6 Low-Carb Foods to Boost Your Immune SystemArticle posted in: Diet & Nutrition
You can feel it coming; the scratchy throat, the tightness in your chest, a splitting headache and maybe even the chills. What’s your next step? A trip to the drugstore for an immune system booster? Don’t leave just yet.
While some cold fighting supplements have been shown to alter certain parts of the immune system, “there is no evidence that they actually bolster immunity to the point where you are better protected against infection and disease,” says Harvard Health. They further explain that some of the best ways to keep your immune system running efficiently include not smoking, regular physical activity, frequent hand washing and regularly eating healthy foods—specifically fruits and vegetables.
Here at the South Beach Diet, nutritious foods that keep you healthy are the cornerstone of our meal plan. After all, our program isn’t just a diet, it’s a lifestyle. Our Grocery Guide is jam-packed with healthy ingredients to provide you with the essential nutrients you need as you drop pounds. When taking a closer look, there are a few standouts that are especially beneficial for the immune system and potential disease prevention.
Here are six low-carb ingredients that can help keep your immune system strong healthy:
1. Red Bell Peppers
You don’t need to eat an orange—or any citrus fruit for that matter—to load up on vitamin C. This essential nutrient is said to prevent colds and has been shown to help shorten the duration of cold symptoms, says Harvard Health. According to Health.com, one cup of a chopped red bell pepper has almost three times more vitamin C than the infamous orange.
The color of your peppers is important, explains WebMD. Red peppers have 1.5 times more vitamin C than green peppers. Red varieties stay on the vine longer, causing the color and nutrient differences. Red peppers also have 11 times more beta-carotene than their green buddies, an antioxidant that is found in red and orange produce. According to Medical News Today, our bodies convert beta-carotene to vitamin A, which also works to keep the immune system in tiptop shape and protects our skin, mucus membranes and eyes. On the South Beach Diet program, red bell peppers count as a non-starchy vegetable.
Make red bell peppers the base of your meal with these Cauliflower “Rice” and Ground Beef Stuffed Peppers! >
Allicin is a powerful antioxidant in garlic that helps destroy harmful bacteria that feeds viruses, says Healthline. For centuries, garlic was prescribed medicinally to help the body fight infection. Research now shows that this tasty herb can reduce the risk of getting sick and decrease length and severity of your symptoms. To get the most out of your cloves and “prevent the loss of its medicinal properties,” crush or slice your garlic and let it stand for 10 minutes before cooking, says Healthline. On the South Beach Diet program, garlic is considered a Free Food.
Spice up your life with garlic by making our recipe for Garlic Green Beans! >
Here’s to the spices! In addition to its legendary tummy-soothing benefits, ginger may also protect us from sickness. In a 2013 study, published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, researchers studied the effects of fresh and dried ginger on a respiratory virus in human cells. They found that fresh ginger staved off the bug. Dried ginger, however, did not.
Additionally, the root of a ginger plant contains an anti-inflammatory compound called Gingerol. According to research, published in Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, gingerol seems to be especially helpful for people with osteoarthritis. Study participants saw significant reductions in both pain and mobility following ginger intake. Ginger is considered a Free Food on the South Beach Diet weight loss program.
Enjoy the taste of zesty ginger while digging into this Ginger Chicken with Snow Pea Salad! >
The dark color of blueberries is a telltale sign that they contain a powerful flavonoid called anthocyanin. According to Healthline, this compound has been shown to decrease the risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease. In addition, flavonoids in general seem to have antimicrobial effects, helping the body protect against upper respiratory tract infection. 2016 research, published in Advances in Nutrition, found that flavonoid supplementation decreased upper respiratory infection incidence by 33 percent and also decreased the duration and symptoms.
Please note that on the South Beach Diet, we recommend limiting fruit on our low-carb plan due to the amount of carbohydrates and sugar. However, if you’d like to add a small amount of fruit, choose options that are lower in carbs and higher in fiber. According to Healthline, berries tend to be relatively low in sugar. Count berries toward your allowed Extras for the day. One serving of blueberries is two tablespoons (about 15 berries).
Start your day the healthy way with these Blueberry Muffins! >
5. Green Tea
Some of the same oxidant and radical-fighting flavonoids that are found in blueberries are also present in green tea. Additionally, the South Beach Diet-approved beverage contains a polyphenol called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). According to ScienceDaily, 2011 research in an Oregon State University Study reveals that EGCG can cause a higher production of T cells. T cells “play a key role in immune function and suppression of autoimmune disease,” they explain. Enjoy unsweetened green tea as a part of your daily water intake and reap its immune boosting effects.
Fuel up on flavonoids by sipping on this Green Tea Frozen Latte! >
This fermented, probiotic-rich drink may not be a fruit or vegetable. However, it has all the signs of being an immune system booster. According to Nutrition Research Reviews, numerous studies have found that regular consumption of kefir has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects, increases antioxidant activity and has healing potential.
Lactose intolerant? Try kefir. According to ScienceDaily, research from Ohio State University shows, “drinking fermented milk either eliminated or drastically reduced symptoms related to lactose intolerance.” They further explain that specific microbes found in kefir may contain the enzyme needed to digest lactose. Kefir will count as a Healthy Fat on the South Beach Diet meal plan.
Use probiotic-packed kefir to make this No-Bake Overnight Chia Pudding! >