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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Boosting The Immune System With Berries, Buttons And More

By Sherrie Norris,

We are nearing the end of the first month of the New Year and it’s time for a resolution check. Still not smoking? Good. How about those double burgers —still bypassing the drive-through, I hope? Is your treadmill doing its job, instead of serving as a coat rack? It’s not easy, but we can do this together.

For several years I’ve been intrigued by folk remedies that have been passed down through the ages regarding foods that serve dual purposes. I have learned through the years that berries, mushrooms and more have been used to help boost our immune systems.

It’s usually this time of year when we’re trying to avoid the flu and doing all we can to prevent its spread. My goodness, in the midst of this “unprecedented pandemic,” the efforts of most us are intensified and flu is rarely mentioned.

We can use all the help we can get, so I invite you to take a look at some of the more common natural ways to boost our immunity while we’re working to improve our health.

The following suggestions are mostly “remedies” that have been passed down, so not all are medically substantiated. I’m definitely no medical professional, just an old country girl who believes that nature has healing powers.


Elderberry: Inconclusive test studies point to the idea that its extract appears to block flu viruses and may speed up flu recovery, as well as provide rich antioxidants while fighting inflammation.

Button Mushrooms: Containing mineral selenium and antioxidants, B vitamins, riboflavin and niacin, these mushrooms play a role in a healthy immune system. Studies indicate they have antiviral, antibacterial and anti-tumor effects.

Acai Berry: The dark color of this “super food” signals high antioxidants which may help fight aging and disease; found most often in juice or smoothie form, or dried and mixed with granola.

Oysters: Aphrodisiac? Immune boosters? Maybe both, thanks to the mineral zinc which appears to have some antiviral effect; thought to be helpful in the healing of wounds.

Watermelon: Hydrating and refreshing with the powerful antioxidant glutathione, helps strengthen immune system to fight infection.

Cabbage: Easy and inexpensive, any variety is great added to soups and stews to sneak in extra antioxidants and boost your meal’s nutritional value.

Almonds: Just a handful helps boost your immune system from the effects of stress. A recommended ¼ cup provides nearly 50 percent of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin E, which helps boost the immune system, and riboflavin, niacin and B vitamins, which may help with effects of stress.

Grapefruit: Good source of Vitamin C and packed with flavonoids, natural chemical compounds thought to increase immune system activation. Oranges and tangerines are thought to have the same affect.

Wheat Germ: Full of nutrients: zinc, antioxidants, and B vitamins among other vitamins and minerals. Offers a good mix of fiber, protein and some good fat. Substitute for part of regular flour called for in baked goods and other recipes.

Low-Fat Yogurt: A daily cup may reduce your chances of getting a cold. Look for labels listing “live and active cultures,” as well as Vitamin D.

Garlic: Offers several antioxidants that battle immune system invaders. Among garlic’s targets are H. pylori, the bacteria associated with some ulcers and stomach cancer. Peel, chop and let sit 15 to 20 minutes before cooking to activate immune-boosting enzymes.

Spinach: Another “super food,” nutrient-rich with folate which helps your body produce new cells and repair DNA; also a good source of fiber and Vitamin C, labeled an antioxidant and should be eaten raw or lightly cooked for optimal benefit.

Tea: Both green or black are loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants polyphenols and flavonoids that seek out and destroy cell-damaging free radicals. Caffeinated and decaf have equal benefits.

Sweet Potato: Contains antioxidant beta-carotene, which helps destroy damaging free radicals and vitamin A, linked to slowing aging process and reducing risk of some cancers.

Broccoli: An immune-boosting basic full of nutrients that protects our bodies, broccoli contains vitamins A and C and glutathione. Eating with low-fat cheese adds immune-enhancing Vitamins B and D.