Foods For Boosting Your Immune System (Guide)

Your immune system is exactly that, a system. The human body is made up of 11 separate systems that do their independent jobs to keep your body running at its most optimal. The primary purpose of your immune system is to protect against pesky, persistent bacteria that want nothing more than to attack your body, breaking it down to make it more susceptible to injury and illness. 

Your immune system is the gatekeeper for what gets in and what stays out of your body. When it is working, viruses and toxins don’t have a chance. When it’s not, the floodgates are wide open. Your body shows signs of a strong immune system pretty often. One example is when you get a mosquito bite.

The red, bumpy itch is a sign of your immune system at work. The flu or a cold is a typical example of your body failing to stop the germs/bacteria before they get in. However, when you recover from the cold or flu, it’s proof that your immune system was able to eliminate the invader after learning about it and reacting to its defense.

If your immune system did nothing, you would never get over the cold, or anything else for that matter. When you are sick, your body isn’t able to perform at its full potential. The good news is there are many things you can do to keep your immune system strong and healthy and one of them is the kind of food you eat. Here are a list of foods that boost the immune system:

Citrus Fruits

Most people turn to vitamin C after they've caught a cold. That’s because it helps build up your immune system. You already know that citrus (think: oranges, lemons, tangerines, limes, and grapefruit) is an excellent source of immune-boosting vitamin C—which is why so many people reach for these fruits during cold and flu season. But citrus offers many other impressive health benefits, as well. 

The juicy, colorful fruits are packed with good-for-you nutrients, not to mention flavor, making them a great addition to a healthy diet. What’s more, about two thirds of the fiber in citrus fruit is soluble fiber, which has been linked to lower cholesterol and helps regulate glucose levels. Citrus fruits have relatively low glycemic index scores on the 100-point scale, meaning they won’t spike your blood sugar as much as some other foods. An orange, for example, has a score of 45.

Vitamin C is thought to increase the production of white blood cells. These are key to fighting infections. When you hear "potassium," you probably think of bananas. But citrus is also a great source of this mineral, which is important for fluid regulation, mineral balance, and muscle contraction. Potassium also works to counter-regulate the amount of salt in your diet by helping your body flush out sodium.

While this isn't an excuse to douse your food in salt, it is another good reason to load up on citrus.Citrus can also help your body absorb iron, a mineral that's important for the immune system and helps your body produce red blood cells.


Popular Citrus Fruits Include:

  • grapefruit
  • oranges
  • tangerines
  • lemons
  • limes

Because your body doesn't produce or store it, you need daily vitamin C for continued health. Almost all citrus fruits are high in vitamin C. With such a variety to choose from, it's easy to add a squeeze of this vitamin to any meal.An essential nutrient, vitamin C acts as an antioxidant. Antioxidants help fight free radicals, a type of unstable molecule known to damage the immune system. You can always place a few lemon slices in your water to give it some subtle flavor.

Red Bell Peppers

Ounce for ounce, red bell peppers contain twice as much vitamin C as citrus. Bell peppers can improve an individual’s immunity owing to their high content of vitamin C. the vitamin plays a significant role in the human immune system by activating immune cells among other contributions . Vitamin C supports immune responses by increasing the production of proinflammatory cytokines, which are crucial in effective immune responses.

In addition, regular consumption of bell peppers can improve immunity owing to their vitamin E content. Studies have shown that vitamin E, like vitamin C, activates the body’s immune responses and enhances the effectiveness of white blood cells . Research has also shown that vitamin E intake from dietary sources enhances the body’s antibody response. It has also been demonstrated that vitamin E enhances the resistance in elderly individuals to viral infections.

Another component of bell peppers, vitamin A, has also been shown to improve immune response in both animal and human models. The study concluded that vitamin A increases the production of antibodies in the body, as well as increasing the spread of lymphocytes throughout the body.

Experts also opine that vitamin A is extremely important when it comes to developing immune tolerance in the body. An intolerant immune system exposes one to a host of several diseases. The gut lining is usually the first place people lose their immune tolerance, and regular intake of vitamin A helps in improving the tolerance of the gut, which allows individuals to eat other healthy foods without experiencing adverse reactions.

The quercetin found in bell peppers, among other foods, has been known to improve immunity through its antiviral and antibacterial activities. Bell peppers are rich source of vitamin A, C, and E, as well as quercetin, which have all been proven to be immunity enhancing compounds.


