Best Foods to Boost Your Immune System

These foods can help boost your immune system to keep you from getting sick.

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Immunity Boosters

Whether you’re trying to avoid running yourself ragged or just trying to keep your body’s defense system in tip top shape, head to the grocery store and fill your cart with these 10 immune-boosting foods.

Citrus Fruit

Mandarins, clementines, grapefruits, lemons and limes are among the vitamin C-rich fruit, famous for helping to fight infections. Many citrus fruit like Valencia oranges, Meyer lemons, red and pink grapefruit and Key limes are available all-year round, while other citrus like tangelos and mandarins are available during the winter and spring months.

Fermented Foods

The probiotics (AKA "good bacteria") found in fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and tempeh, help keep your digestive system in tip top shape, but that’s not all they do. According to a published review paper probiotics can potentially help with various diseases related to the immune system including viral infections, allergies, and eczema. In addition, a 2019 study published in PLOS discussed the positive relationship between the bacteria in fermented foods and the immune system with more research being conducted to determine the exact mechanisms of action.

Seafood

Seafood, like shrimp, tuna, halibut and sardines, contain the mineral selenium needed in small amounts to support a healthy immune system. Selenium helps protect your body from oxidative damage and infection. Beef, chicken and cottage cheese are other excellent sources of selenium.

Green Tea

Green tea contains polyphenols, which are potent antioxidants. One specific type of polyphenol, called catechins, may help stimulate the immune system and hinder disease-promoting compounds. When brewing your green tea, steep the tea bag for the time recommended (over steeping gives green tea a bitter taste) and don’t add milk as it will bind up to those polyphenols that help with immunity, making them less effective.

Sunflower Seeds

Two tablespoons of sunflower seeds provides close to 30% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin E. This antioxidant helps rid your body of those pesky free radicals. Plus, vitamin E also helps create antibodies that fight bacteria that make you sick. As an alternative to the seeds, give vitamin E-filled sunflower butter a whirl.

Chicken Soup

If mom always told you to have a warm bowl of chicken soup when you’re sick, you may want to listen. Research found that this bowl of goodness makes people feel better and may help shorten the duration of a cold. It’s unclear as to whether it’s the combination of chicken and vegetables in the soup or the minerals and electrolytes found in the broth, but regardless, it’s still mighty tasty.

Garlic

This aromatic vegetable naturally contains antibacterial agents, specifically the phytochemical allicin. Although it’s not recommended to chomp on fresh garlic throughout the day (your partner may not be too happy!), incorporate it into daily dishes like sautéed vegetables, ground beef and chicken dishes, and salad dressing.

Red Meat

Beef, pork or lamb can be part of your immune-boosting healthy diet. Red meat is one of the highest sources of zinc, a mineral necessary for proper immune function. Choose lean cuts of beef, pork or lamb, so you can keep calories and saturated fat under control.

Ginger

This flavor enhancing root may help decrease inflammation due to the phytochemicals it contains. This can help reduce certain inflammatory illnesses, including a sore throat. Pair ginger with other antioxidant rich foods like citrus fruit for double immunity punch.

Bell Peppers

Although citrus fruits have a ton of vitamin C, bell peppers have more! One medium red bell pepper contains 253% your daily recommended amount of this antioxidant vitamin. Add chopped bell peppers to omelets, sauté with onions in fajitas, or enjoy sliced and dipped into hummus or guacamole.