Just like the human body, plant-based foods have their own built-in defense mechanisms. When humans eat certain foods with these defenses, the body can actually ingest and invest in those same defenses. This is why current health trends boast hot topic words such as antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-fungal. Yet, besides the implication of cold-fighting properties, do we really know what these terms mean? Beyond simply understanding the terms, do we know how these substances work in the human body, where to obtain the best sources of them, and what the best way is to ingest them?
If you already know the answers to this question, then you’re far ahead of the rest of us! If you don’t, read on further to find out.
Antiviral refers to a property that fights viruses. So, let’s start our education of antiviral by unpacking what a virus is and how natural antiviral foods can help fight it.
What does Antiviral Mean?
Viruses cause diseases, some serious and some not so serious. They are “tiny package[s]” of DNA or RNA “jacketed in a protein covering.” The only goal of a virus is to create more viruses, which is exactly what happens when a virus infects a cell. Once the infected cell dies, it releases all of the newly created viruses that go on to infect more cells, and so on and so forth.
While the human body is designed to fight viruses on its own, medicine has advanced to help fight viruses with specially devised medicines called antivirals. There are many natural products being used to create ever newer and more effective antivirals, yet what if we simply consumed the antiviral product in its natural food state? This is the idea behind ingesting foods with antiviral properties.
Foods with Antiviral Properties
While there are certain foods that have antiviral properties — kale, spinach, brussels sprouts, and cabbage, to name just a few — some of the most effective antivirals are in the form of herbs. Antiviral herbs actually work to “inhibit the development of viruses.” While antiviral herbs boost the immune system and fight viral infections, they also benefit your cardiovascular health, decrease inflammation, and help support your digestive system. On top of that, aside from any allergies, antiviral herbs are safe and rarely have any side effects. Top ranking antiviral herbs include elderberry, Echinacea, garlic, ginger, calendula, licorice root, and oregano.
You may have been doing a lot of reading about good bacteria called probiotics. This is a hot topic that has swept through the research, medical, and health fields with veracity. So, when people are purposefully filling their guts with probiotics (healthy bacteria), why would you want to ingest an antibacterial food?
What does Antibacterial Mean?
It all comes down to balance.
Your gut is a teeming environment crowded with healthy bacteria, also referred to as gut microbiota and probiotics, as well as unhealthy bacteria. Unhealthy bacteria can cause all sorts of issues, such as infections, which is why your doctor may prescribe you antibiotics. While you should follow your doctor’s advice, it’s also important to understand the pros and cons. Antibiotics help to clear nasty infections caused by bacteria, yet those same antibiotics kill of the unhealthy bacteria as well as the good bacteria. This leaves your gut microbiota thirsting for more probiotics. On top of that, the more antibiotics you consume, the higher resistance your body develops making these medications less effective.
This is where foods with natural antibacterial properties can help out.
In the world of herbology, antibacterial foods are actually referred to as astringents, which means “natural blood cleansers.” By regularly consuming vegetables, fruits, and herbs with antibacterial properties, you’re giving your body the upper hand by boosting your immune system and naturally defending against bacterial infections.
Foods with Antibacterial Properties
An array of raw food products has antibacterial properties, while also feeding those healthy gut bacteria. The balance of both is what keeps you healthy and infection free! From sulfur compounds in onion and garlic to bacteria fighting enzymes in honey, these easy to come by foods are a must-have in every kitchen. Some of the most effective antibacterial foods include onions, honey, and an array of fermented foods such as sauerkraut and raw pickles.
Even if you’re familiar with antiviral and antibacterial, most of us haven’t heard of anti-fungal. Yet, this is actually the most straightforward of the three referring to medicinal substances that prevent fungus from growing. While anti-fungals generally refer to oral supplements or creams, many people are beginning to incorporate foods with antifungal properties into their daily diet.
What does Anti-Fungal Mean?
The term anti-fungal refers to medications that “limits or prevents the growth of yeasts and other fungal infections.” When paired with food, you get edible forms of anti-fungal properties. The need to invest in natural forms of anti-fungals stems from the lackluster anti-fungal medicinal drug options, which tend to be expensive, some of which have toxic compounds, and all of which are lending to the development of drug-resistant fungal strains. While it’s important to confer with your doctor if you suffer from a fungal infection, looking to incorporating foods with antifungal properties could be a great start towards better health.
Foods with Anti-Fungal Properties?
When it comes to antifungal foods, look to lots of flavors! Candida, one of the most prominent fungal infections caused by an overgrowth of yeast on the skin, in the mouth, and in the intestines, is treated with both medications and diet. The candida diet recommends a host of anti-fungal foods, a few of which include coconut oil, cayenne pepper, turmeric, lemons, limes, garlic, and ginger.
Cooking with Antiviral, Antibacterial, and Anti-fungal Foods
We know the terminology and we know the right food sources, know it’s time to implement these in the kitchen! Luckily, there are a few items that cross all three spectrums such as ginger and garlic. Yet, in order to get the full dose of natural immune boosters, look to the three levels of taste: herb, fermented foods, and spices!
Oregano Olive Oil Beet Chips/One Green Planet
Investing in an array of herbs in your kitchen is not only great for your body, but it also electrifies your dishes with fresh tastes. While some herbs are harder to come by — elderberry and calendula — others are sold at almost every grocery store, oftentimes fresh, such as garlic, oregano, and licorice root. Try a few of these antiviral-herb inspired recipes for easy to find herbs: Oregano Olive Oil Beet Chips, Raw Garlic Butter, or these Paprika and Oregano Polenta Fries. If you’re unable to find some of the more exotic herbs, try your hand at growing them in your own elderberry and calendula herb garden!
Simple Fermented Vegetables/One Green Planet
You’ve heard that fermented foods are good for you, yet incorporating them into your diet seems to be more of a challenge than anticipated. So, how do you go about getting your fermentation on? Fermented foods can be bought in-store or online, such as sauerkraut and dill pickles, for example. Fermenting food at home is also super easy! Try it out using these simple fermentation resources and recipes: The Master Guide of Materials You Need To Make Homemade Fermented Vegetables, Simple Fermented Vegetables, and 5 Fun Ways to Get Started Fermenting.
Healing Turmeric Golden Juice/One Green Planet
Using antifungal foods may be the easiest of the natural medicines to get. As stated, anti-fungal properties live within a host of foods, yet, in order to streamline and simplify your diet, I’ve focused on using highly flavorful anti-fungal foods. For instance, this recipe for Healing Turmeric Golden Juice incorporates not just one, but three antifungal properties of coconut oil, turmeric, and ginger. You can also go dessert crazy with these delicious lemon recipes: Raw Coconut Lemon Bombs, Lemon Squares, or these Lemon Cashew Tarts.
To begin your path on a diet filled with antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal foods we highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
Lead Image: Healing Turmeric Golden Juice