Cold and flu season announced itself to me this weekend, in the form of a sore throat/stuffy nose/general exhaustion, which inspires me to step up the quest to boost my immunity, to kick this virus and prevent future ones. So according to a new study, I should be eating more cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and bok choy.
Researchers found that these foods boost immunity by helping immune cells in the gut and skin, called intra-epithelial lymphocytes (IELs), to function properly. When they fed mice a diet low in these vegetables for two-three weeks they saw a 70-80% drop in levels of IELs. The mice then had lower levels of antimicrobial proteins and greater susceptibility to injury.
Near-term immunity aside, cruciferous veggies (which also include cabbage, kale and cauliflower) are probably the best thing you can eat—they're high in vitamins and fiber, low in calories, and contain compounds called isothiocyanates, which seem to stop cancer growth by removing a defective gene protein. It's still unclear whether eating cruciferous vegetables this week can boost your immunity to a cold or flu virus you experience next week, but since these veggies are so good for you anyway, it's definitely worth a try.