11 Foods That Boost Your Immune System Naturally

Immune-boosting foods

A weakened immune system can make your body vulnerable to various kinds of diseases and illness, especially when the seasonal shift from summer to winter.

The immune system is the gate keeper for your body. It protects the body from pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, and so forth. That’s why, it is important to keep your immune system functioning at its optimum level.

Food plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy immune system. Some foods may decrease your immunity, while others can help boost your immune system. If you want to keep your body fit and healthy, here are some best immune-boosting foods that you should include in your diet.

1. Garlic

Garlic contains an immune-stimulating compound called allicin, which promotes the production of white blood cells to fight cold and flu viruses.

In one study, participants given a daily allicin supplement were 63 percent less likely to experience colds than the placebo group [1].

In another study, researchers found that while there was no significant difference in the incidence of colds and flu between the participant taking the aged garlic extract and those taking the placebo pill, but the people taking the garlic supplement reported 21 percent fewer cold symptoms and 61 percent fewer days in which their overall function was sub-optimal [2].

2. Ginger

Like garlic, ginger also contains active compounds that may help lower the risk of infection and improve immune cells’ ability to fight off colds and flu.

Research shows that ginger has antimicrobial properties, which helps in treating many pathological infections [3].

It’s also known for its ability to fight the human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV), a virus responsible for many respiratory infections [4]. However, more studies in humans are needed to support this protective effect.

3. Citrus fruits

Citrus fruits, like lemons, oranges, and grapefruits, are high in vitamin C, which is known to boost immune system, fight the common cold and prevent diseases.

Vitamin C also helps maintain the integrity of the skin, which acts as a protective barrier against infection. Therefore, getting enough vitamin C is a great way to strengthen your immune system and fight off colds and flu.

4. Bell peppers

Bell peppers are another vitamin C-rich source for enhancing your immune system. They contain up to twice as much vitamin C as the citrus fruits do.

Bell peppers are also loaded with beta-carotene that support your immune system. Of the green, yellow, and red peppers, the red variety contained the highest amounts of β-carotene and the yellow variety had the lowest carotenoid content [5].

5. Green tea

Green tea contains powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols that have been shown to have antibacterial and antiviral properties.

One study showed that catechins, a particular type of polyphenols found in green tea, may kill influenza (flu) viruses [6].

Green tea is also rich in L-theanine, an amino acid that may aid in the production of germ-fighting compounds in your T-cells.

6. Honey

Honey not only tastes delicious but it can also help strengthen your immune system. It has antioxidant properties, which encourages the activation of certain types of immune cells to kill any germs in the body that can cause you to get sick.

Make a glass of lukewarm honey water mixed with a pinch of cinnamon powder to help boost your immune system and keep you healthy.

7. Berries

Berries, like blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries, contain polyphenols that can neutralize harmful free radicals, bacteria, and viruses.

In a 2017 review in the Journal of Functional Foods, research indicates that components of berry fruits may inhibit influenza virus by blocking surface glycoproteins of the virus and stimulating the immune system of the organism [7].

Moreover, berries are rich in vitamin C, making them a great choice during cold and flu season.

8. Yogurt

Yogurt has an immune-boosting effect because it contains probiotics that may help stimulate the immune system and fight off disease.

A meta-analysis published in the Korean Journal of Family Medicine found that probiotics can help to reduce the symptoms of common cold. The researchers discovered that people who ate probiotics daily had a lower risk of catching a cold than those who did not eat any probiotic-rich food [8].

Make sure that the yogurt you buy does contain probiotics by looking on the label for the bacterial strains it contains. Consider Greek yogurt for a good protein boost.

9. Sweet potatoes

Incorporating sweet potatoes in your diet will help boost your immunity system due to the presence of vitamin A in the tuber. A single medium sweet potato even contains 120% of your daily vitamin A.

One study has shown that vitamin A may reduce gut inflammation and enhance the ability of your immune system to respond properly to potential threats [9].

10. Mushrooms

Clinical studies show that mushrooms provide a rich source of nutrients and bioactive compounds that are associated with several health effects, including supporting the immune system.

Shiitake is the excellent choice of mushroom to boost immune system due to its high nutrients, such as selenium, riboflavin and niacin. These nutrients play a critical role in metabolism and thyroid function, and help protect your body from damage caused by oxidative stress.

According to a study by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, shiitake mushrooms may be great for boosting immunity. The research suggests that participants who ate shiitake mushrooms every day for four weeks saw improved gut immunity and a reduction in inflammatory proteins [10].

11. Nuts

Nuts, like almonds and walnuts, are rich sources of vitamin E, selenium, and zinc. All of these play an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system.

The nuts are also filled with healthy fats that are needed for the absorption of vitamin E from the gastrointestinal tract. Add them to your cereal, salads, smoothies, muffins or just eat them as snacks throughout the day.