How to improve your immune system: 5 superfoods in Singapore

Now more than ever, people are conscious of maintaining their health and their immunity. The good news is that we can all be proactive by choosing a balanced, nutritious diet – with an extra boost through superfoods. Superfoods are healthy foods to eat, charged with high nutrient profiles that deliver exceptional benefits. You don’t need to go out of your way for exotic, expensive ingredients either: plenty of everyday Asian favourites are excellent foods for the immune system.


Turmeric is known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

1. Turmeric

An essential ingredient in our beloved curries, and a trending ingredient in golden lattes, turmeric is a power spice. The health benefits of turmeric and its most important compound, curcumin, have long been acknowledged in Ayurvedic medicine – practitioners believe it strengthens the energy of the whole body. Across Asia it has been used as an antibacterial agent for years and the rest of the world is catching on. The New York Times reported that sales of turmeric supplements reached $328 million in the United States in 2018.

In a study published in the scientific journal Foods, researchers confirmed that turmeric has a multitude of health benefits, with significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects – oxidative damage is believed to be the cause of many diseases, while inflammation has been linked to the development of chronic illnesses such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. According to the same study, even a relatively low dose provides health benefits – but the catch is that turmeric isn’t as effective when eaten on its own. The trick is to eat it with black pepper, which researchers say increases its absorption by 2000%. Curry night it is.

2. Durian

Beloved in Singapore, but perhaps the world’s most polarising fruit, durian certainly packs an aromatic punch – but it’s also incredibly rich in nutrients. Folk wisdom warns us against its “heatiness”, but the King of Fruits is rich in iron, copper and potassium that support bone health. It’s also a good source of the essential amino acid tryptophan, which increases melatonin levels, so eating durian may support better sleep. According to a review of the health benefits of durian published in Food, durian is rich in polyphenols, with antioxidant potential, and has probiotic effects, which boost immune function and healthy gut flora. In Malaysia and Indonesia, tempoyak, made from fermented durian, is a classic condiment mixed into sambals and used in curry dishes – and contains beneficial lactic acid bacterium. Indulging your durian obsession when it’s in season could be doing you a world of good.

3. Ginger

The health benefits of ginger are well proven. Your mother probably gave you ginger when you were feeling ill, and many of us reach for it intuitively when feeling under the weather or a little queasy. A review of the health benefits of ginger published in the International Journal of Preventative Medicine confirms what we’ve known all along – it improves gastrointestinal health and can alleviate nausea, but also possesses strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Its potent compounds gingerols, shogaol, and paradols have been explored for their anticancer potential. Another ginger benefit? Along with its natural partner in many Asian dishes, garlic, it is proven to inhibit the growth of bacteria, and, as a result, lowers the risk of infection.

4. Chicken soup

Across many cultures around the world, you’ll find a chicken soup to cure all ills, from Greek avgolemono to Chinese chicken herbal soup, to the recent trend for bone broths amongst the health conscious. A study conducted by researchers from the Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Section of the Nebraska Medical Center, US, found chicken soup really does have medicinal benefits. Using variations on a chicken and vegetable soup recipe, they discovered anti-inflammatory reactions that help reduce the effects of upper respiratory tract infections and the common cold. Next time you feel a cold coming on, a homemade chicken rice with soup or a simple broth loaded with superfood ingredients such as ginger, garlic and turmeric might do the trick.

5. Rambutan

Perhaps a surprise superfood, rambutan is another nutrient-rich Asian favourite worth adding to the fruit bowl on a regular basis. This powerful antioxidant food supports immunity as it’s high in Vitamin C: just five or six rambutans will provide 50% of your daily requirement. As an antioxidant, Vitamin C helps the body fight against free radical damage and oxidative stress that contributes to many chronic health problems. It also stimulates the production of white blood cells that help fight viruses and bacteria. Another bonus, the Vitamin C in rambutan will help your body to absorb iron, which is essential for transporting oxygen throughout your body. Well worth the effort of all that peeling – and, of course, it’s delicious.