They say you are what you eat, and that might be true, especially when it comes to immunity building. Our immune system is complex and influenced by several factors, including stress levels, sleep, exercise, and much more. However, a balanced diet consisting of a wide variety of vitamins and minerals can help your body ward off disease. Getting enough of these essential nutrients is especially important during cold and flu season and with COVID-19 still making the rounds. While they won’t cure you completely, healthy immune-boosting foods can help give you a much-needed boost. Here are 50 powerfully healthy foods for immunity building.
Oranges are especially high in vitamin C, clocking in at around 80% of your daily goal. This essential nutrient is crucial in supporting immune function, but it also helps produce collagen, reduce inflammation, and increase the body’s ability to use fat for fuel.
Research has shown that broccoli has the ability to switch on antioxidant genes and enzymes in the immune system. These enzymes then fight free radicals that cause damage to cells and open the doorway to disease.
Eating garlic can boost the number of virus-fighting T-cells you have in your bloodstream. In fact, a 2012 study found that taking garlic extract reduced the severity of cold and flu symptoms and helped the symptoms subside more quickly.
Ginger has been found to have antimicrobial potential, which can help in treating infection. Not only that, but it also has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties that help slow down the process of aging and reduce inflammation.
Popeye was on to something with spinach. The green plant is packed with plant compounds called chlorophyll, beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These nutrients are powerful antioxidants that boost your immune system and reduce inflammation.
A recent study suggested that almonds, specifically almond skins, could support immune system function. They’re high in essential nutrients, including calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, and much more.
Turmeric naturally increases the immunomodulating capacity of the body. Proponents of this spice believe it not only has the power to reduce inflammation, but it also helps give your immune system a little boost.
Kiwi contains vitamin C, polyphenols, and carotenoids, all of which work together to benefit the immune system. Also, a study in 2013 found that kiwi positively influenced biomarkers of stress and beneficial immune responses.
Your mom probably gave you chicken noodle soup when you were sick, and it turns out she might have been onto something good. Though a bit dated, a 2000 study found that chicken soup produces an anti-inflammatory effect that can help reduce the severity of the common cold.
Blueberries contain a compound called pterostilbene, which has been shown to enhance the activity of a “germ-fighting” gene in the body known as CAMP. This effect is even greater when combined with vitamin D.
Bell peppers contain even more vitamin C than citrus fruits, like oranges. Red bell peppers are your best choice out of the pepper family, as they contain more nutrients than green, yellow, and orange bell peppers.
Tomatoes are packed with a plant compound called lycopene, which can help protect your cells from damage. They’re also high in other essential nutrients, including potassium, vitamins B and E, and more that work together to keep the immune system in check.
Salmon is rich in long chain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been found to suppress inflammation as well as boost the immune system. It also contains a powerful combination of nutrients, including astaxanthin, selenium, zinc, and vitamin D.
Cocoa is rich in polyphenols, which help it boost the immune system, in particular the inflammatory and systemic immune response. Dark chocolate is the best way to get your fill of cocoa because it has very few additional ingredients.
Olive oil is renowned for its high nutritional quality and its composition of fatty acids, vitamins, and polyphenols. The compounds give it the ability to combat chronic inflammation and boost immunity.
Eggs are loaded with vitamin A, vitamin B-12, and selenium, which are key to keeping the immune system healthy. Eggs also supply omega-3 fatty acids, which have been found to reduce inflammation so that the immune system can work more optimally.
Apples contain quercetin, a flavonoid which can help regulate the immune system. They also contain pectin, which a type of fiber that acts as a prebiotic to feed the good bacteria in your gut. Healthy gut health has been linked to a strong immune system.
Research has found that raw honey can reduce chronic inflammation. It also contains phenolic and flavonoid compounds that help boost the immune response, helping you get back on your feet more quickly after an illness.
Studies suggest that mushrooms support a healthy immune response, lower inflammation, and work to improve gut health, which improves the functionality of immune cells. They’re also high in vitamin D, which has been shown to keep your immune system healthy.
Rosemary is a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which help boost the immune system and improve blood circulation. It’s also a good source of iron, calcium, and vitamin B-6.
Yogurt provides various therapeutic and preventive effects due to its high content of lactic acid bacteria. A review of over 160 studies concluded that yogurt suggested the beneficial effects of yogurt boils down to the interaction of beneficial bacteria with the immune cells of the gut.
Fennel is high in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that helps maintain a healthy immune system. It’s also high in important vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin K, and folate that all work together to keep the immune system in tip-top shape.
Oysters might not be the first thing you think of when you’re thinking of immune-boosting foods, but they’re extraordinarily high in zinc, which seems to have some virus-fighting powers. Zinc helps create and activate white blood cells that give the immune system a boost.
