15 Foods That Boost the Immune System

Over 70% of your immune system is in your gut and what you eat forms the foundation of your health. Let’s face it, those cute little munchkins are pros at spreading germs. Herbs like AHCC, Echinacea, Elderberry, Andrographis and Astragalus can help reduce the duration and severity of illness. Although foods high in vitamin C won’t stop your flu symptoms, eating them regularly may help prevent illness down the line. The saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” can actually be true as consumption of vitamins can boost your immune system. For centuries, berries have been used by Native Americans to treat infections like the common cold. To maximize their nutritional value, eat fruits and vegetables raw or lightly steamed; don’t overcook or boil. According to Routhenstein, probiotics protect the digestive tract, decreasing the chance of bacteria in the intestines entering the bloodstream.

Keep a gratitude journal. Downing fruit juices when you're under the weather will only lead to a blood sugar crash, making you feel worse. Ideally, Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium strains in amounts between 2–3 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) per day. Certain nuts and vegetable oils contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which can only be acquired through foods.

  • Other antioxidant “super foods” include prunes, apples, raisins, berries, plums, red grapes, alfalfa sprouts, onions, eggplant and beans.
  • When it comes to choosing your five-a-day, make sure broccoli becomes a firm favourite as it’s bursting with nutrients that are good for your gut.
  • Make a healthy “hot toddy” with hot chamomile tea, honey and sliced lemon.
  • Help protect yourself against infection and boost your immunity by including these nutrients in your eating plan.
  • Being strong, from the inside out.

How much lutein should you eat in a day: Of course, one of the best ways to keep yourself from getting sick is by getting your annual flu shot. A reduction in immune response to infections has been demonstrated by older people's response to vaccines. This study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that due to the antioxidant content in soy products, postmenopausal women were able to reduce inflammation in their bodies and boost their immunity. Drink more water.

Or, you could try making your own cinnamon roles with dairy-free cream cheese frosting following our step-by-step recipe here. The immune system and primary immunodeficiency, people who drink excessive amounts of alcohol tend to be at increased risk for infectious diseases, take longer to recover from illnesses, and have more complications after surgery. People who are malnourished tend to be more susceptible to illness and infection. It serves as protection against any foreign substances (say, like bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi) that may enter your body and cause harm. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient found in leafy greens and citrus, especially grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes, and clementines. You’re born with your immune system and everyone’s is slightly different, but there are certain things you can do to try to bolster it, says Julia Blank, M.

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. This flavorful spice is considered a superfood for a good reason. In a living animal, and especially in a human being, that kind of control is just not possible, since there are so many other things happening to the animal or person at the time that measurements are being taken. There seems to be a constant stream of articles in newspapers and on the internet suggesting that we can ‘boost’ our immune system by taking vitamins, minerals and probiotics, or by eating particular foods. Researchers found that zinc, in comparison to a placebo, significantly reduced the severity and duration of symptoms when taken within 24 hours of the onset of cold symptoms. When you have a cold, a little fennel is your friend. If there is one guarantee about your health, it’s that you’re going to get sick eventually. Maintain a healthy weight.

  • Should you bundle up when it's cold outside?
  • Green tea, on the other hand, is steamed and not fermented, so the EGCG is preserved.
  • Zinc appears to help slow down the immune response and control inflammation in your body.
  • Excessive sugar intake can increase inflammation, reducing the body’s ability to ward off viruses such as influenza.
  • It’s unclear if this is partly cause or consequence, but research does appear to support a goal of consuming about 200 mg per day for infection prevention.
  • Ready to power up?

Green Vegetables

This is a good thing when you have an infection," says Douglas Schar, director of the Institute of Herbal Medicine in Washington. "Blueberries contain a type of flavonoid called anthocyanin, which has antioxidant properties that can help boost a person’s immune system. How stress affects the immune system, but people taking steroids are warned that cuts and bruises may be slow to heal because of steroids' effects on the immune system. In a review published in the International Journal of Preventative Medicine, researchers summarized that ginger's potent anti-inflammatory properties were key in the root's powers to combat a cold or flu. While an all-around diet is the key to stronger immunity, these particular immune system-boosting foods and ingredients can keep you in fighting condition.

According to a 2020 review, curcumin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. In one study, British researchers gave 146 people either a placebo or a garlic extract for 12 weeks; the garlic takers were two-thirds less likely to catch a cold. Scientists believe that allicin may block enzymes involved in infections; some studies suggest that swallowing garlic may ward off colds. Chicken soup is a staple for surviving cold and flu season, and not just because the warm comfort food is a nostalgic throwback to mom taking care of you. Many people like soaking in Epsom salts and some lavender oil in the bath when they’re sick, and lavender tea is another great way to enjoy its benefits. Everyone should wash their hands regularly with soap, and carry hand sanitiser or wipes with them, especially while travelling.

