Foods That Boost the Immune System & Immunity
Below we have listed 15 foods that boost the immune system and help you stay healthy. These foods contain essential minerals and vitamins that boost immunity.
Oranges are a great source of Vitamin C which is known to strengthen your immune system (1). This nutrient is very effective in fighting the common cold and influenza viruses (2). It encourages the production of white blood cells that protects the body against infections (3). However, since your body doesn’t produce or store it, you need a daily source of vitamin C for continued health. That’s where Oranges come in. Not only they are healthy but also very delicious.
Garlic contains a lot of antioxidants that assist the immune system in fighting off colds and other pathogens (4, 5). Several studies have shown that Garlic helps in reducing the severity of cold and flu symptoms (6, 7). Furthermore, garlic is also able to keep your cholesterol at a healthy level and can lower the chance of developing other problems like high blood pressure (8, 9).
Almonds are an excellent source of Vitamin E. Many people might be unaware of it but Vitamin E is essential to a healthy immune system (10). It is considered as one of the most powerful immunity boosters, especially in older individuals (11). Almonds are not only very high in Vitamin E but they also contain a high amount of healthy fats which helps in the proper absorption of this fat-soluble vitamin (12). You can get nearly 100 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin E from a half-cup serving, which is about 46 whole almonds.
It seems to be some sort of unwritten rule that green foods are always healthy and broccoli couldn’t be a better example of that rule being true (13). Broccoli is packed with vitamins A, C, and E, as well as many other antioxidants and fiber. In fact, a half-cup (78-gram) serving of cooked broccoli boasts 84% of the reference daily intake for this Vitamin C, more than what one-half orange can offer. Vitamin C, in turn, helps boost your immune system against viral infections (14, 1, 2).
Mushrooms offer a lot of essential nutrients, but what’s most peculiar about them is that mushrooms are one of the only vegetal products that contain vitamin D (15). This vitamin strengthens your immune system by helping you combat different types of inflammation and by helping you reinforce your muscle strength (16). It’s especially crucial to eat a lot of mushrooms in the wintertime when your body doesn’t get enough sunlight.
6. Raw Honey
This may seem like the odd one out in this list of healthy food, but you shouldn’t underestimate the power of Raw Honey. Although it has a high sugar concentration, honey also has a high concentration of antioxidants, which enables you to fight off bacterial and viral infections (17, 18). The phytonutrients in honey are responsible for its antioxidant properties, as well as its antibacterial and antifungal power (19). Raw honey has also shown anticancer benefits (20). Additionally, honey is often used for its soothing property and ability to help treat laryngitis.
It should be stressed that vitamin D is crucial for an efficient immune system (16), and salmon contains high vitamin D concentration. One 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of farmed Atlantic salmon contains 526 IU of vitamin D which is 66% of the recommended daily intake (21). Besides that, salmon is a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids that help in fighting autoimmune diseases and lowers inflammation (22, 23, 24). Salmon is a fish that’s just brimming with proteins and minerals to keep you healthy and strong!
8. Red Bell Pepper
Red Bell Peppers are very high in vitamin C. In fact, red bell peppers contain twice as much vitamin C as oranges, and are low in sugar content (25). Besides vitamin C, they are also high in beta carotene which helps improve eye health (26). To get the maximum benefit, Stir-fry or roast them as these methods preserve the nutrient content of red bell peppers a lot better than steaming or boiling (27).
9. Sweet potato
Sweet potatoes, especially Orange-fleshed, are one of the richest sources of beta-carotene, a plant-based compound that is converted to vitamin A in your body (28). Vitamin A is critical to a healthy immune system (29, 30). Vitamin A deficiency is linked to increased gut inflammation which reduces the ability of your immune system to respond properly to potential threats (31). Besides vitamin A, Sweet potatoes also contain high doses of Vitamin B1, B6, C and minerals like magnesium, copper, calcium, iron, potassium, iron and phosphorus. With this great assortment of nutrients, sweet potatoes are definitely a must to strengthen your immune system and keep the wrong kind of bacteria away!
Continuing with the green vegetable trend, spinach is a big contender for the healthiest food title (32). Not only does this vegetable contains high amounts of vitamin c and other important antioxidants, but it also contains beta-carotene. As mentioned earlier, this nutrient is very important when it comes to your immune system because it helps in fighting infections and even fortifies it (29, 30). Besides that, Spinach also contains a compound called Quercetin which has antiviral properties against flu (33). Consuming spinach will make it a lot more difficult for pathogens to make you sick or even enter your body.
When it comes to ways to improve your immune system, ginger often is considered to be some kind of wonder drug because of its many healing powers (34). People often regularly add ginger to their diet when they are sick for a number of reasons and just like honey, ginger is used by many people when they experience irritation and pain in their throat. A big reason for this is ginger’s ability to soothe the throat. It is also very effective against the oral bacteria linked to inflammatory diseases in the gums, such as gingivitis and periodontitis (35), and may also be effective against the RSV virus, a common cause of respiratory infections (36). Besides its positive effect on your overall immune system, ginger can also help lower LDL cholesterol levels (37).
Turmeric is an orange, spicy herb that a lot of people have on their shelf and can truly add spice and color to almost all of your dishes. However, people often overlook the fact that turmeric has a lot of healing and immunity-boosting qualities too (38). For example, turmeric can help you fight bacterial infections and is able to have an outspoken anti-inflammatory effect (39, 40). Besides that, it also has a soothing effect on your stomach, so it’s a great idea to add turmeric to your diet when you’re experiencing stomach pain, nausea or something similar. Also, Curcumin, the compound in turmeric which gives it its distinctive color, can help decrease exercise-induced muscle damage (41).
13. Chicken soup
It’s not uncommon for people to bring chicken soup to their loved ones when they are sick and there is a good reason for that. Chicken soup is known to help improve symptoms of a cold, has anti-inflammatory and keeps your body hydrated. Moreover, Chicken soup is high in Vitamin B6 which plays a vital role in boosting the immune system (42). Also, Stock made by boiling chicken bones contains a compound called chondroitin which is known to lower inflammation and helps in the treatment of Osteoarthritis (43).
Not only are blueberries delicious, but they also are high in antioxidants that your body needs to fight off diseases and infections (44, 45). One such antioxidant present in Blueberries is the flavonoid called anthocyanin which is known for its immunity-boosting properties, especially against upper respiratory tract infections like common cold (46). Blueberries also have an inhibitory effect when it comes to cells that are programmed to destroy our immune systems, which further decreases your chances of getting sick (47).
Last, but not the least, there’s the kiwi, a fruit that unquestionably deserves to be on this list. Kiwis contain a lot of nutrients like folate, potassium, vitamin K and of course, vitamin C. Because of a high amount of vitamin C, kiwis can help boost your immunity and fight off infections (14, 1, 2). Besides that, it’s also recommended to eat kiwis when you’re experiencing problems with your digestive system because kiwis are known to relieve constipation (48).
If you’re feeling down or don’t have a lot of energy, try eating these foods to improve your overall health. However, you should always keep in mind that exercise and proper sleep are equally crucial to boost your immune system.