Top 11 Plant-Based Ingredients for Total Immune Rejuvenation

Blog Nutrition & Recipes Top 11 Plant-Based Ingredients for Total Immune Rejuvenation

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6.18.2024 0 comments

It’s a well-known fact that as we age, our bodies grow less effective at dealing with infections and immune threats.

Research [1] has shown that older immune systems are less likely to respond to invaders as threats—or with sufficient intensity to clear the problem—leading to higher infection rates and reduced immune response.

But “immune rejuvenation” can change all that! That very same research showed that rejuvenating the immune system can lead to significant improvements in our body’s ability to defend itself. Not only will it aid in greater immune function, but it can even slow the aging process and reduce the risk of chronic disease—essentially decreasing your biological age.

There are a number of ways you can trigger the “immuno-rejuvenation response”. In the above-mentioned study, depleting certain stem cells forced the immune system to work overtime to produce new threat-response defenses. Extreme fasting and extreme physical effort are also possible routes to clear out the “junk cells” (aka, senescent cells) that could be gumming up the works.

However, the most effective solution is to EAT RIGHT. Specific foods that contain phytonutrients and polyphenols, [2,3,4,5] Omega-3-rich foods [6], and foods containing probiotics and prebiotics [7,8,9] can all be game-changers for rejuvenating your immune system.

Below, we’ve assembled a list of the very best foods to add to your immune-rejuvenating diet. Some will contain the above-mentioned nutrients, while others will focus on maximizing gut health—which is, in itself, crucial for restoring healthy immune function, given that the majority of immune activity takes place in your gut.

Get ready for a deep, science-backed dive into the best foods to focus on for a healthier, more efficient immune system!

Top 11 Plant-Based Ingredients for Total Immune Rejuvenation

1.Garlic & Ginger

Yes, garlic and ginger are technically two foods, but we’re counting them as one because when eaten together, they add both an immense amount of flavor and immune-friendly nutrition.

Garlic’s benefits come largely from allicin, a sulfur-containing antioxidant compound that can seriously boost your immune response [10] while also curbing immune dysfunction. Ginger’s benefits are derived from its phytochemicals like zingerone and gingerol, both of which can curb free radicals, protect your DNA from damage, decrease oxidative stress, and protect against chronic disease [11].

Both are also natural anti-inflammatory foods that can stop low-grade, widespread inflammation from reducing your immune function. And, of course, they’ll contribute to healthier gut function thanks to their high sulfur and fiber content.

2.Walnuts

Walnuts are one of the best plant-based sources of the Omega-3 fatty acids that are critical for immune rejuvenation.

The Omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts can curb biological aging of immune cells (as indicated by shortened telomeres) [12], which in turn can increase the longevity and efficiency of those cells.

Omega-3s are also needed for healthy cellular membranes [13] and can make your immune cells (such as T-cells) stronger and more resilient against damage. They can even increase macrophage function, produce cytokines, and help your immune cells communicate better.

As a bonus, Omega-3s are also amazing for your brain health, and the fiber and other minerals in walnuts will improve both gut function and overall health.

3.Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are rich in two minerals ultra-crucial for a healthy immune response: iron and magnesium.

Research has identified iron as being “necessary for immune cells proliferation and maturation” [14], particularly the lymphocytes that help your body respond to specific infections or immune threats in the most efficient and targeted manner possible. A lack of iron can lead to a reduced immune response, but getting enough iron in your diet can facilitate a rejuvenation of your immune system.

Magnesium is “is an important factor in the immune system's ability to tackle pathogens and cancer cells.” [15] It’s necessary for your T-cells’ function and can make your body more efficient at eradicating outside threats as well as carcinogens and tumors.

4.Citrus Fruits

There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Vitamin C is one of the most important immune-rejuvenating micronutrients around.

Vitamin C plays so many roles in your immune function [16]:

  • It increases immune response to invaders

  • It acts directly to kill off pathogens and bacteria

  • It aids in the modulation of cytokines to maintain healthy, balanced levels

  • It can donate electrons to fight off reactive oxygen species and free radicals

  • It can help your body recover Vitamin E and glutathione to restore them to an active state

  • It can protect lipids, proteins, and DNA from oxidative damage

  • It is highly concentrated in white blood cells

Getting more Vitamin C in your diet is crucial for immune rejuvenation, and few foods provide as much Vitamin C as citrus fruits: lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, and tangerines.

5.Spinach

Spinach is an amazing source of immune-boosting antioxidants like Vitamin C, beta-carotene, and oxalic acid. It’s also loaded with dietary fiber that will aid in digestion and act as a prebiotic to feed the beneficial bacteria living in your gut [17]. Any healthy diet should include spinach, and that goes doubly for a diet aimed at rejuvenating your immune system.

6.Beet Root

Beets are one of the most amazing foods around!