And vitamin C is a powerhouse when it comes to immunity! Pineapple – High vitamin C - Contains Bromelain that aids digestion and has anti-inflammatory properties. The body can convert ALA into EPA and DHA, but it's more efficient to consume them in your diet. Animal-based bone broths could be the key reason as to why soups are great for you when you're suffering from sickness. Sleep is an important aspect of health. Make a smoothie. Nuts and seeds are also great sources of fiber, antioxidants and healthy fats, all of which are beneficial for health.

  • Good nutrition is essential to a strong immune system, which offers protection from seasonal illness such as the flu and other health problems including arthritis, allergies, abnormal cell development and cancers.
  • Ask your healthcare team if a probiotic supplement would be beneficial for you.
  • Allicin is thought to improve your immune cells' ability to fight off colds and flu, and viruses of all kinds.
  • The best way to get the omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA is by eating fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel.


For our purposes, this post will only discuss diet, but you can read the article here to learn about every component of a healthy immune system. But this crucial organ, covering an impressive 16 square feet, serves as a first-line fortress against bacteria, viruses, and other undesirables. Tomatoes are a great food to eat when you're sick due to their high concentration of vitamin C.

If we're drinking caffeinated drinks all the time (e. )It’s a natural tea that, like ginger, can help calm or sooth nausea or indigestion. In some cases, your body may need more probiotics than you can get from food. Cue the coughing and sneezing. Citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruit, are known for their high Vitamin C content. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is an example of this type of immune system disorder.

Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.


Immune 7 by Purica brings together the power of 6 different medicinal mushrooms to offer full-spectrum immune support. A 3-oz serving of lean beef provides about 30 percent of the daily value (DV) for zinc. Haas’ recommendation?

But adding foods that are rich into zinc into your diet is an incredible way to boost your immune system in a balanced way, Haas says. In many ways, mental health can also affect your physical health. Spinach may boost the immune system, as it contains many essential nutrients and antioxidants, including: Written by Katie Mitton.

Red Bell Pepper

Think balance, not a sudden overdose of vitamins, she says. It may also be able to fight the viruses responsible for the flu, gastroenteritis and polio. Check out this template for the perfect green smoothie.

(Try to soothe a sore throat and give your gut a boost of probiotics.)

There are a few science-backed approaches you can take to boost your immune system, most of which are recommended for overall wellness: Crushing the garlic and allowing it to stand for 10 minutes prior to cooking can also help increase its immune-supportive effects. These foods are known to supercharge your immune system, which is your body's defense against infection and illness. The researchers noted that another trial involving children ages 6. Researchers have linked health benefits to these complex antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables.

Talk to your healthcare team if you notice any of the following signs of malnutrition:
  • A group of Canadian researchers that has reviewed hundreds of medical studies on the subject and conducted some of its own research concludes that there's no need to worry about moderate cold exposure — it has no detrimental effect on the human immune system.
  • Certain foods may be helpful for boosting the immune system and preventing colds and the flu.
  • Vaccines contain harmless versions of the bug you want to protect yourself against so that the acquired system can remember them and act more quickly the next time it meets them.
  • For something different, try this Breakfast Macaroni and Cheese with eggs!
  • Most immunizations are vaccines given as a shot or series of shots.
  • And as that’s a fairly difficult thing to show off at a dinner party, it’s probably not worth the investment.
  • Staying hydrated can help loosen trapped mucus, according to The Mayo Clinic.

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However, he anticipates a COVID-19 vaccine will take six to 12 months to become widely available. Include a protein source with every meal and snack. The antioxidants in matcha are beneficial in strengthening the immune system; green tea keeps the immune system running normally.

  • Peel oranges, lime and lemon.
  • Be wary of foods that are infused with probiotics , though.
  • What exactly is natural immunity?
  • You can make your own ginger tea by grating fresh ginger and steeping it in hot water with some lemon.
  • While some people age healthily, the conclusion of many studies is that, compared with younger people, the elderly are more likely to contract infectious diseases and, even more importantly, more likely to die from them.
  • The advantage of being breastfed is the intake of protective antibodies you get from your mother.


Kefir (a yogurt-like beverage) is also a good bet. Your immune system also has the ability to recognize pathogens you’ve come into contact with before and mount a quick response. In one study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 276 healthy adults were exposed to the cold virus, then monitored in quarantine for five days. Not consuming enough vitamin A can lead to a deficiency, which studies link to a weaker immune system and a higher sensitivity to infections. Pairing these and other fruits and vegetables with adequate protein intake will help supercharge your immunity, says Smithson. Drink bone broth. And if you're already feeling really , taking adrenal support supplements like Ashwaganda can sometimes be helpful. A germ invades successfully and makes you sick.