The human immune system is complex and requires a multitude of nutrients to function properly.This verdant vegetable is a powerhouse of nutrients. It's reputed to benefit digestion, the cardiovascular system and the immune system, and to have anti-inflammatory. Broccoli is an edible green plant in the cabbage family whose large flowering head and stalk is eaten as a vegetable. 

The word broccoli comes from the Italian plural of broccolo, which means "the flowering crest of a cabbage".Broccoli is supercharged with vitamins and minerals. It is "high in fiber, very high in vitamin C and has potassium, B6 and vitamin.

Broccoli is also packed with phytochemicals and antioxidants. Phytochemicals are chemicals in plants that are responsible for color, smell and flavor. Phytochemicals in broccoli are good for the immune system. They include glucobrassicin; carotenoids, such as zeaxanthin and beta-carotene; and kaempferol, a flavonoid.

The key to keeping its power intact is to cook it as little as possible — or better yet, not at all.Broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables you can put on your table. For a nonstarchy vegetable, it has a good amount of protein.



Garlic contains more than 100 biologically-useful chemicals (including alliin, alliinase, allicin, S-allylcysteine, diallyl sulfide and allyl methyl trisulfide), which do everything from lower cholesterol to fight off viruses. Garlic has the ability to boost your immune system by increasing the rate at which your natural killer cells are made. 

Natural killer cells are a fundamental part of our non-specific immunity. This means that these cells will kill off all invaders without the specific targeting that antibodies use to kill pathogens.
Garlic has the ability to decrease platelet aggregation. This means that garlic doesn’t let your blood cells stick together, and allows them to move more freely through your system. 

Consider eating more garlic instead to lower blood pressure and increase circulation. Trusted SourceGarlic may also help slow down hardening of the arteries. As mentioned earlier, Garlic’s immune-boosting properties seem to come from a heavy concentration of sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin. 

Allicin contains sulfur, which gives garlic its distinctive smell and taste. However, allicin is unstable, so it quickly converts to other sulphur-containing compounds thought to give garlic its medicinal properties. Evidence suggests that, raw is most effective in boosting the immune system. On the other hand, the therapeutic aspects of the vegetable are lost through cooking.


Ginger is another ingredient many turn to after getting sick. Ginger help decrease inflammation, which can help reduce a sore throat and other inflammatory illnesses. Ginger may also help decrease nausea.

Ginger root's immune-system benefits may help protect brain function, according to a study published in the August 2012 issue of the journal "Neuropharmacology." In the tissue culture study, 6-shogaol, one of the active constituents in ginger, prevented damage to microglia, important support cells in the brain, by inhibiting production of several immune-signaling molecules, including prostaglandins and interleukins. 

The ginger extract also inhibited genes that, when activated, lead to production of cyclo-oxygenase-2, or COX-2, a pro-inflammatory enzyme.

Ginger And Its Nutrients

  • It is high in potassium;
  • It is rich in manganese which builds resistance to disease, protects lining of heart, blood vessels and urinary passages;
  • It contains silicon which promotes healthy skin, hair, teeth and nails;
  • It helps assimilate calcium;
  • It also contains Vitamins. A, C, E, B-complex, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, iron, zinc, calcium, beta-carotene.


 Other Foods That Boost The Immune System


Spinach is rich in vitamins A, C and K, magnesium, iron and manganese. It's also packed with numerous antioxidants and beta carotene, which may increase the infection-fighting ability of our immune systems. Similar to broccoli, spinach is healthiest when it’s cooked as little as possible so that it retains its nutrients. However, light cooking enhances its vitamin A and allows other nutrients to be released from oxalic acid.

It is a very versatile ingredient that can be used in many ways. Eating this leafy green veggie may benefit eye health, reduce oxidative stress and reduce blood pressure levels among other health functions. Spinach is surely one veggie that you must include in your daily diet.

Spinach provides you with the required levels of magnesium in your body which helps you to generate energy for your day to day chores. Spinach is also a great source of folate, a nutrient that helps your body turn food into usable energy. Moreover, making your body more alkalised can help you keep energised through the day and spinach is one veggie that is alkaline in nature.


Vitamin E is key to a healthy immune system. It’s a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it requires the presence of fat to be absorbed properly. Nuts, such as almonds, are packed with the vitamin and also have healthy fats. A half-cup serving, which is about 46 whole, shelled almonds, provides nearly 100 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin E. Also,an ounce of almonds -- that’s 24 little seeds -- packs 180 calories, 6 grams of satisfying protein and 14 grams of heart-healthy fat. 

