce)

acai berries to fight diseases

Why you need it:

Fruits in the purple family like the acai berry, blueberry, blackberry, goji berry, elderberry, and pomegranate all contain a variety of anti-cancer phytochemical compounds which provide serious protection from disease, as well as having anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effects.

Where to get it:

Tis the season for farmer’s markets! This time of year is great for loading up on strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries (just make sure to buy organic- berries are notorious for holding onto nasty pesticides).

As for the more exotic fruits, most health food stores carry dried, frozen, and/or fresh acai, elderberry, and goji berry.

How to use it:

Now that the weather is warm, I’m hooked on the acai bowl: blend fresh or frozen berries with acai juice, and top with fresh fruit, nuts, and seeds for a refreshing take on the traditional fruit smoothie.

4 - Avacado

avacado healing properties

Why you need it:

Not only are avocados full of heart-healthy fats, they also contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and- you guessed it- our friends, antioxidants!

They have an impressive list of health benefits, including: cancer prevention, stroke prevention, eye health, heart health, and ​anti-inflammation.

Avocados also help your body absorb nutrients from other foods, which makes them the perfect play date for your paleo plant-based diet.

A study at Pennsylvania State University found that consuming one avacado a day could help lower bad cholesterol. ​

Where to get it:

I pick up avocados every time I’m at the grocery store, and I always buy mine before they’re fully ripe. My idea of an ideal avocado is one that is still firm to the touch, because anyone who has tried to make last-minute guacamole can tell you of the emotional turmoil that comes from trying to guess if a soft avocado is ripe, or spoiled. Stored at room temperature, unripe avocados should be ready to eat within 3-5 days.

How to use it:

Use it to top a killer mexi-veg omelet. Mix it in with ground meat for moist burgers. Put it in a smoothie. Add it to a salad for creaminess without the need for extra dressing. Use it instead of mayo on a lettuce wrap or in egg-salad. I find new ways to use avocados almost daily… and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t cut one up and eaten it with a spoon.

5 - Salmon

salmon and fatty acids can boost immunity

Why you need it:

Salmon’s not just an excellent source of protein and vitamins A, B, and D - the super-fish is also full of inflammation-fighting omega 3 fatty acids, which help increase cognitive function, protect your heart, and help fight disease!

Where to get it:

When you’re picking out your salmon, look for wild-caught Alaskan varieties. Fish from these runs have the lowest levels of mercury, pesticides, and contaminants, making for the healthiest (and most sustainable) option.

How to use it:

Bake, broil, grill or steam your salmon to get the most nutritional benefit- and leave the sashimi to the professionals.

Serve salmon with sweet potatoes to double up on the anti-inflammation benefits.

6 - Onion

Why you need it:

Trust me: the bad breath is worth it. Onions (and the whole allium family of vegetables, including garlic, leeks, shallots, and scallions) have been consumed for immune protection since medieval times, and now we know why: that same enzyme that makes you cry is hard at work detoxifying your body of carcinogens and preventing disease.

Where to get it:

The grocery store. It’s an onion, it grows in the ground… I’m sure the one you pick out will be just perfect.

How to use it:

Raw or sautéed onions are the perfect addition to soups, salads, or mixed into burgers. I especially like onions paired with our next super food…

7 - Mushrooms

mushrooms have an impressive list of disease fighting abilities

Why you need it:

The immune-supporting phytochemical compounds in mushrooms help your body fight off the disease-causing pathogens that are all around us. Mushrooms are also a good source of fiber, minerals, vitamin D, and B vitamins- one exception to the “eat the rainbow” rule!

Where to get it:

Grocery stores and health food stores carry a variety of mushrooms, but don’t be overwhelmed by your choices; white, cremini, Portobello, oyster, maitake, and reishi varieties all have been shown to have the same protective benefits.

How to use it:

Mushrooms’ protection power is amplified by pairing them with onions and green vegetables, so if salads aren’t really your scene, try a stir-fry!

8 - Hemp Protein

Why you need it:

hemp protein

We all know protein is essential, but if you’re looking to round out your daily intake without the help of animal products, hemp protein is a great option.

It contains all nine essential amino acids, is high in fiber, and is more easily digestible than most other forms of protein- plus, some studies suggest that hemp protein might actually have anti-fatigue and immune-boosting effects.

Where to get it:

Buy in bulk online for the best price, or find smaller quantities at your health food store.

How to use it:

Add a couple tablespoons to your favorite smoothie (or the aforementioned acai bowl!) or sprinkle over salads for a protein boost.

Still not sold on the super food craze?

By filling your diet with nutrient-rich super foods, you’ll leave less room for the calorie-rich, nutrient-deficit filler foods (I’m looking at you, cheese puffs). You’re already off to a great start by switching to paleo and staying away from processed foods, which are nutritionally relatable to cardboard.

Add a few if these disease-fighting foods to your summer routine and you'll not only boost your body's defenses, but also ensure vibrant health for seasons to come!

So after reading this, what do you think of our list? Is there any foods you use that have helped boost your immunity?

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