What Are the Best Foods to Eat to Improve Your Immune System?

During the cold and flu season it is vitally important that we eat healthy and supplement correctly to boost our immunity. With this in mind we have created what we think are the best dozen foods to eat to improve and strengthen your immune system.

What Are the Best Foods to Eat to Improve Your Immune System?

What are the Best Foods for Boosting Your Immune System?

You’ve probably heard that Vitamin C and foods that provide it are good for helping you recover from a cold.

It’s not an old wives’ tale, it’s true and scientists know it.

That’s why many of the cold remedies you can buy over-the-counter are fortified with Vitamin C.

However, a strong immune system requires more than Vitamin C – a real immunity combination.

A lot of other nutrients support healthy immune function too.

Not all of them are vegetables or fruits and some of them don’t contain any Vitamin C.

12 Foods that Can Improve Your Immune System

Eating for good health never needs to be boring. It doesn’t have to feel like a chore.

There are plenty of nutrient-rich foods that can improve your immune system and help get you in the best shape of your life.

There is no priority.

The fact that broccoli and citrus fruits are first on the list does not mean they are the best foods you can eat to improve your immune system. They are just two of the best foods, nobody is saying they are the best of the best.

1.Broccoli

Did you eat your broccoli when you were a child? More to the point, do you eat broccoli now?

If you don’t you should because broccoli is one of the best immune system boosters ever to grace a plate.

Lots of people don’t like broccoli. It’s hard to understand how this can be. It’s a vegetable that tastes good and is quick and easy to prepare and cook.

A good source of natural fiber, broccoli is packed with vitamins and minerals, including iron, potassium, and the “ACE” Vitamins (A, C, and E).

Broccoli
Broccoli is not only great for beefing up your immune system but also getting rid of free radicals

Known to be one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet, broccoli is also an excellent source of antioxidants.

Antioxidants promote good health by helping the body get rid of harmful “free radical” toxins.

A lot of people tend to overcook their broccoli. That’s a mistake. Cooking broccoli too long robs it of nutrients. 

2. Citrus Fruits

Oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit—there are many citrus fruits and all of them are loaded with Vitamin C.

Vitamin C has many virtues. One of the things it appears to do is boost the production of white blood cells.

White blood cells play an important role in your immune response. Think of them as an army of white-hatted soldiers that fight any bacteria or viruses that invade your body.

When you are ill, your body produces extra white blood cells and the blood carries them to the areas where they are needed most.

Eating foods that contain plenty of Vitamin C is one of the best ways to improve your immune system. It makes it easier for your body when the time comes to rally the troops.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. Your body cannot store vitamins of this nature, you have to keep levels topped-up every day. Consuming citrus fruit is a very good way to do so.

Try having some grapefruit for breakfast and then snacking on a few easy-peel clementines or satsuma oranges throughout the day.

Drinking freshly squeezed orange juice is also a good way to boost your immune system by topping up with Vitamin C and the natural fructose sugars may give your energy levels a boost.

3. Red Peppers

Good as they are, citrus fruits don’t come top of the list when it comes to providing Vitamin C. Believe it or not, pound for pound, red peppers provide double the amount.

On an interesting side note, Vitamin C was first isolated by Albert Szent-Györgyi in the Hungarian town of Szeged. Paprika peppers were an instrumental part of his discovery.

Red peppers are also an excellent source of beta carotene. It’s the pigment that gives them their color. 

Red peppers
Red peppers are great for improving immunity

Beta carotene is a powerful antioxidant. It’s also a precursor to Vitamin A, which is often called the “anti-inflammation vitamin” because of the important role it plays in human immune function.

Red peppers also contain capsaicin. Studies show it can boost metabolism and help you to lose weight. That’s another big plus because obesity impairs immune function and makes you more susceptible to disease.

4. Ginger

There’s a lot to be said for spicing up your life with a little ginger. There are many things about ginger that make it a healthy food choice. Most people are aware it’s good for soothing upset stomachs and supporting healthy digestion, but did you know ginger reduces inflammation too?

Inflammation is part of the body’s normal immune response but there is no need to dwell too much on that here. All you really need to know is ginger is good.

A popular warming spice that can be added to many recipes or brewed as a tea, ginger provides gingerol. It’s a relative of capsaicin that appears to be capable of reducing chronic pain and may also lower cholesterol.

As you can appreciate, like most of the other foods you can eat to improve your immune system, ginger provides a multitudinous array of additional benefits as well.