Restraint is required, but since these little nutrition nuggets are super satisfying, a little goes a long way. Pre-portioning is really helpful, so make yourself some snack baggies. Almonds are a bone-building food. That 1-ounce serving has as much calcium as 1/4 cup of milk. On top of that, they’re loaded with phosphorus to keep your skeleton and chompers healthy and strong, which will lower your risk of fractures and breaks.

Almonds can even help you in bed. First, crunching almonds can help you relieve aggression, making it easier for your body to rest and relax. The selenium in them fights depression and anxiety, which is essential for good shuteye.


Turmeric comes from the root of Curcuma longa, a flowering plant of the ginger family. It’s often sold in spice jars. However, if bought fresh, it looks similar to ginger root with a more intense yellow to golden color. In India, turmeric is used to treat skin conditions, digestive issues, aches and pains. Due to its yellowish color, it’s sometimes referred to as Indian saffron.

What’s more, its extensive use in traditional medicine has raised significant interest in its health benefits.It is a potent antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals due to its chemical structure. You may know turmeric as a key ingredient in many curries. But this bright yellow spice has also been used for years as an anti-inflammatory in treating both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. 

Also, research shows that high concentrations of curcumin, which gives turmeric its distinctive color, can help decrease exercise-induced muscle damage.

What Is The Difference Between Turmeric And Curcumin?

Turmeric is a popular root/spice, and curcumin is a highly potent chemical in turmeric. Research suggests that turmeric and curcumin have many of the same benefits.

For example, turmeric and curcumin have both been found to help improve levels of “bad” cholesterol — also known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — and triglycerides, which may help reduce your risk of heart disease, according to research published in the 2017 issue of Nutrition Journal.

In addition, turmeric and curcumin may help reduce obesity by suppressing chronic inflammation associated with the disease, as shown by a 2016 study in Nutrition Research and Practice and a 2013 review published in BioFactors.


Green Tea

Both green and black teas are packed with flavonoids, a type of antioxidant. Where green teareally excels is in its levels of epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, another powerful antioxidant. Green tea is a type of tea that is made from leaves and buds that have not undergone the same withering and oxidation process used to make and black teas. 

EGCG has been shown to enhance immune function. The fermentation process black tea goes through destroys a lot of the EGCG. Green tea, on the other hand, is steamed and not fermented, so the EGCG is preserved.

Green tea is also a good source of the amino acid L-theanine. L-theanine may aid in the production of germ-fighting compounds in your T-cells. Green tea contains caffeine and L-theanine, both of which can enhance alertness and attention, which is especially beneficial in the morning. Also, drinking this tea before exercise may increase fat burning and reduce muscle damage.


Papaya is another fruit loaded with vitamin C. You can find 224 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C in a single papaya. Papayas also have a digestive enzyme called papain that has anti-inflammatory effects.

Papayas have decent amounts of potassium, B vitamins, and folate, all of which are beneficial to your overall health.

It may interest you to know that the enzyme called papain in papaya, can break down the tough protein chains found in muscle meat. Because of this, people have used papaya to tenderize meat for thousands of years.

If the papaya is ripe, it can be eaten raw. However, unripe papaya should always be cooked before eating — especially during pregnancy, as the unripe fruit is high in latex, which can stimulate contractions.

Sunflower seeds

A strong immune system is key to maintaining good overall health, and sunflower seeds are a great immune supporter, thanks to their vitamin E content. They also contain a bit of zinc and selenium, two other immune system friends. Sunflower seeds are full of nutrients, including phosphorous, magnesium, and vitamin B-6.

Vitamin E is important in regulating and maintaining immune system function. Other foods with high amounts of vitamin E include avocados and dark leafy greens.

Flavonoids and other plant compounds in sunflower seeds also help reduce inflammation.

While short-term inflammation is a natural immune response, chronic inflammation is a risk factor for many chronic diseases.


Shellfish isn’t what jumps to mind for many who are trying to boost their immune system, but some types of shellfish are packed with zinc.

Zinc doesn’t get as much attention as many other vitamins and minerals, but our bodies need it so that our immune cells can function as intended.

Varieties of shellfish that are high in zinc include:

  • crab
  • clams
  • lobster
  • mussels

Keep in mind that you don’t want to have more than the daily recommended amount of zinc in your diet. For adult men, it’s 11 milligrams (mg), and for women, it’s 8 mg. Too much zinc can actually inhibit immune system function.

As we age, our immune system response capability becomes reduced, which in turn contributes to more infections and more diseases. Which is why you need to put in the work to improve your health. Aside the right food, one of the ways to improve your immune system and overall health is drinking the right quality of water daily.

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