“Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates
Our immune systems, as powerful and effective as they are, still need our consistent support.
Things like sleep, stress relief, deep breathing or meditative practices, working out, and taking supplements are all examples of ways we can support our immune systems.
As Hippocrates so astutely pointed out centuries ago, food is a big player in the overall health and support of our bodies, and with that wisdom in mind, here is our list of 20 immune boosting foods.
It is important to note that it is highly recommended to buy from organic and / or local sources whenever possible.
Now, we know mushrooms are not everyone’s favorite, but hear us out. Mushrooms, specifically varieties such as shiitake, chaga, rishi and cordyceps, have been nature’s unsung hero.
Mushrooms not only boost the immune system, but help promote and support overall health in big ways.
They contain significant levels of essential trace minerals, B-vitamins, zinc, pantothenic acid, and manganese. They help promote healthy cardiovascular function, normal metabolic processes, are rich in antioxidants, and assist in fighting off viral, bacterial and parasitic infections.
2. Fermented Foods
Gut health is vital for a strong immune system.
Fermented foods, such as kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, and tempeh, are jam-packed with probiotics, which are essential for gut health. For this reason, it is recommended to incorporate fermented foods in your diet once a day at a minimum, even up to 2-3 times a day.
Yogurt is also a fermented food, but be sure to steer clear of over-processed, sugary or low-fat options as these may not be as beneficial in maintaining strong gut health.
Miso, also a fermented food, deserves its own separate honorable mention. This thick fermented soybean paste has been around for centuries and is widely acclaimed for its healing properties.
The paste, commonly found in the refrigerator section of most grocery stores, can be added to soups or sauces. A quick Google search produces hundreds of delicious recipes delivering a healthful punch.
Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries – you name it! Vitamin C is densely packed in these sweet little fruits.
Plus, these also contain significant amounts of antioxidants, which is also known to have anti-aging benefits in addition to supporting the immune system.
5. Citrus Fruits
We all know this one, right? Oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes are just a few of the citrus fruits that are practically overflowing with immune boosting goodness. Need we say more?
Smash it, chop it, roast it, or even eat it raw!
Garlic, being rich in Vitamin C, is a well-known aid in boosting your immune system, but the benefits don’t stop there. Garlic is also an excellent source of manganese and Vitamin B-6, in addition to a long list of other wonderful health benefits (including preventing cancer).
Turmeric contains curcumin, an anti-inflammatory compound that, among many other benefits, helps support healthy immune activity, reduce inflammation and improve digestion.
To increase the benefit of curcumin within turmeric, add black pepper (a little goes a long way!). The piperine within black pepper magnifies curcumin’s effectiveness by increasing the body’s ability to absorb it.
Like turmeric, ginger is also a root. Widely known for its ability to quiet upset stomachs, relieve pain and ease nausea, ginger is also high in Vitamin C, as well as being an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
9. Ceylon Cinnamon
Ceylon Cinnamon, otherwise known as the “true cinnamon”, is highly beneficial in protecting your body and fighting against infection. In fact, in ancient Egypt, Ceylon Cinnamon was used as part of the mummification process, due to its potent antimicrobial properties.
10. Green Tea
Green tea is loaded with antioxidants, Vitamin C, manganese and several essential trace minerals. The simple practice of drinking 3-5 cups of green tea a day has been shown to have tremendous health benefits for most people, including boosting your immune system.
Turns out mom was right. Broccoli really is good for you. In addition to sporting anti-cancer properties and high levels of calcium, broccoli contains twice the Vitamin C content of an orange. Yep, you read that right.
To increase the health benefits, eat broccoli raw whenever possible.
Spinach is loaded to the brim with vitamins (including Vitamin C) and essential trace minerals that help support and heal every part of your body, including supporting cardiovascular health and lowering blood pressure.
13. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are nutrient and antioxidant rich, also containing Vitamins K and A, which aid in boosting immune function. They also aid in cleaning out the digestive tract, also a key component in supporting healthy immune function.
14. Veggies, Veggies, Veggies
If ever in doubt, always reach for more veggies. Do so often and be sure to incorporate a variety of veggies in your daily diet. The benefits are practically endless.
Nuts like almonds, walnuts and pecans have a long list of benefits, but notably here, they are high in Vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant, which as we know, the function of the immune system depends on.
Uniquely, Vitamin E is fat-soluble, thus requiring the presence of fat to be properly absorbed, which nuts most certainly have.
One mineral we haven’t talked much about yet is zinc. Seeds like hemp, pumpkin, squash and sesame are all stocked high with this wonderful nutrient not naturally produced or stored in the body.
Zinc helps keep the immune system strong, and without it can, among other adverse side effects, result in a weakened immune system.
17. Sweet Potato
This high fiber sweet root vegetable gets its deep orange color from the presence of high levels of beta-carotene, which is the precursor to Vitamin A. This vitamin is responsible for not only a strong immune system, but also healthy skin and mucus membranes, and good eye health.
In recent years, cauliflower has become a popular alternative to flour-based pizza crust and even rice. Wouldn’t you know it, this versatile vegetable is also brimming with Vitamin C!
19. Bell Peppers
Bell peppers, like broccoli, may also contain almost twice the amount of Vitamin C as an orange. They also are a rich source of beta-carotene.
Additionally, sauteing bell peppers have been shown to have higher levels of Vitamin K.
Last, but certainly not least is this amazing immunity powerhouse, the elderberry. Usually found in supplement or elixir forms, elderberry is famous for its support of the immune system.
High in Vitamin A, C and flavonoids, this is one berry you will want to have on hand should a cold or flu show up.