A strong immune system plays an important role in ensuring your health and wellness. It consists of organs, cells, tissues, and proteins that carry out bodily processes to fight off pathogens including viruses, bacteria, and foreign bodies that cause infection or disease. Did you know that there are certain foods that can boost your immune system? Having a well-balanced diet and incorporating specific foods into your daily meals can strengthen your immune system and contribute to your overall health and wellness. Here are 14 foods that can help you boost your immune system!

1) Citrus Fruits

Many people turn to vitamin C to help fight colds as it not only helps to build the immune system, but also increases the production of white blood cells which is key for fighting infections. Almost all citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, and because your body doesn’t produce or store it, it’s important that you include vitamin C in your daily meals. The recommended daily amount of vitamin C is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men. Luckily, there are several fruits that are high in vitamin C including grapefruit, oranges, clementines, tangerines, lemons, and limes. Papaya and kiwi are also rich in vitamin C, along with potassium and folate.

2) Red Bell Peppers

For those who would like to avoid the sugar that many citrus fruits contain but are still looking for foods high in vitamin C, red bell peppers are a great alternative. When it comes down to an ounce for ounce measurement, red bell peppers can contain up to 3 times as much vitamin C as some citrus fruits. For instance, red bell peppers contain 127 mg of vitamin C, while Florida oranges contain 45 mg. Additionally, red bell peppers are rich in beta carotene which have powerful antioxidant properties that reduce oxidative stress in the body, and in turn, boost people’s health and protect against certain conditions.

3) Broccoli

Broccoli contains an abundance of vitamins and minerals. As it is packed with Vitamins A, C, and E, along with fiber and several other antioxidants, broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables that you can consume. The key to keeping the nutrients intact is to cook the broccoli as little as possible (steaming is the best way to preserve its nutrients). Better yet, eat the broccoli raw to receive all the vitamins and minerals it has to offer.

4) Garlic

Garlic is a popular home remedy for both fighting and preventing colds and other infections. It can be cooked into any meal, which is what makes it so easy to include in your diet. Along with garlic’s immune boosting properties, studies show that garlic also helps to lower blood pressure and slow down the hardening of arteries.

5) Ginger

Ginger is another ingredient that many people consume to help fight colds and illnesses. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties, which help reduce the symptoms of sore throats, nausea, and inflammatory illnesses. Additionally, studies show that ginger may also possess cholesterol-lowering properties, as well as work to decrease chronic pain.  

6) Spinach

Spinach is rich in several essential nutrients and antioxidants including vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, beta carotene, and flavonoids. These nutrients help increase the infection fighting ability of the immune system, and just like broccoli, retains the most nutrients when it is cooked as little as possible. However, light cooking helps with the absorption of vitamin A into the body.

7) Yogurt

Yogurt is a great source of vitamin D which helps regulate the immune system and boost the body’s natural ability to fight against diseases. Specifically, yogurts that have the phrase “live and active cultures” printed on the label such as Greek yogurt, stimulate the immune system and help fight infections. When purchasing yogurt, go for plain yogurts rather than flavoured yogurts that are rich in sugar. You can always sweeten your yogurt with healthy fruits and a drizzle of honey.

8) Almonds

Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant that is key to a healthy immune system. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that requires the presence of fat in order to absorb properly. Nuts such as almonds are full of vitamins and healthy fats, and also contain manganese, magnesium, and fiber which are all important for building your health. It is recommended that adults consume about 15 mg of vitamin E every day, which amounts to a half-cup serving of almonds. Almonds are an easy and healthy snack that can be integrated into your diet.

9) Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are rich in nutrients including phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin B-6, and vitamin E. Vitamin E is essential for regulating, maintaining, and improving immune system function by fighting off the free radicals that cause damage to cells. Sunflower seeds are also high in selenium, in which 1 ounce of sunflower seeds contains nearly half the recommended selenium that adults need every day.

10) Turmeric

Turmeric is a yellow spice that people often use in cooking. It has high concentrations of curcumin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and in turn, improves people’s immune response. Turmeric also helps decrease exercise-induced muscle damage and is present in some alternative medicines. 

11) Green Tea

Green tea is full of flavonoids and epigallocatechin gallate, two very powerful antioxidants. It has shown to enhance immune function, and is also a good source of the amino acid L-theanine. L-theanine aids in the production of germ-fighting compounds in T cells and can reduce the risk of getting a cold.

12) Kefir

Kefir is a fermented drink that contains live cultures of bacteria, which provides several benefits to the body’s health and immune system. Studies show that regular consumption of kefir can help fight bacteria, reduce inflammation, and increase antioxidant activity.

13) Fish

Fish such as salmon, tuna, pilchards, and other oily fish are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA is a chronic autoimmune condition that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks a healthy part of the body. Additionally, shellfish such as oysters, crab, lobster, and mussels are high in zinc, which is essential for proper immune cell function. Including fish in your diet will help to ensure your immune system functions as it is intended to.

14) Poultry

Many people turn to chicken noodle soup when they are sick, however, it is more than just the placebo effect that makes people feel better. Soup helps to lower inflammation, which in turn, reduces the symptoms of a cold. Poultry such as chicken and turkey are high in vitamin B-6, which plays an important role in many of the chemical reactions that occur in the body, as well as the formation of new and healthy red blood cells. Stock or broth made with boiling chicken bones contains gelatin, chondroitin, and other nutrients that support gut healing and immunity.

We hope this blog provided you with valuable insight on the foods and nutrients that can help fight off infections and boost the immune system! Remember, variety is important for proper nutrition, so pay attention to serving sizes and recommendations to daily intake to ensure you don’t consume too much of a single vitamin and not enough of others. So, be sure to include these healthy foods in your diet to support your immune system and to enhance your overall health and wellness. Need additional support in improving your body and physical health? Our team of professionals can help bring your body and health to the next level. Contact us today to get started!

Want more lifestyle advice on how to improve your overall health and wellness? Contact our Livewell Health and Physiotherapy Kitchener (Lancaster and Driftwood), Baden, or Waterloo teams for more information and to book your next appointment. You can also reach out to us by email or social media and one of our team members would be more than happy to answer any of your questions! All of our practitioners have more tips and expert guidance to help improve the overall quality of your life.