One of the most important things to keep on top of for preventing regular common illnesses is your immune system. Your immune system acts very much like the military, in that it defends you against foreign invaders to prevent disease and common illness. Immune fighting vaccines have been around for over two millennia, but it is now easier than ever to help strengthen your immune system yourself.
Having a strong immune system can inhibit colds, flus and infections and there are only a few ways you can boost your immune system. Getting enough sleep, managing stress, washing your hands regularly and partaking in regular exercise are a few ways you can improve your immunity.
However, a key thing to integrate into your daily routine is a healthy balanced diet of superfoods rich in immune boosting nutrients. There are many foods that have immune boosting properties from fruits and vegetables to teas and spices. Certain foods contain vital properties like vitamins, minerals and nutrients that work wonders for boosting and maintaining a strong immune system.
Adding a few of these a day into your diet can help inhibit future immune deficient illnesses and help treat existing ones.
Today, we will look at the 22 best immune boosting foods and how they benefit the immune system in our nutritionist list:
1 – Elderberry : rich in antioxidants to fight inflammation
Elderberry is a flowering plant fruit that is rich in antioxidants and vitamins that help boost your immune system. They work to fight off inflammation and lessen stress on the body, which are both huge causes of immune deficient infections like colds and flus.
In a study on 60 randomised individuals who have flu symptoms, all took 15 ml of elderberry syrup four times a day and saw flu symptoms clear up sooner than those who didn’t take it. Although elderberries can not prevent colds and flus from occurring, they can boost your immune system to help fight off the infections quicker.
2 – Citrus fruits : key for fighting infections
Most people instantly think of essential vitamins when they have a cold. They are great for fighting off viruses and flu symptoms as well as making you feel better due to their energising properties.
Citrus fruits such as grapefruit, oranges, lemons and limes are packed to the brim with vitamin C, the most essential and well known vitamin for their immune boosting properties.
Studies suggest that these fruits can quickly increase the production of white blood cells, which are vital for fighting off infections and bad bacteria.
Your body does not naturally produce or store vitamin C, so it is important to get in your daily dose to attain the recommended amount of vitamin C. It is easy to do so with a continued daily consumption of oranges, grapefruits or whichever citrus fruit is your favourite. You can eat citrus fruits fresh, add them to salads or squeeze them into your drinks. They are very versatile and one of the best foods for boosting immunity.
3 – Button mushrooms : it’s vitamins play an essential role in boosting immunity
Not to get confused with any other mushroom, the button mushroom is the one that holds many benefits for the immune system. It contains essential B vitamins which is great for boosting the immune system. Other benefits include its riboflavin and niacin content, which both play a role in maintaining a healthy immune system.
The reason button mushrooms are ahead of the other types here is due to its selenium content. Selenium is a compound the body needs to inhibit the flu and infections. If your body is low on selenium, you are more likely to catch a cold or flu. Eating button mushrooms often can help you get enough selenium to prevent any viral infections, colds and flus from occurring.
4 – Acai berry : rich in antioxidants
Acai Berry is fairly new to the health industry and is most popular for its amazing smoothie bowl recipes. However, adding acai berries into your daily diet is highly beneficial for your immune system, as well as being a delicious breakfast option.
Acai berries are rich in antioxidants such as anthocyanins, which are polyphenols that help build immunity and help protect it against infections and viruses. According to a study, polyphenols help regulate immune function and have anti-inflammatory properties. which can help reduce flu-like symptoms.
These delicious dark berries are also high in fiber and health fats, which are great for aiding digestion and getting rid of any bad toxins and bacteria in the body.
5 – Low fat yoghurt : helps regulate the immune system
Low fat yoghurt is easy to come by in supermarkets and should be added to your shopping list for its immune boosting benefits. Low fat yoghurts are typically labelled and easy to find and distinguish against full fut. Or, you can look for alternatives such as Greek yoghurt. Both are dairy products that are manufactured and sold as a product high in vitamin D.
Vitamin D helps regulate the immune system. Studies show that the vitamin can boost the immune system’s natural defence, which results in blocking the body from getting colds and infections regularly. Additionally, the research suggests that a lack of vitamin D results in immune deficient infections. It modulates the immune systems innate natural responses to fight off bad bacteria.
It is advised to eat plain unflavoured yoghurts as opposed to those with artificial sugars. Sugar and sweetener ingredients can decrease the effectiveness of the nutrients. If you would like to sweeten the yoghurt, you can add natural sugars such as fruits or honey.
6 – Watermelon : helps strengthen immunity with antioxidants
When a watermelon is ripe and ready to eat, it is packed full of an antioxidant called glutathione. This antioxidant doesn’t only boost your immune system but it helps fight infection.
