Foods that Boost Your Immune System from 11 Foods that Boost Your Immune System

11 Foods that Boost Your Immune System

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Foods that Boost Your Immune System

"Believe it or not, most immune support is based upon the health of the individual,” said Registered Dietitian for HelloFresh Rebecca Lewis. “If you eat an adequate healthy diet full of nutrient-dense foods, stay hydrated and exercise regularly—your ability to fight the common cold increases greatly. When you are feeling run down, it is always a good idea up your intake of fruits and vegetables to replace any critical vitamins and minerals you may be missing in your diet. It’s also important to manage your stress and get enough sleep to keep up your mental energy.”

While each of those tips are important for maintaining a strong immune system, it’s crucial to know which foods will help keep you cold- and flu-free this winter. We asked registered dietitians and nutritionists to name their top immune-boosting foods—these are their 11 picks.


“Probiotics, or ‘live active cultures,’ found in yogurt are healthy bacteria that help the gut,” said Stephanie Green, a registered dietitian nutritionist, chef and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Optimum Nutrition, which will be released in January. “Choose a low-sugar or plain variety and look for a label that says, ‘Live and Active Cultures’.”


“These famous fungi have been used for centuries in various medicinal remedies. Mushrooms help to increase the production of white blood cells, which help fight off infection,” Green said. “Choose shiitake, maitake and reishi varieties for the biggest dose of immunity. Dice and add to pasta sauce, sprinkle over a salad, or sauté with olive oil and add to your morning omelet.”


“These grains contain a type of fiber called beta-glucan, which contain antimicrobial properties,” Green said. “In addition to boosting immunity, oats can also speed wound healing and may help antibiotics work better.”

Sweet Potatoes

“Rich in an antioxidant called beta-carotene, sweet potatoes help to protect your skin, which is the body’s first line of defense against sickness,” Green said. “When beta-carotene is absorbed, the body turns it into Vitamin A whose major role acts as part of the production of connective tissue, a component of skin.”


“Cinnamon not only adds delicious flavor, it offers healing benefits through its polyphenols,” said Nichole Dandrea, a registered dietitian of 20 years and owner of Nicobella Organics. “Cinnamon polyphenol extract has been shown in studies to help fight immune function by warding off microorganisms.”


“There are many scientific studies looking at the anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric and its immune-enhancing properties due to the curcumin. Using turmeric daily in soups, stir fries, smoothies, and juices is an easy way to boost the immune system,” Dandrea said.


“Capsaicin, the main powerful nutrient source in cayenne, is a great source of carotenoids, including beta carotene—a powerful antioxidant that can help ward off free radical damage and support immune function,” Dandrea said. “Capsicum is also rich in Vitamin C, which fights or prevents colds and other infections. Vitamin C also contains bioflavonoids, which the body needs to produce white blood cells, the disease-fighting component of the blood that helps to fight infection.”


“Ginger has been touted as a digestive and immune-enhancer backed by strong research,” Dandrea said. “Ginger helps to open up the lymphatic channels and prevent the accumulation of the toxins that create infections. Ginger helps to activate T-cells which are vital to a healthy immune system as they are capable of destroying virus-invaded cells as well as tumors.”


“Garlic offers protection against many infections including bacterial, viral and fungal infections,” Dandrea said. “Fresh garlic must be crushed or chopped in order to stimulate the release of an enzyme called alliinase, which in turn catalyzes the formation of allicin, which contains the disease fighting characteristics.”

Oranges and Other Foods Rich in Vitamin C

“A commonly known vitamin to take when you are feeling a cold coming on is vitamin C. This vitamin is an important antioxidant that helps to maintain a healthy immune system. While most people are aware that oranges are high in vitamin C (they contain 159 percent of our daily recommended intake), most are unaware that there are other fruits and veggies that are also high,” said Registered Dietitian for HelloFresh Rebecca Lewis. “These include bell peppers which have 195 percent of our recommended intake, strawberries which contain 162 percent of our recommended intake, and even broccoli which contains 135 percent of our daily recommended intake.”

Green Tea

“Tasty and chock full of antioxidants, green tea has compounds in it that can keep the immune system functioning well,” said Sheila Luna, a certified clinical herbalist and certified clinical nutritionist in private practice. “Different types of immune cells are affected by green tea. It helps to regulate immune cell function.”

11 Foods that Boost Your Immune System