9 Superfoods with powerful anti-viral properties By Divina Ramirez for Prevention
Viruses are responsible for many infectious diseases, including the flu, influenza and tuberculosis. Due to increased global travel, viral outbreaks often pose a serious threat to public health. Some examples include the emergence of dengue, measles and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
Currently, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is rapidly spreading in different countries. COVID-19 is caused by a new strain of coronavirus. Although the disease has a low fatality rate compared to the flu or tuberculosis, healthcare professionals note that a healthy immune system is the body’s first line of defense.
Luckily, there are natural ways to fortify the immune system. For instance, eating a balanced diet ensures that the body receives important nutrients. However, boosting the immune system requires more than just eating the usual foods.
Here are some superfoods with potent anti-viral properties that can help your immune system defend against viruses:
Garlic is a powerful anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent. It fortifies the immune system against mild infections, like the common cold, by stimulating the production of white blood cells. Its anti-viral properties also allows garlic to help fight different viruses, such as the influenza viruses that cause the flu and the rhinoviruses that cause the common cold.
Shiitake mushroom can also boost the immune system because it contains high amounts of beta-glucans, which are found in the cell walls of bacteria, fungi, yeasts and algae. Beta-glucan supplements are commonly used to treat hyperlipidemia, hypertension and canker sores. However, recent studies have shown that beta-glucan also has anti-viral effects against influenza, swine flu and hepatitis.
Elderberries are commonly used to relieve symptoms of the flu. They also possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that strengthen the immune system. Elderberries may also be effective against viral infections caused by the herpes simplex virus and HIV.
Many sprouts, like mung bean sprouts and broccoli sprouts, provide the body with high amounts of essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Mung bean sprouts, in particular, also possess powerful anti-viral and antibacterial properties. Meanwhile, broccoli sprouts have been shown to enhance anti-viral host defense responses, thanks to the activity of a compound called sulforaphane.
Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, tangerines, grapefruits, limes and pineapples, contain high amounts of vitamin C. This vitamin is essential to many body functions, including metabolism, bone development and cell repair. It also plays an important role in fortifying the immune system against diseases and viral infections. Many green, leafy vegetables contain vitamin C. These include chili peppers, thyme, parsley, spinach, kale and broccoli. (Related: Chinese doctors study vitamin C for treating coronavirus infections.)
This aromatic herb is used in traditional medicine to boost immunity, relieve muscle pain, improve memory and stimulate hair growth. Rosemary contains a plant compound known as oleanolic acid, which can also be found in olives, garlic and brush cherries. Aside from its antioxidant and antibacterial effects, oleanolic acid has potent anti-viral effects against the herpes simplex virus, HIV, influenza and the hepatitis A virus.
Plain, unsweetened yogurt is rich in probiotics that improve digestion and promote a healthy gut. Some strains of probiotics also possess anti-viral effects against respiratory viruses.
Many herbs possess anti-viral properties that fortify the immune system against infections, such as:
- Oregano – Oregano contains an anti-viral compound known as carvacrol. This compound is highly potent against the murine norovirus, a highly contagious virus that causes stomach flu in humans.
- Sage – Sage is an aromatic herb that may also be used to treat viral infections thanks to the naturally occurring chemical known as safficinolide.
- Basil – Basil contains the plant compounds apigenin and ursolic acid, which are potent against the hepatitis B virus, the herpes simplex virus and enteroviruses.
- Lemon balm – Lemon balm contains plant compounds that have anti-viral effects against bird flu.
Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) is a unique plant compound found in green tea leaves that has anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. Green tea is known to be potent against HIV, the herpes simplex virus and the hepatitis B virus.
Common kitchen herbs, spices and ingredients have powerful antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-viral properties that protect the body from infections and diseases. Boost your immune system by including these foods in your recipes, drinks and snacks.