Sunflower seeds are a great immune supporter due to their high content of vitamin E. They also contain zinc and selenium, which help increase your body’s ability to fight off viruses.
As an excellent source of vitamin C, papaya can boost your immune system and protect your body from infection. It’s also packed with potassium, antioxidants, and fiber, which help heart health to promote blood flow.
Elderberry extract has been used for centuries to fight infections and boost immunity. Additionally, two recent studies showed that elderberry extract shortened the duration of the flu by four days as compared to a placebo.
Acai fruit is packed with polyphenol and polysaccharides that help boost immune function. It has also been shown to increase the number and functionality of virus-fighting T-cells in the body.
Sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotene, which experts believe may help increase T-cell activity in the body. They’re also packed with fiber that feeds beneficial gut bacteria to improve overall gut health.
With plenty of vitamin C and other immune-boosting nutrients, pomegranates can help prevent illness and fight off infection. Studies have also shown pomegranates to be antimicrobial and antiviral in lab tests.
Wheat germ provides vitamins, minerals, and protein. It’s packed with vitamin E, which helps protect cells from damage, and magnesium, which keeps the heart, bones, and the immune system strong and working well.
Watermelon is packed with vitamin B6, which helps both immune and nervous system functionality. It’s also high in vitamin C, which is known to strengthen the immune system and aids in fighting off disease.
Strawberries provide a significant source of antioxidants, which have been shown to reduce the production of free radicals and help prevent disease. They’re also packed with vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.
Selenium is vital for the proper functioning of your body and has been linked specifically to enhanced immune function. Brazil nuts are a rich source of selenium, clocking in at around 96 mcg per nut.
Black beans are an excellent source of protein, which helps build your body’s cells, including those of your immune system. They’re also packed with folate, potassium, magnesium, and fiber, which work together to make sure your body performs at its best.
Cherries pack a powerful antioxidant and antiviral punch. They’re rich in flavonoids that help fight infection and boost immune system functionality.
Walnuts are packed with copper that helps maintain bone, nerve, and immune system function. It’s also high in vitamin B6, which works to strengthen the immune system and support nerve health.
Miso is Japanese for “fermented beans.” Fermented foods add beneficial probiotic bacteria and enzymes to your intestinal flora, increasing your gut health and giving your immune system a boost.
Another fermented food, kimchi works to improve intestinal health and, as a result, works to support the immune system. It also helps promote anti-inflammatory responses that improve your overall health.
Kale contains high levels of vitamin C, which packs a powerful antioxidant punch and helps fight off infection. This bright green plant also chock-full of folate, another immune booster.
Chia seeds are packed with dietary fiber, which plays a role in regulating the immune system and reducing inflammation. They also provide plenty of omega-3s, calcium, and phosphorus for a healthy body.
Chickpeas are an excellent source of zinc and copper, which aid the functioning of immune cells and boosts the overall immune system. Just one cup of cooked chickpeas provides 30% of the daily recommended amount of copper and about 17% of the daily recommended amount of zinc.
Rich in zinc, pumpkin seeds help boost the immune system. They’re also high in vitamin E and other antioxidants that help strengthen the immune system and maintain healthy blood vessels.
Cashews contain high levels of copper and iron that help support your body’s red blood cells and immune system. They’re also rich in heart-healthy vitamins like potassium and vitamin B6.
Carrots provide plenty of vitamin C, which helps the body fight disease. Studies have found that vitamin C may boost the immune system’s function when it is under stress and reduce the severity and duration of a cold.
Most well-known for its tart-sour taste, grapefruit is packed with vitamins C and A. Research shows that not having enough of these essential micronutrients can be detrimental to the immune system, especially among the elderly.
Hazelnuts contain a high content of the antioxidant proanthocyanidin, which helps prevent free radicals from damaging cells and causing disease. They’re also packed with plenty of vitamins, minerals, proteins, fiber and healthy fats that promote good health.
Chicken is high in vitamin B6. In fact, just three ounces of chicken contains half of your daily recommended amount. Vitamin B6 is important in the growth of new red blood cells that help support the immune system.
Lemons are high in vitamin C and potassium, making them a great source for boosting your immunity. Vitamin C helps fight off illness, while potassium stimulates nerve function and helps control blood pressure.
Pineapples help boost the immune system, build strong bones, and aid indigestion. They contain high amounts of vitamin C and manganese that fight cell damage and prevent disease.
Just one cup of cantaloupe contains 100% of your daily recommended value of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that protects your cells from damage. It’s also high in vitamin A, which helps keep your all of your systems working well.
Though it’s not a cure-all, eating healthy foods can help boost your immune system and ward off disease. When combined with healthy habits, like getting enough sleep and exercising, it can help you stay healthy during cold and flu season and even COVID-19.