5. Garlic

Hated by vampires but loved by people all over the world, garlic is one of the healthiest foods on the planet. People knew this many hundred years ago but didn’t understand why garlic was so beneficial for their health.

That was then, this is now. Research shows garlic is both anti-viral and anti-bacterial. 

Garlic
Garlic is not just good for keeping vampires away!

Garlic is very nutritious and, among other things, it’s a good source of Vitamin C.

However, garlic’s ability to fight bacteria and viruses is more likely due to its natural profusion of allicin but experts admit there is still a lot left to learn about the reasons why garlic is so good for the health.

6. Spinach

Spinach is Popeye-recommended. You can’t beat an endorsement like that, but the Popeye connection is not the reason we believe spinach is one of the best superfoods you can eat if you want to improve your immunity.

We chose spinach because it’s a good all-rounder that supports immune function in more than one way and is a good source of beta carotene and Vitamin C. 

Spinach also provides numerous antioxidants and is a very good low-calorie food. It’s also a versatile vegetable you can incorporate into your diet in many ways.

Raw spinach leaves are easy to add to salads and sandwiches. You can also cook spinach and add it to your plate as part of a meal. However, don’t cook it too long. Doing so can cause the leaves to lose a lot of their nutritional value.

7. Green Tea

You have to drink green tea instead of eating it but, in this article, we are going to consider it a food. Why? Because green tea is packed full of antioxidants known as green tea catechins. It’s one of the healthiest beverages in the world.

green tea
Green tea – essential!

The catechins green tea provides are very good for purging toxins from the body.

They also increase metabolism and help you to lose weight. 

In addition to these things, green tea provides L-Theanine. It’s an amino acid that appears to help your body manufacture cytokines.

These hormonal messengers are important to many biological aspects of the immune system including cell-mediated immunity and allergic response.

8. Yogurt

Yogurt is a healthy food option that requires no preparation. Just pull off the lid and you are good to go.

Yogurt is a source of Vitamin D, which helps regulate immune function and can also help you lose weight. However, not all yogurts are created equally.

If you want to improve your immune system, the best ones to eat are the ones that contain probiotic bacteria that encourage a healthy gut and improved immune system response.

9. Poultry

Lots of people start eating chicken soup when they are ill. It’s got a reputation for being capable of helping you get well. Plus it’s light on the stomach and there’s not a lot of chewing involved.

Eating chicken soup may also be a good way to boost immune function and ward off disease. Chicken, turkey, and other poultry are excellent for providing Vitamin B6.

Vitamin B6 can perk you up because it aids energy metabolism. That’s why it’s in so many energy drinks. 

You need to get plenty of Vitamin B6 because it aids white blood cell production. It also helps the body manufacture interleukin-2. That’s the protein that directs the action of the white blood cells.

If the white blood cells are a disease-fighting army, interleukin-2 is the commander in chief.

10. Shellfish

Shellfish are full of zinc. It’s an important mineral too many people ignore.

Zinc supports good health in a lot of ways. It helps our bodies to grow and regenerate. Zinc also helps keep the immune system strong.

Some people take zinc supplements to treat the symptoms of cold and research suggests children who take zinc may be less susceptible to upper respiratory infections.

Research is in its early days, but scientists are exploring the value of zinc as a possible treatment for herpes and HIV.

11. Sunflower seeds

Like poultry, sunflower seeds are a good source of the immune system-boosting vitamin, Vitamin B6. In addition to this, sunflower seeds are also rich in many other nutrients including magnesium, phosphorous, and Vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant).

Sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds are great immunity boosting food

Vitamin E is another nutrient that helps regulate immune system function.

Sunflower seeds make a great snack, but the biting though the shells and spitting them out can seem like a chore.

Some people actually relish the experience but it’s easy to avoid it. Certain manufacturers sell sunflower seeds that already have the shells removed.

12. Kiwi Fruit

If you thought Kiwi fruit was high in Vitamin C, you were right. A cup of sliced fruit provides just under 167 mg.

If you thought kiwi fruit was a good source of antioxidants you were right about that too.  Research shows the “naturally protective properties” of kiwifruit are involved in “modulating immune responses in a positive way”.

About Tony Jay

Tony Jay (CEO of AGJ Media, CPD certified in Diet and Nutrition) Tony is a fitness enthusiast, writer, and entrepreneur. He’s been active in the health and wellness industry since 2007 and firmly believes correct nutrition is the key to good health. A workaholic by nature, Tony uses power yoga to keep his mind sharp, maintain physical subtlety, and keep fit. LinkedIn