So just keep the other tips in mind: Phytochemicals refer to a variety of compounds that give fruits and vegetables their color and flavor. Immune system juice boost and perfect jet lag remedy – kind earth. Not only is it the most festive smell around, cinnamon is great for your gut and immune system as a whole. Regularly eating probiotics, so-called "good bacteria" found in foods like yogurt and sauerkraut, may help your immune system work better and improve digestion.

Alas, those probably aren't the best strategies, and we know we could be more strategic when it comes to throwing our immune systems a bone come flu and cold season. Steinbrenner, H. A Broccoli and Pear Salad with Ginger Yogurt Vinaigrette isn’t just delicious—it has cold and flu-fighting powers.


You could try mixing it with raw honey, which has similar properties. Vitamin a supplementation may cause immune system to 'forget' past infections: new research suggests that vitamin a inhibits trained immunity, leading to tolerance of the innate immune cells upon stimulation with mitogens, antigens. Stir-frying and roasting both preserve the nutrient content of red bell peppers better than steaming or boiling, according to a study on cooking methods. How much beta carotene do you need a day: I also love recipes such as my Immune-Boosting Chicken Soup or Super C Immune Boosting Smoothie that make me feel healthy and strong! A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that taking 50 milligrams of vitamin E daily helped cigarette-smoking men who were 65 years and older living in cities reduce their risk of catching a cold by 28 percent. With vitamin E, B6, and C, spinach brings a little extra germ-fighting power to your meals. You can also protect your body from the coughing and sniffles by loading up on these 30 immune-boosting foods.

Speak with a registered dietitian or your healthcare team before adding food sources of probiotics to your menus. Increased vitamin C requirements are observed in periods of stress for immune system support. When they’re immobilized, germs have “much easier access” to your lungs, she explains. This tutorial on how to peel garlic in 7 seconds makes it easier than ever to add garlic to your meals. Lemons are high in compounds called bio-flavonoids, which kill cancer-causing free radicals.

Be sure you chose a yogurt that is no more than 200 calories, 4 grams of fat or less, 30 grams of sugar or less and at least 6 grams of protein. It reacts to a problem by trying to flush out or burn out the invader and it’s this that can make us feel feverish or snotty. Although rich in a wide variety of antioxidants, fennel boasts particularly high amounts of selenium, a mineral that stimulates our body’s response to infection. Carrots are also rich in vitamins B complex for energy metabolic, C, D, E, K, fibre, potassium, iron, manganese, copper, iodine, silica, sulphur, chromium. Garlic contains allicin, a potent phytonutrient that is great for cardiac health. Combining turmeric with black pepper significantly ups curcumin bioavailability. Some examples of foods rich in Vitamin A includes sweet potatoes, broccoli, red bell peppers, and carrots.

He said people become "over-reliant" on supplements, and assume they can substitute a healthy diet for a pill.


Fire cider, with its garlic, lemon, raw honey, cayenne pepper and apple cider vinegar isn’t for the faint of heart. A stronger immune system is just one of 7 benefits of aerobic workouts. Smoking also increases the risk of other diseases such as heart disease. It helps improve symptoms of a cold and also helps protect you from getting sick in the first place. Pictured recipe: Adaptogens protect the body against various stresses, including physical, mental, and emotional—and yes, the immune system is protected there as well. Anti-Viral by Natural Factors is a potent tincture that includes Echinaceato help fight colds in a powerful way. Take probiotics and/or eat fermented foods.


If you are immunocompromised, avoid crowds of people. Anywhere from 1 ounce (30 grams) per day to a healthy handful is considered healthy, but because they are high in sodium you might want to refrain from eating the entire bag. The easiest way to do that? Control your blood pressure. Matcha is the most nutrient-rich green tea in the world. The pungent aroma comes from sulfur compounds, including allicin. People at risk: those with weakened immune systems, in autoimmune disorders, the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's healthy organs and tissues as though they were foreign invaders. Think shellfish (low calorie options like oysters, mussels, shrimp), legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans which are also high in fiber) and red meat (great in moderation). A truly healthy immune system depends on a balanced mix of vitamins and minerals over time, plus normal sleep patterns and a hefty dose of exercise.

 There's some evidence that vitamin C may be particularly helpful in boosting the immune systems of people under major stress. Following general good-health guidelines is the single best step you can take toward naturally keeping your immune system strong and healthy. Packed with vitamins A, C, and E, as well as many other antioxidants and fiber, broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables you can put on your table. She explains that the best way to reap the benefits of allicin is to consume garlic raw since it is released when the raw food is cut, chopped, chewed or crushed.