Watermelon is naturally high in vitamin C too, which helps aid the absorption of iron. Iron helps regulate a health immune system and improves its response to foreign invaders. It does this by maturing the cells to react quicker to bacteria that enters the body. Mature cells can help determine good and bad bacteria much quicker than young cells.
Watermelon contains many benefits for boosting the immune system and one portion a day can provide enough glutathione, vitamin C and iron that you need to maintain a strong immune system.
7 – Wheat germ : delivers a good mix of essentials daily nutrients
Wheat germ is a small part of the wheat seed that may look small but it holds a lot of powerful immune boosting properties.
Not only is it rich in essential nutrients like zinc, vitamin B and antioxidants, wheat germ offers a healthy and balanced mix of fiber, protein and healthy fats. These nutritional groups are not spoken about much when it comes to immune boosting. Instead, most of the focus is on vitamins and minerals.
However, fiber aids digestion and encourages bowel movement which helps your body hold onto the good bacteria and flush away the bad bacteria. A healthy gut will mean your immune system will be provided with good bacteria, which is what it needs to stay strong and healthy.
8 – Sweet potato : helps defend the immune system against damaging free radicals
Another high in fiber food that provides similar benefits to wheat germ are sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are high in fiber which helps digestion and bowel movements and are also rich in two essential vitamins, beta carotene and vitamins A.
These vitamins work as antioxidants in the immune system to help lower the risk of immune deficient illnesses. Beta carotene is a carotenoid, an active antioxidant, that helps protect the immune system from damaging free radicals. These vitamins work as a barrier to block foreign invaders and inhibit colds and infections.
9 – Tea : packed with flavonoids
Teas are packed full of flavonoids, more commonly known as antioxidants. The most effective tea is green tea due to its high level of epigallocatechin gallate (ECGC), a powerful antioxidant. This chemical has been tested for its immune boosting properties. The study concludes that ECGC can help activate the immune cells and help them respond quicker to foreign invaders.
Black tea also contains ECGC, but the level is decreased during the fermentation process. The level is preserved is green tea as it is steamed and no chemicals are removed.
Green tea and black tea are best consumed without any added sugars, sweeteners or milk for the most effect.
10 – Spinach : packed with antioxidants
Spinach is not only rich in vitamin C, it is loaded with antioxidants that increases the strength of the immune system. When an immune system is boosted, it is more able to fight off viruses.
It is recommended to eat the spinach fresh and uncooked. Eating it this way means the spinach can retain all of its beneficial nutrients like vitamin C, beta carotene and antioxidants.
Although, if you do cook the spinach slightly, it’s vitamin A content becomes enhanced, which is a great anti-inflammation vitamin as it can protect the body from mucus buildup during colds and flus. Vitamin A is also great at enhancing the immune systems functions.
It is totally up to preference on how you like to consume spinach. Both ways offer nutrient benefits that can help boost the immune system.
11 – Almonds : provides a fat soluble essential vitamin
A vitamin that does not receive much nutritional attention is vitamin E. Although it may not be as effective or easy to source as other essential vitamins, vitamin E is highly worthy of mentioning for its effect on the immune system.
It is a fat soluble vitamin which means it requires fat in the system in order to absorb properly. Nuts like almonds are both packed with vitamin E and natural healthy fats, meaning the vitamin content can work hand in hand with the fat content.
According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, Vitamin E works to fight off invading bacteria and acts as an antioxidant helping to protect the healthy cells against damage from free radicals.
12 – Turmeric : rich in anti-inflammatory properties
All anti-inflammatory vitamins, minerals, foods and products could be considered beneficial for boosting the immune system. However, it is important and more effective to consume those that have rich and powerful anti-inflammatory properties, like turmeric.
Turmeric is a natural spice that can help enhance the immune systems immunomodulating capacity.
Research verifies this and states that turmeric and it’s main active compound, curcumin, are powerful in modulating the activation of T and B cells. These are essential functioning cells that work to enhance antibody response. This can speed up the immune system’s natural response to fight off foreign invaders. Turmeric is considered to be a therapy for immune disorders and is used regularly in foods and supplements for patients who suffer with long term immune conditions.
13 – Papaya : full of inflammation fighting digestive enzymes
Another food loaded with inflammation fighting properties is the papaya fruit. It is known for its extremely high vitamin C content, around 224 percent of your daily recommended dose in one fruit, which is beneficial for boosting the immune system.
However, the reason for papaya being great for boosting the immune system is due to them being full of digestive enzymes. These enzymes are called papain and work to fight off inflammation infections over the entire body. They are beneficial here as they can also help immune illnesses like sore throats and glands.
14 – Kiwi : helps white blood cells function properly
Kiwis are a fruit full of many nutrients and essential vitamins such as folate, potassium and vitamins K and C. Whilst all of these nutrients are great for the body and it’s overall health, vitamin C is once again the winner here.
