You may have heard the ancient saying, “Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.”
Well, Hippocrates’s famous wise words still hold true today. Perhaps even more so, considering how our food quality and diets have shifted over the centuries.
In autumn (when seasonal illnesses run rampant), eating nourishing foods that heal and support your body is paramount. Thankfully, nature provides us with so many delicious foods that also offer tons of medicinal benefits!
Here you’ll find eight easy-to-find foods that have been proven to support your immune system this fall, as well as some tasty ideas for how to make the most of them.
8 Immune-Boosting Foods to Eat this Fall
Who said living healthy can’t be delicious, too? Fill your plate with these powerful immune-boosting foods to stay energized and resilient.
1. Citrus Fruits
When you think of foods that fight colds and the flu, you likely think of citrus fruits! Thankfully, their reputation holds up! Citrus fruits (oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes, pomelos, and grapefruits) contain tons of vitamins and antioxidants that support our immune systems and fight disease.
Citrus fruits are best known for their high vitamin C content. Vitamin C supports many different functions of both the innate and acquired immune systems. For instance, getting regular vitamin C helps stimulate white blood cell production, which is necessary to fight infections.
Along with vitamin C, citrus also contains helpful polyphenols which reduce inflammation and minimize any damage to the immune system from stress, the environment, or infections.
How to Enjoy Citrus Fruits this Fall
Enjoy the many benefits of citrus fruit by eating them as a snack, squeezing them into a tall glass of water or tea, or even cooking with citrus. Pass on the store-bought salad dressings and make your own tangy citrus vinaigrette, packed with immune-boosting benefits and tons of flavor!
2. Green Tea
Matcha and traditional green teas contain immune-boosting antioxidants like EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). Studies show that EGCG modulates the immune system, enhances immune cell function, and reduces harmful inflammation.
Other studies found that those who drink green tea show higher levels of regulatory T cells, which helps balance the immune system and prevent autoimmune disorders.
How to Enjoy Green Tea this Fall
Swap the pumpkin spice lattes for something a little greener! While seasonal treats are delicious, they are also often full of sugar which causes inflammation and weakens your immune system. Instead, enjoy a warm matcha latte made with your favorite plant-based milk, or sip on a classic green tea. You’ll still get the energy of a pick-me-up while supporting your immunity.
Pomegranates are a vibrant autumn and winter fruit that can help you stay strong through the colder seasons. Pomegranates contain a potent type of antioxidant called punicalagin, which helps fight free radicals, reduce inflammation, and improve the function of the immune system.
Pomegranates also contain compounds that fight harmful microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
How to Enjoy Pomegranates this Fall
Pomegranate seeds are like juicy ruby gems that are perfect for sprinkling on salads, oatmeal, or tossing into a smoothie. You can also celebrate the season – and the mighty pomegranate – with an immune-boosting autumn mocktail featuring pomegranate juice.
4. Pumpkin and Squash
Autumn is pumpkin season, and there are plenty of reasons to enjoy a gourd or two as the weather gets cooler. Pumpkins are high in antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin C, and beta-carotene – all of which support a naturally robust immune system.
And don’t forget the seeds! Pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc, a necessary mineral for fighting infections and staying healthy.
How to Enjoy Pumpkin and Squash this Fall
Pumpkin and squash (like butternut or spaghetti) are delicious when roasted. Add a small amount of extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with fresh herbs and spices, and roast. Serve with mixed greens or with other roasted vegetables for a nutrient-rich meal.
Pears might not be the obvious choice for an immune-boosting superfood, but they are a popular autumn food remedy in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). For centuries, this fruit has been used to protect the lungs from dryness, coughs, and sore throats. Along with moistening the lungs and reducing coughs, pears are also rich in fiber and help to encourage a healthy gut.
How to Enjoy Pears this Fall
Try different varieties of pears, like Anjou, Bosc, and Asian pears. Eat them plain, or sprinkle with a dash of cinnamon for a special treat. You can also make a healthy and healing dessert by steaming pears and serving with a drizzle of raw honey and chopped almonds. (Or, try this recipe for TCM-inspired poached pears).
Garlic is one of the oldest cold remedies; records of its use date back to ancient Chinese, Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks. With modern research, we know why this aromatic herb has been used for so long! Garlic is a potent antioxidant and disease-fighter. Studies show that a daily garlic supplement can reduce colds by 63%. When you do have a cold, other research suggests that eating garlic can reduce the length and severity of your infection.
Why is garlic so powerful? It contains high levels of vitamin C and many antioxidants that help keep inflammation in check and protect the immune system. It also has antimicrobial compounds that support the white blood cells when attacking viruses and bacteria.
How to Enjoy Garlic this Fall
Garlic is a delicious addition to many savory dishes. Add it to soup, stews, stir-fries, pasta, and more. For a potent immune-boosting meal, try this 40-Clove Garlic Chicken recipe (replace the potatoes with sweet potatoes for added health benefits).
Ginger is a powerful antioxidant herb with antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It stimulates the immune response to help clear respiratory issues and digestive inflammation for a strong and resilient gut-immune connection.
How to Enjoy Ginger this Fall
Want an easy way to protect yourself from cold and flu season? Drink a cup of ginger tea (fresh or dried) daily. You can also juice your ginger for a potent immunity shot or add to your favorite smoothies.
8. Fresh Herbs
Fresh herbs not only make your meals more fragrant and delicious, but they also add a ton of antiviral and antibacterial health benefits.
Rosemary, for instance, is a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that support the immune system. Thyme contains both vitamin C and vitamin A which support various types of immune cells. Both fresh cilantro and coriander seeds are packed with antioxidants like quercetin and tocopherol. These enhance immune function and may protect against chronic diseases.
How to Enjoy Herbs and Spices this Fall
There are countless ways to enjoy more herbs and spices this fall. Start by adding garlic, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, and lots of fresh green herbs to your current favorite meals. Or, seek out new recipes that use lots of healing spices like this roasted vegetable bake or this antioxidant-rich garlic-herb sauce that can be used as a marinade, dressing, or pasta sauce.
For an easy and delicious way to ward off colds this winter, head to the last blog to make my nourishing Immune-Boosting Chicken Soup, loaded with all these incredible autumn herbs and spices.
A Strong Immune System Starts from Within
Want to know a secret? Your body is a powerful healing machine as long as you give it the nutrients it needs to thrive!
When it comes to the immune system, so many superfoods are available to help you stay on top of your health and avoid getting sick. These are just a few of the many medicinal foods out there for us to enjoy.
But, as a naturopath, I understand that choosing the right foods for your body can feel overwhelming sometimes. If you’re feeling lost, the team at Moringa Natural Health Center and I are here to make it simpler for you!
Call us at 623-266-0059, or request an appointment to learn how you can boost your immunity through food and an individualized naturopathic treatment plan.
Dr. Lena Fernandez