They also help maintain the health of your gut’s lining, which may help prevent unwanted substances from “leaking” into the body and provoking an immune response. Can you boost your immune system against the coronavirus (covid-19)? While it's highly unlikely you'll get too much in the way of vitamins from food sources, fat-soluble vitamins — vitamin A, D, E, and K — can be harmful in high doses . Beta carotene is a source of vitamin A. It can also be harder for a malnourished body to fight off an illness or infection if one is contracted.

The Bottom Line

What is known is that the body is continually generating immune cells. Probiotics are considered the “good” bacteria in your gut. Berries also contain good amounts of vitamin C, which adds to their immune-boosting properties. Although supplements containing high doses of antioxidants and other nutrients found in whole foods are often touted as natural immune-boosters, some research indicates that taking dietary supplements may have limited benefits for the immune system. Immune discovery 'may treat all cancer', natural killer (NK) cells:. You can take a zinc supplement or try eating oysters, eggs, mushrooms, chicken, pumpkin seeds or cashew nuts more regularly. To try and help keep everyone healthy and germ-free, we continually emphasize to our patients that their diet plays an important role in the strength of their immune system. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health , garlic may also help lower blood pressure and slow down hardening of the arteries. 6 million flu illnesses are estimated nationwide so far this flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

  • Pass the guac!
  • Green tea contains only a small amount of caffeine, so people can enjoy it as an alternative to black tea or coffee.
  • “Dieting and overexercising can run us down and negatively impact the immune system,” she says.
  • Derived from the leaves and flowers of oregano, which you would use in your cooking, oregano oil comes in tincture and extract form to help boost your immune system.
  • Since yogurt is a great source of probiotics, it often tops the list of immune-boosting foods.

Reach for Elderberries

Listen to your body. Eat these foods to boost your immune system – sheknows. Try these omega-3-rich foods: While the flu vaccine can help prevent the flu or weaken its impact, an immunity-boosting diet is also beneficial.

“Fruits and veggies help arm your body with antioxidants it needs to fight oxidative stress, which includes contracting a sickness, in your body,” she says.

Elderberry is also high in flavonoids. There is still much that researchers don't know about the intricacies and interconnectedness of the immune response. It’s loaded with healthy medium chain fatty acids, is beneficial for our metabolism, can be used as a beauty product for healthier hair and skin, and now you can add “immune-boosting” to that list of benefits.

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Adopt healthy habits for the whole family and drink more water! To keep your stress in check, practice yoga, meditation or deep breathing in your regular routine. Primary immunodeficiency, antibiotics are prescribed more than 154 million times a year for anything from a wound to an ear infection. Vitamin B-6 is an important player in many of the chemical reactions that happen in the body. Almost every mother has said it: You can get other forms of iron in beans, broccoli and kale. It can be used for cooking and as a replacement for butter in recipes.

Fish and shellfish Getting adequate selenium (plentiful in foods like oysters, lobsters, crabs and clams) increased immune cell production of proteins called cytokines in a British study of 22 adults. She also said vitamin C, omega 3 and zinc are essential. Ideally, when this happens, your immune system will step in and protect your body from disease-causing germs. Plant-based protein sources such as nuts and seeds also provide antioxidants, while meat, shellfish, and legumes supply zinc, the mineral that helps maintain immune cells and heal wounds. Elderberry benefits are numerous, however, the remedy may interact with certain prescription medications. These veggies are top sources of beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. Dish up a parfait.

Oily fish such as salmon are effective in reducing inflammation because they contain omega-3 fatty acids. Research confirms that probiotics are the healthy bacteria your body needs that will also boost your immune system. That’s why it’s important to take steps to improve your immunity. Yellow bell peppers contain even more. Sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene, which studies have shown to increase the number of white blood cells and increase the activity of killer cells. With such a variety to choose from, it's easy to get your fill. Your adrenal system is intricately linked with your immune system.

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Oats are a great source of selenium and zinc, two key ingredients for a hardy immune system. Don’t like water? If you're looking for ways to prevent winter colds and the flu, your first step should be a visit to your local grocery store. However, the researchers noted that more studies need to be conducted in order to fully validate vitamin E's potential in preventing colds. Top a baked sweet potato with nuts or seeds, and munch on carrots with healthy dips, like nut butter or tahini.

Your immune system maintains homeostasis by defending against viruses and bacteria which can cause inflammation in the body, illness and disease. Ahead,12 tasty foods that boost your immune system without sacrificing the integrity of your comfort-craving taste buds this season. More great ideas include these Flourless Sweet Potato Blender Muffins or this Sweet Potato and Apple Soup.