While you can't guarantee that you won't encounter illness, what you can take charge of is eating foods to help boost your immune system and calm your nerves. Here are some of the best foods to help your body fight off illness and soothe your anxiety.
1. Chicken noodle soup
It's not just an old wives' tale. Chicken noodle soup has been recommended as a remedy for upper respiratory tract infections since the 12th century. Research indicates that chicken noodle soup impacts the movement of white blood cells, which causes an anti-inflammatory effect. Also, the spices and aroma help to clear the nasal passages. Better breathing makes us feel calmer.
Soup is packed with nutrients—carrots have vitamin A, a nutrient that plays a role in the immune response, and chicken broth contains zinc, which helps fight a cold when consumed in large quantities. Chicken may help with the repair of body tissue and boost tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter. Also, it helps you to be hydrated, exactly what you need to keep your body working well. Not to mention its warmth is calming and soothing. Best of all, chicken noodle soup is cognitively associated with taking care of yourself, which automatically creates a calming effect.
2. Mandarin oranges
A dose of Vitamin C is great for boosting your immune system. Mandarin oranges are portable and easy to carry along wherever you go. Or try kiwi, which has the highest level of vitamin C of the citrus fruits. Or add some lemon in your water.
Best of all, studies have shown the scent of citrus fruit to be calming, which can also help reduce your anxiety level. In a study of people who were about to go into surgery, participants inhaled the aroma of orange or water. The orange scent significantly reduced anxiety levels.2 Your body doesn't store Vitamin C, so you need it continually/daily.
3. Cherry juice
Do you have trouble sleeping when you worry or are anxious? The good news: A study in the American Journal of Therapy found that drinking 240 ml (about a cup) of cherry juice twice a day increased sleep time and sleep efficiency. Tart cherries have been reported to contain high levels of phytochemicals, including melatonin, which is a molecule critical in regulating the sleep-wake cycle in humans.
Cherry juice also increases tryptophan availability, which is related to serotonin, the feel-good chemical in your brain. But several studies have also linked cherry juice to reducing inflammation, which may partially be responsible for the improvement. Inflammation can lead to pain or irritation, which keeps you awake.
Ginger is a strong antioxidant and naturally helps boost the immune system, kills the cold virus, and best of all detoxes the system by relaxing the intestinal tract. Therefore, if your stomach is in knots from flu and illness anxiety, ginger may be the best thing to help calm your upset stomach. Try a ginger tea or add dashes of ginger as a spice. Make ginger shots by combining one-fourth cup of peeled, fresh ginger root with one-fourth cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Add honey or sugar to taste, combine well, and strain.
Yogurt contains probiotics, which are good for your gut. Your gut helps to regulate and protect your immune system. Also, yogurt is a great source of Vitamin D. Low Vitamin D levels have been associated with feeling blue or anxious. Therefore, it's important to keep your Vitamin D level up when feeling stressed.
This is one of the nutrient-dense vegetables you can eat with Vitamin K, Vitamin E, chromium, potassium, magnesium, and folic acid. Surprisingly, it is loaded with Vitamin C, which we often think of with citrus fruits. Don't overcook it, as it depletes some of the nutrients.
Blueberries have been dubbed nature's "antioxidant pills." Not only are they tasty, but they help get rid of nasty free radicals caused by stress. A study showed that people who eat foods rich in flavonoids, as blueberries are, have less upper respiratory tract inflections. Sprinkle blueberries in everything from salad to cereal.
8. Garlic and onions
While the scent might be strong, don't worry. Garlic and onions have been shown to have antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. Load up on them.
Honey has been used since ancient times as an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Honey also has a high sugar content, which can help stop the growth of certain bacteria. It also helps heal wounds. This is great news. We all love honey.9 Combine several of the above anti-inflammatory ingredients to make hot tea with garlic, honey, ginger, and lemon.
10. Dark chocolate
Chocolate helps us to feel soothed and brings us a lot of joy—which we need when feeling anxious. When we feel happy, we are less vulnerable to illness. Chocolate also contains an immune-boosting antioxidant called theobromine. So have an ounce of dark chocolate today and enjoy it.
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3. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.2019-0101.