They’re loaded with nitric oxide that will relax your blood vessels and improve heart health, as well as dietary fiber that acts as a prebiotic to feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut [18]. They’re rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, folate, manganese, and potassium, all of which aid in healthy immune response. And, when eaten pickled, they’re a probiotic that can introduce live bacteria into your gut to act as reinforcements to increase immune response. They’ve even got anti-inflammatory properties and are rich in antioxidants that can protect against cancer and chronic disease.

7.Prebiotic Veggies

Veggies like asparagus and artichokes are amazing “prebiotics”, which means they contain a lot of dietary fiber that will feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut.

Research has shown that by nourishing your gut bacteria and “enhancing gut microbial diversity and activity”, prebiotics can “improve gut health and boost immune responses while controlling inflammation through its immunomodulatory properties.” [19] [

A few of the best prebiotic veggies include:

  • Asparagus

  • Artichokes

  • Leeks

  • Onions

  • Garlic

  • Spinach

Add these to your diet to feed your gut bacteria the fiber it needs!

8.Fermented Foods

What do kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut, and kombucha all have in common? They’re all “probiotics”, meaning they contain active bacteria that caused them to ferment.

Probiotics have been proven to be absolutely amazing for your digestive health—and, in turn, your immune health. They can do so many things, from “promoting the growth of immune cells, shaping immune responses, and maintaining gut barrier integrity” to “modifying the gut microbiota by fostering beneficial bacteria while suppressing harmful ones” [20].

Probiotics can even have a direct effect on your immune system, “increasing immune cell activity and anti-inflammatory cytokine production”.

Adding fermented foods to your diet is absolutely essential for immune rejuvenation—and overall health!

9.Papaya

Papaya is an amazing source of Vitamin C, one of the antioxidants crucial for immune rejuvenation. It’s also loaded with carotenes, zeaxanthin, and lycopenes, all of which can increase immune function and have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects in the body.

But what makes it a necessary inclusion in this list is:

  • Its phytochemical content. Research [21] has shown that the phytochemicals present in papaya can have an immune-boosting and immunomodulatory response, as well as anti-inflammatory response.

  • Its high digestive enzyme content. The digestive enzymes papain and bromelain present in papaya can reduce digestive upset (like bloating, constipation, and acid reflux), settle your digestive system, prevent dysfunction in your gut, and reduce inflammation specifically in your stomach [22].

This amazing fruit absolutely deserves to be added to your immune-rejuvenating diet!

10.Black and Green Tea

Black and green tea both contain flavonoids, catechins, polyphenols, and other antioxidants that can have a direct, positive response on immune function.

Both teas can strengthen your immune system, decrease inflammation, combat chronic disease, inhibit the spread of cancer cells, and protect against oxidative damage and free radicals [23, 24].

They’re game-changers for your overall health, longevity, and your immune response.

11.Turmeric

Turmeric is one of the most powerful immune-boosters that can play a significant role in rejuvenating your immune system.

In addition to being both an anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial, the curcumin in turmeric can directly increase your immune response to invading threats [25]. A lot of harmful bacteria are also highly susceptible to curcumin, meaning they’re more easily destroyed by a turmeric-boosted immune system.

And, as one study highlighted, “Curcumin cooperates with various cells such as macrophages, dendritic cells, B, T, and natural killer cells to modify the body’s defence capacity,” “inhibits inflammatory responses by suppressing different metabolic pathways, reduces the production of inflammatory cytokines, and increases the expression of anti-inflammatory cytokines.” [26]

Now that’s a nutrient with a lot of power to restore immune function to full capacity and aid your body in its defense against invaders.

Wrapping Up

The beauty of immune rejuvenation is that you don’t have to take supplements, undergo medical treatments, or take up some extreme, strenuous training program.

All you have to do is modulate your diet to add the above-listed immune-rejuvenating, gut-boosting, pathogen-fighting foods!

It’s a small change that anyone can make—it’s just a few simple ingredients to add to your everyday meals, along with many you already eat—but what a difference it can make in your body’s ability to respond to threats and invaders.

Resources:

[1] www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/rejuvenating-immune-system-depleting-certain-stem-cells

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19776136/

[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30279143/

[4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30907060/

[5] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22980794/

[6] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26059004/

[7] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23307112/

[8] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22645023/

[9] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27704207/

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4417560/

[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665023/

[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2819264/

[13] https://blog.bioticsresearch.com/how-omega-3s-support-your-bodys-immune-response

[14] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10971835/

[15] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/01/220119121455.htm

[16] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9925039/

[17] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270609

[18] https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-beetroot

[19] https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2024.1355542/

[20] https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2024.1355542/

[21] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27416522/

[22] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10484068/

[23] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2855614/

[24] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6512146/

[25] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7408453/

[26] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9738113/

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