The vitamin C content works collectively with the other nutrients to boost the immune system and it’s white blood cells. To fight infections, a high and healthy white blood cell count is vital according to the University of Rochester’s Medical Center. The white blood cells known as phagocytes work to eat up invading bacteria and organisms. The other type known as lymphocytes help the body keep a library of previous invaders to destroy them when they try to enter the body again. Both types of white blood cells work together to better control the immune response.
15 – Shellfish : packed with zinc
Zinc is an essential mineral for boosting the immune system. It helps the immune system fight off bad bacteria and keeps it strong. Regular consumption of shellfish and zinc products will help regulate the immune system to maintain its ability to defend against foreign invaders.
It is important to know that the over consumption of zinc can inhibit the immune system from functioning properly. So to intake the recommended daily dose the guidelines are 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women. For portion reference, one crab contains around 6 mg of zinc whilst a lobster contains around 3.4 mg. Not all shellfish are high in zinc but those that do include clams, crabs, lobsters and mussels.
16 – Sunflower seeds : an extremely powerful antioxidant and rich in nutrients
Although sunflower seeds may seem like a weak ingredient due to its size, it sure is powerful. They are packed full of powerful antioxidants and nutrients including magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin E and vitamin B-6.
It’s vitamin E content is actually the most powerful here. It is an antioxidant that plays an important role in regulating the immune system to keep it healthy and maintained.
A small portion of sunflower seeds a day can work effectively to maintain a strong immune system. You can add them to your breakfasts, smoothies or salads.
17 – Garlic : it’s rich sulfur content boosts immunity
Garlic is heavy in sulfur containing compounds such as allicin which contains lots of immune boosting properties. It has been used for many years to fight off infections.
Research shows that the sulfur content found in garlic helps balance your immune system. The active compound improves the resistance to viruses and toxic bacteria that enters the immune system. This results in a stronger immune system.
You can add garlic to any dish to add flavour and now you know, it also has many health benefits like boosting your immune system.
18 – Broccoli : supercharged with vitamins
To keep your body charged and healthy, vitamins are an essential nutrient you should consume daily. Broccoli is a staple vegetable packed full of vitamins like A, C and E which are all known to be great power sources for the immune system. Vitamins help recover your immune system if it is weak and will also defend the good bacteria against any bad bacteria.
It has been said that if you can, eat the broccoli uncooked to attain the most benefits. The cooking process weakens the nutrients inside that help boost immunity. If not, cook in a pan without oil until it is to your preference.
19 – Red bell peppers : extremely high in vitamin C
Some might turn to citrus fruits when they are in need of vitamin C. In fact, red bell peppers are higher in the essential vitamin by twice as much. Vitamin C is a natural immune booster and is commonly associated with fighting off the flu or viral infections.
Red bell peppers are also rich in beta carotene which is a good antioxidant for protecting your immune system against free radicals. Not only that, beta carotene has been found in a study to enhance immune cell function. It helps the cells respond quicker to bad bacteria which will protect the body from infections quicker.
20 – Ginger : decreases inflammation
Ginger has been used for many years as a home remedy medicine. It is commonly used to treat sickness and colds. This root plant is packed full of antioxidants which is great at kick starting your immune system and fighting off sore throats and swollen glands.
It’s antioxidants work most effectively for calming down existing symptoms, especially a sore throat. For many years it has been mixed with hot water and honey to make tea. You can also add ginger to curries or stir fry’s to spice up a dish. A daily dose will fight off existing or future virus inflammatory issues which is easily achievable in a drink or dinner dish.
21 – Chicken soup : high in essential B vitamins
Soups may seem like a traditional grandma recipe for fighting off the flu, but it does in fact have an effect. Chicken soup in particular has been crowned the best for boosting the immune system due to it being packed with essential B vitamins. B6 is a vitamin the body naturally lacks, but chicken soup and poultry is rich in it. This essential B vitamin works magic for getting rid of germs and infections.
Not only can chicken soup ingredients help fight off existing flu symptoms, they can also defend the body from getting the flu in the first place.
Chicken soup, thanks to its poultry contents, also contains an important chemical called carnosine. This chemical can protect your body against getting an immune deficient virus or infection.
A study shows that carnosine has immune regulating properties that increases the cell function in the immune system to provide a quicker response to bad bacteria. This process helps block free radicals and foreign invaders from entering and causing infections.
22 – Pomegranates : helps the body fight bad bacteria
Since the ancient Egyptian times, research has been investigating the use of pomegranate extract for treating infections.
Whilst most modern medicinal research for pomegranate focuses on the extract, the juice has also been reported to work wonders. It’s antioxidant properties help your body fight off bad bacteria, which is what causes a weak immune system to catch a cold, flu or infection. Drinking one juice per day will help flush away bad bacteria and may help keep it away.
