If you’re looking for an immune system boost, the right vitamins and minerals can help. Although diet gets little attention in conventional media when it comes to supporting the immune system, it is one of the most powerful methods for keeping colds and other illnesses at bay. Nutrition isn’t the only means of immune system support but it is one of the oldest and most reliable natural approaches.
The 8 Best Foods for Your Immune System
The majority of your immune cells reside in your intestines, so doesn’t it make sense to consume healthy foods for keeping your immune system top-notch? Here are eight foods you can eat right now to boost your immune system.
1. Bell Peppers
Reach for all the bell peppers you want because they can actually have twice as much vitamin C as citrus fruits. In addition, bell peppers are a great source of beta-carotene, which not only helps maintain healthy skin and eyes but studies suggest they could also provide an immune system boost.[1, 2]
Citrus fruits are packed with vitamin C. Believed to increase the production of white blood cells, C is essential for fighting off infections. Since your body doesn’t produce or store this vitamin, load up on citrus to help keep your immune system up and running. Supplementation with the vitamin may be helpful, but it’s always best to receive the vitamin from its natural source.
Ginger is thought to work much like vitamin C in that it can even stop a cold before it starts. That said, it’s also a great food to reach for after you’re sick. Ginger can have a little heat due to the gingerol, a cousin of sorts to capsaicin — the stuff that makes chili peppers hot. It’s the “kick” of the gingerol that can even act as a strong soothing agent.
You can find this spice in many curries; it’s bright yellow in color, and a little bitter in taste, but it can definitely be pretty amazing for your health. While it’s already been used for its soothing capabilities for arthritis (among other things), high concentrations of curcumin — what gives turmeric its color — could also reduce fever.[4, 5] You can also take a supplemnt, like Global Healing Center's organic Turmeric Raw Herbal Extract™, which includes black pepper extract for maximum absorption of turmeric's curcuminoids.
With vitamin C, beta-carotene, and plenty of antioxidants, spinach is a perfect vegetable for your immune system. If you want to get the most out of it though, cook it as little as possible, or even keep it raw. But don’t stop at spinach; other leafy green vegetables are good choices as well.
Like spinach, broccoli is another great vegetable choice packed with antioxidants and vitamins. With vitamins A, C, and E, broccoli could easily be one of the healthiest vegetables you can put on your table. Just like with spinach, cook it as little as possible to retain its nutrients.
If you like yogurt, make sure you’re getting the full health benefit by eating the kind with live cultures. These cultures may strengthen your immune system. Yogurt can also be a great source of vitamin D, which can also help boost the immune system.
When your immune system needs a boost, vitamin E sometimes loses the spotlight to vitamin C, but both are crucial for a healthy immune system. Vitamin E is fat-soluble, which means fat is needed in order for it to be absorbed properly. You can get almost all of your daily allowance of this vitamin by reaching for a half-cup of almonds. How easy is that?
What food would you reach for if your immune system needed a boost? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.
- Hughes, D. A. Effects of carotenoids on human immune function. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 58 (3).
- Chew, B. P. & Park, J. S. Carotenoid Action on the Immune Response. The Journal of Nutrition. 134 (1).
- Grzanna, R. et al. Ginger—An Herbal Medicinal Product with Broad Anti-Inflammatory Actions. Journal of Medicinal Food. 8 (2).
- Jagetia G. C, & Aggarwal B. B. "Spicing up" of the immune system by curcumin. Journal of Clinical Immunology. 27 (1).
- Sultana, G. N. et al. Analgesic principle from Curcuma amada. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 163.
- Li, Y. et al. Exogenous Stimuli Maintain Intraepithelial Lymphocytes via Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Activation. Cell. 147 (3).
- Meydani, S. N. & Ha W. Immunologic effects of yogurt. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 71 (4).
- Aranow, C. Vitamin D and the Immune System. Vitamin D and the Immune System.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.