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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Great Food-Based Ways to Boost the Immune System

by Michael Smith

For those dreading cold and flu season, here are some plant-based, whole food ideas to help boost the immune system with some blockbuster nutrients. Zinc helps the body to build white blood cells, reduces symptoms of colds and flu when taken within 24 hours, and lowers incidence of fevers and coughs. Vitamin C makes interferon, which zaps viruses. Vitamin E produces interleukin-2, a protein that kills bacteria, viruses and cancer cells.



Roasted squash and pumpkin seeds—make these in the oven and eat them right off the cookie sheet. They contain 10 milligrams (mg), or 70 percent daily value (DV) of zinc per 100 gram (g) serving, 6.6 mg (59 percent DV) per cup, and 3 mg (19 percent DV) per ounce (about 85 seeds).

Cashews—eat alone, or sprinkle them on top of salads, fruit or grains. They contain 5.6 mg (37 percent DV) of zinc per 100 g serving, which means 7.7 mg (51 percent DV) per cup, and 1.6 mg (10 percent DV) in a single ounce. Other high-zinc foods include dark chocolate, oatmeal, lentils and black beans.


Vitamin C

Red and green chili peppers—spice up salads, pasta dishes and other veggies, green chili peppers provide the most vitamin C of any food. with 242.5 mg (404 percent DV) per 100 gram serving, 181.88 mg (303 percent DV) in a half cup, and 109.13 mg (182 percent DV) in a single green chili pepper. Red chilis provide 144 mg (240 percent DV) of vitamin C per 100 g serving, 108 mg (180 percent DV) per half cup, and 65 mg (108 percent DV) per pepper.

Broccoli—by itself or in recipes such as soups or salads. It provides 89 mg (149 percent DV) of vitamin C per 100 g serving, 81 mg (135 percent DV) per cup chopped, and 28 mg (46 percent DV) per piece. Other foods high in vitamin C include citrus, strawberries, bell peppers and dark leafy greens.


Vitamin E

Sunflower seeds—on a salad or right out of the bag, sunflower seeds provide 36.6 mg (222 percent DV) of vitamin E in a 100 g serving, or 36.5 mg (310 percent DV) per cup.

Almonds—eaten alone or made into almond milk or almond butter. Almonds contain 26.2 mg (175 percent DV) of vitamin E in a 100 g serving, 37.5 mg (250 percent DV) per cup, and 0.3 mg (2 percent DV) of vitamin E in a single almond. Other foods rich in vitamin E include avocado, paprika, wheat germ oil, oregano and pine nuts.


The versatility of these nutritious foods is tremendous, so we can enjoy all of them while boosting our immunity.


Dr. Michael Smith is a naturopathic physician and founder of Carolinas Natural Health Center.  For information about free health seminars, call 704-708-4404 or visit and

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