Who knew boosting your immune system could be as simple as eating the right foods? Research shows that diet—along with other lifestyle factors like sleep, stress and exercise—can play a big role in helping your immune system protect you from viruses and other illnesses. And considering 80% of your immune system is in your gut, it makes sense that eating healthy foods is key to staying healthy overall. So before you plan your next meals, see if you can work in some of these powerful immune boosters.
15 Immune-Boosting Foods
- Citrus fruits. Almost all citrus fruits (like oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, lemons and limes) contain vitamin C, which is believed to help increase white blood cell count and fight infections.
- Red bell peppers. Like citrus fruits, red bell peppers can help support immunity because they’re packed with vitamin C. In fact, one medium red bell pepper has 150 mg.
- Kiwis. Essential nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium and folate make kiwis a great choice for keeping your immune system and other systems in the body healthy.
- Papayas. Papayas are also loaded with essential nutrients for overall health. Just one medium papaya contains twice the daily recommended amount of immune-boosting vitamin C.
- Almonds. Vitamin C isn’t the only immunity powerhouse. Vitamin E can help boost immune cell activity, and just a half cup of almonds provides your entire daily recommended intake of vitamin E.
- Sunflower seeds. Like almonds, sunflower seeds are a great source of vitamin E. Plus, they contain other healthy nutrients, like magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin B-6.
- Spinach. Leafy greens like spinach contain antioxidants and key nutrients that help keep your immune system strong, such as vitamin A, vitamin D, folate and beta carotene.
- Broccoli. Not only is broccoli full of immune-boosting vitamins and antioxidants, it’s high in fiber, which helps keep your gut healthy, and in turn, your immune system.
- Garlic. Since ancient times, garlic has been valued for its immune-boosting properties and many other health benefits.
- Ginger. Like garlic, ginger has been used since ancient times for its immune-boosting properties and as a remedy for a variety of ailments.
- Turmeric. This yellow spice has long been appreciated for its anti-inflammatory benefits and potential immune-boosting and antiviral properties.
- Green tea. Rich in a powerful antioxidant called epigallocatechin (EGCG), green tea is a great drink choice when it comes to strengthening your immune function.
- Yogurt. The live and active cultures in certain yogurts, like Greek yogurt, are thought to stimulate the immune system. Yogurt also contains immune-boosting vitamin D.
- Poultry. Chicken soup isn’t just good for the soul. Poultry sources like chicken and turkey are high in vitamin B-6 and other vitamins and minerals that can have an anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting effect.
- Shellfish. Oysters, lobsters, crabs and mussels are high in zinc, which is another nutrient our bodies need to help our immune system function properly. Just be careful you don’t exceed the daily recommended amount of zinc.
Now that you’ve got your list of powerhouse foods, it’s time to plan some meals! Check out these 25 easy immune-boosting recipes before you hit your local grocery store or farmers market.