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Health-tips: 6 Best Foods to Strengthen Your Immune System

When you are fighting an autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus or psoriatic arthritis, eating good foods can help your treatment.

One way to help an overwhelmed immune system is to follow a healthy and balanced diet , says Monica Piecyk, a rheumatologist at New England Baptist Hospital in Boston and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. A healthy diet starts with fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It also includes dairy products with low fat and protein content.

Add to these special foods to boost your immune system:

Ginger

According to  a study published in 2014 in the journal Arthritis , Phytonutrients in Ginger Root have therapeutic benefits for people with rheumatoid arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation recommends grating one tablespoon or two of fresh or dried ginger and sprinkling over a salad or vegetables. Or prepare a cup of ginger tea by placing one or two teaspoons of grated ginger in a pan of hot water.

The  National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health  states that ginger is safe in small doses,  but beware if you are taking anticoagulant medications such as Coumadin (warfarin). Ginger, itself, can act as a natural anticoagulant, so inform your doctor before adding it to your shopping list.

beans

Red, pinto, white or black, beans should have their place in your anti-inflammatory arthritis diet and as a stimulant for your immune system.

Beans are also loaded with nutrients such as folic acid and B vitamins, potassium, magnesium and fiber , says Kim Larson, founder of Total Health in Seattle and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics .

Try a chili with three beans, or add the beans in your soups and salads. The Arthritis Foundation  recommends eating at least one cup of beans once a week.

Vegetables with dark green leaves

Dark green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach and Swiss char are important foods to boost your immune system and should be on your RA menu frequently, if not every day, says Larson.

They contain high levels of vitamins C, K, and folates, all of which are good stimulants to the immune system. In addition, the darker the leaf, the more antioxidants it has.  Antioxidants help keep you healthy by neutralizing free radicals, unstable molecules that your body produces every day and that can damage your cells.

Extra virgin olive oil

Two or three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil each day can boost the immune system because olive oil has anti-inflammatory properties and is a good source of antioxidants , says Larson.

Look for extra virgin olive oil, which comes from the first cold pressing  of olives and has the highest concentration of antioxidants.

Sprinkle steamed vegetables and salads with extra virgin olive oil and use in your recipes instead of saturated fats such as butter.

Fatty fish

Put oily fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines in your menu.

Fish oil meets two goals of good management of arthritis: It not only decreases inflammation, but can also stimulate the immune system, according to a study reported by the  Journal of Leukocyte Biology in 2013.

Green tea

Take green tea to boost your immune system.

A laboratory study published in  Arthritis Research & Therapy in 2014  found that polyphenol found  in green tea offers protective health benefits and can slow the progression of osteoarthritis, a common type of arthritis associated with aging.

But be aware that you will need to drink about eight cups during the day to keep your polyphenol level consistently high ,  according to the Arthritis Foundation .

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