For an insight into the immune system and the most important things to know and take away from this is answered for you below:
How can I increase my immune system quickly?
There is no simple way to boost your immune system in a day or two. However, partaking in all recommended steps to improve your immune system will gain results much quicker than partaking in just one.
For example, changing your diet and adding in the best immune boosting foods will help your immune system over time. Some may help immediately but cannot act as a strong enough source to block all foreign invaders. But, if you change your diet, get enough sleep, exercise and manage stress every day from now, the results will be much quicker and your body will benefit more from doing so.
No immune system is the same, so it will differ from person to person as to how much work and maintenance your immune system needs. Start with these foods and lifestyle steps as soon as you can as every little part will help.
What is the best immune booster?
80% of the immune system is in your gut, so feeding your body all of the right foods can be the best option. Food has more effect than regular exercise, so eating right would be considered a better option than partaking in just the lifestyle steps.
Everybody has a different immune system. Some may naturally have a stronger immune system than someone else due to past infections and lifestyle choices. Therefore, there is no single immune booster that can be crowned the best.
However, integrating more than one of the immune boosting foods into one dish will have more benefit than consuming just one. Feeding your body all of the essentials nutrients will keep your immune system strong and responsive.
What foods are bad for your immune system?
According to research, it is said that foods that lack essential nutrients and are also high in sugar are the immune system’s worst enemy.
Foods that increase the body’s natural blood levels are usually sugary foods such as processed foods, refined carbohydrates, alcohol and fizzy drinks. Avoiding any foods that are processed and high in artificial sugars and sweeteners are no good for the gut as well as your immune system.
Try to avoid sweet foods and takeouts in particular as they will contain the highest amount of sugar and refined carbohydrates. Instead, replace them with fresh produce and farm grown carbohydrates like sweet potatoes. Both are rich in essential nutrients that your immune system will benefit from.
Where else can I get immune boosting nutrients from?
Although it may seem that nutrients only exist in natural foods and drinks, there is a whole new market that can help boost immunity.
The supplement market is ever growing with hundreds of variations of essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs to fight off many illnesses and conditions, just like immune deficient illnesses.
Supplements that can help boost the immune system include zinc, garlic, licorice, curcumin, B vitamins and vitamin A, C, D and E.
These supplements are available as separate vitamins or as combined mixtures. For example you can purchase supplements that contain more than one immune boosting property, such as zinc with garlic and vitamin C.
Taking a supplement that contains more than one essential nutrient is as beneficial as eating a meal with more than one immune boosting food. It will provide more nutrients and help with strengthening immunity.
What are the signs of a weak immune system?
There are numerous things that can weaken your immune system. A lazy lifestyle that lacks good sleep, exercise, hygiene and food will severely weaken the immune system.
Signs of a weak immune from this kind of lifestyle will be high stress levels, a weak gut, fatigue, frequent infections and colds and abnormal inflammation. These signs and symptoms are quick to notice and for some, are regular occurrences that they take no notice of. It is important to recognise these symptoms and act on it to improve your immune system to inhibit future illnesses.
Are there home remedies to boost your immune system?
Home remedies exist for most mild illnesses thanks to the ongoing research and studies. For colds and flus, there are numerous home remedies that can help treat symptoms and speed up recovery.
Simple steps like sleep and exercise will help strengthen the body and in turn, strengthen the immune system. Keeping this up daily will encourage the immune system to recover from any existing conditions.
Similarly, the foods listed in this article would be considered the best home remedy you can provide your body in time of a weak immune system. Eating the foods and drinks listed regularly will improve immune function and help prevent or treat infections. In a 2017 review by Nutrients, it stated that certain vitamins like vitamin C are one of the most powerful home remedies to help boost immunity.
Now that we’ve listed our 22 best immune boosting foods and answered a few frequently asked questions about how else you can strengthen your immunity, let’s take a look at our overall thoughts and conclusion:
People around the world should all take note to change their diets. By adding in a few of these immune boosting for you won’t only benefit from having a healthier body, but your system will also block any bad viruses. Even swapping out bad foods for these good foods can help satisfy your needs and quickly help you make better diet choices.
Most foods are fruits and vegetables which are super easy to add into everyday dishes from breakfasts to dinners and drinks. For the more complex foods such as carbohydrates and fibers, these are great to add in once a day to bigger meals. All 22 foods contain beneficial nutrients that will provide you with a stronger immune system.
Not only will taking this advice and adding these foods into your diet help your immune system for now, it will change for the foreseeable future.
If you enjoyed the article, do share it with your friends and family and let us know what foods you will all be trying from the list to boost your immune system.