The immune system is what protects us from illness, so it makes sense that we’d want to do everything we can to help it function at its very best. While there are ways to prevent sickness by taking vitamins and getting flu shots, eating the appropriate foods can have a substantial positive impact as well. Junk food is not only unhealthy, but it can also prevent the immune system from functioning optimally. On the other hand, these healthy immune-boosting superfoods can boost immune function and help your body ward off sickness!
21 Immune-Boosting Superfoods You Should be Eating Regularly for Optimal Health
When you think about health food, what comes to mind? Foods that are packed with nutrients, right? It’s important to realize that nutrient-dense foods have so much to offer the body. Aside from weight loss, micronutrients like zinc, iron, and vitamins A, C, and E assist the body in building a healthy immune system. Each of the foods below contains at least one of these micronutrients, and more!
Believe it or not, Mom and Grandma didn’t push soup on us for nothing. Soups typically contain a wide variety of ingredients, which usually means they contain a bunch of vitamins and minerals as well. Specifically, many soups contain spices known for boosting immune health, such as turmeric, ginger, cayenne pepper, and garlic.
Check out these healthy, spice-filled soups and stews:
- Turkish Red Lentil Soup
- Easy Crock-Pot Chicken Noodle Soup
- Anti-Inflammatory Broccoli Turmeric Slow-Cooker Soup
- Slow Cooker Carrot Turmeric Soup
2. Oranges (and other citrus fruits)
Citrus is well-known for helping prevent colds and scurvy, which is mostly due to its high vitamin C content. If taking medicine isn’t an option, eating an orange is a great way to boost immune health.
Try any of these: 8 Citrus-Based Dishes for Summer
Probiotics are bacteria found in yogurt. They help your immune system maintain a healthy bacteria biome in your body. To benefit from probiotics, look for yogurt with live cultures and avoid the ones with added sugar. To add sweetness to yogurt, it’s better to add real fruit like we did in this Berry and Chia Yogurt Parfait.
4. Green Tea
Green tea has one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants among teas, so turn to it instead of a cup of coffee or Earl Grey. Proper brewing can minimize any bitterness in the green tea, but we recommend avoiding added milk. That can nullify the tea’s beneficial antioxidants.
Raw honey contains immune-boosting bacteria and phytochemicals from the flowers the bees used to make the honey, both of which stimulate the immune system. Buy local raw honey, if possible. Honey is effective in preventing allergies, but it won’t help if it’s not made from the plants in your area.
Garlic contains anti-pathogens and antioxidants, making it valuable for immune system support. Think of the cold as a vampire, and the garlic is here to ward it off and protect you!
These 13 Garlicky Recipes will help garlic-lovers get creative in the kitchen.
7. Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes contain vitamins C and A. Vitamin A is important because it supports mucus membranes that work to keep illness out. It also supports the skin, a vital organ that plays a more significant role than you’d think in preventing disease.
8. Oats and Barley
These grains contain beta-glucan, which increases white blood cell activity. They also boost immunity in general, assist with wound healing, and may increase the effectiveness of antibiotics.
Shrimp is rich in selenium, which tells the immune system to work harder. It also helps bronchial cells pump mucus. Sounds appetizing, doesn’t it? Along with other selenium-rich foods, it can lessen the severity of illness.
Try out our 15-Minute Spicy Garlic Ginger Shrimp for a tasty seafood dinner.
Beef contains zinc, and even the smallest zinc deficiency can weaken the immune system. Zinc plays a role in preventing infection and producing white blood cells, so make sure you get enough of it.
These little guys (especially shiitake mushrooms) contain beta-glucan (like oats and barley). Mushrooms are also a great source of antioxidants and can increase immune system activity.
Start your day off right with this 5-Ingredient Baked Egg Mushroom for breakfast.
Ginger is a great source of antioxidants, like many of the items on this list. A couple of naturally-occurring antibiotics are also found in ginger, and it can kill harmful bacteria when ingested.
Add these Garlic Ginger Green Beans to your meal for a tasty side dish.
All types of ginseng are known to stimulate the immune system. Ginseng may also increase the number of immune cells in the body. This root has many other health benefits, so it’s definitely worth keeping around during cold and flu season.
Turmeric can boost the immune system, and it has antibacterial properties all on its own. You have options for consuming it. It can be mixed into food or simply drank as a tea.
Try out our Immune Booster Turmeric Tea to help fight off illness.
15. Acai Berry
Acai berry was notorious for a while because of its high number of antioxidants. It also happens to be rich in vitamin C, which is very valuable in fighting illness.
16. Butternut Squash
Butternut squash is incredibly rich in vitamin A, which helps to support the immune system and the skin. It also helps smooth out digestion, which can help your body feel better all on its own.
This Twice Baked Butternut Squash will warm you up with plenty of nutrients.
Pomegranates contain three types of antioxidants. In fact, they have even more antioxidants than green tea! Each seed is full of vitamin C, contains anti-microbial properties, and may be able to kill diseases.
18. Raspberries and Blueberries
Raspberries contain several vitamins, including A and C. Blueberries also contain antioxidants that ward off free-radicals. These berries promote healthy cells, which allows the immune system to function better. Try these berry-rich recipes:
- Blueberry Chia Seed Pudding
- Grilled Chicken and Blueberry Salad
- Peanut Butter and Fresh Raspberries Toast
19. Pumpkin Seeds
If you’re a vegetarian and you’re wondering how to get zinc into your system without a supplement, look no further than pumpkin seeds. Zinc is incredibly important for the immune system, so make sure you get it one way or another!
20. Cruciferous Vegetables
This group of vegetables includes cabbage, broccoli, kale, and more. They contain antibacterial agents that give a boost to the body’s immune system. With such a wide variety of greens to choose from, there’s no excuse for skipping them.
Avocados have vitamins, antioxidants, and carotenoids. That makes them jam-packed with ways to boost and support the immune system. They are delicious and have many other health benefits, so eat as many of them as you can!
Our Tuna Stuffed Avocado recipe is a great place to start.
Do you eat these immune-boosting superfoods regularly? Are there foods that you eat to avoid illness? What’s helped you recover when you’ve been sick? Share your story in the comments below.