Let’s make this clear: no one is invincible. But that being said, these days especially, we’re taking every practical precaution to strengthen our immune system, starting with what we eat. Whole, plant-based foods not only help heal, but prevent illness, and some plants perform double-duty by enhancing our beauty from the inside-out. Next time you’re at the farmers’ market—or even your local grocer—fill your reusable shopping bag with these essential, immunity-boosting, beautifying plant foods.
This floral root has been used as a cold-healer for centuries, but it also has the power to enhance our skin. A high-antioxidant food, ginger fights free radicals and strengthens our immune system against would-be invaders. To unleash the full effects of this flu-fighting spice, incorporate fresh ginger into your diet every day. Try blending it into your smoothie or sauteéing minced ginger to create a flavorful sauce. Fresh ginger can also be used topically to improve skin elasticity and lessen white marks left by scarring. Look for skin products that contain ginger or rub a peeled root onto a scar daily to reduce the severity over a few months.
It’s all about the beta carotene and vitamin C. Beta carotene not only supports healthy vision, but it also helps to brighten eyes—something we could all use during stressful times of worldwide health scares. This micronutrient also ushers in a natural glow to skin and promotes healthy hair. On the immunity side, vitamin C has been touted for its cold-prevention properties, and like other foods on this list, the antioxidant count in carrots kick colds to the curb. Munch on raw carrots with salsa or hummus, or cozy up to a warm, nourishing bowl of carrot ginger soup.
Of all the immunity and beauty-boosting foods on this list, there’s no doubt this one is our favorite. Raw cacao is one of the highest antioxidant-rich foods on the planet, which makes it the star of our inflammation-fighting and immunity-strengthening superfoods. You’ll also find cacao as an ingredient in skincare products. It’s known to balance complexion, promote a dewy, natural glow, and protect against wrinkles. Incorporate this crave-worthy food into your daily diet by adding a scoop of raw cacao powder to your morning oats or enjoying a few squares of dark chocolate on occasion (70-percent cacao or higher).
Grab a handful of walnuts to promote long-term health. These omega-packed snacks offer healthy fats, protein, fiber, and anti-inflammatory properties that may benefit your day-to-day health as well as your overall wellbeing. Beyond combatting oxidative stress and inflammation, they have also been studied to promote heart and bone health. Beauty-wise, walnuts provide essential fats to keep skin cells plump and nourished, which results in an overall natural glow. The antioxidants also fight off damage and signs of aging. Pop a few while munching on trail mix or blend them with dates and a drop of coconut oil to make a healthy, beautifying raw pie crust.
Add some shiitakes to your stir-fry or sprinkle a generous amount of shiitake bacon onto your pasta—these fungi are preventative powerhouses. Mushrooms contain anti-inflammatory properties that combat the root of disease and keep you feeling fine. The vast nutrient and antioxidant count of shrooms also work wonders for your skin. There’s a reason so many mushroom companies are vying for market space. From Moon Juice to Four Sigmatic, these companies rely on the power of the (non-hallucinogenic) shroom to brighten and hydrate skin in addition to capitalizing on its anti-aging properties. Apparently, a mushroom a day keeps the doctor and dermatologist away.
Tanya Flink is a writer and fitness enthusiast living in Orange County, CA.