It’s never been more important to ensure your immune system is working as well as it should be, if not better. There are a few things you can do to boost your immunity such as exercise and take supplements; however the best place to start is in what you eat. Good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle is vital to wellness and health, so let’s have a look at fifteen foods to boost and improve your immune system.
These snack-sized super-fruits come bursting with the flavonoid anthocyanin, a kind of antioxidant that reduces cell damage and aids your immune system. Blueberries also have plenty of other goodness in potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin A which all go to reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer 1.
This strongly fermented Korean delicacy might be an acquired taste, but it packs a punch when it comes to healthy nutrients. Like most fermented foods, Kimchi is rich in probiotics that sustain a healthy gut. These digestive benefits also carry over into your ability to fight infection, since when your gut is in good shape, your immune system will be too 2.
The scourge of kids everywhere, hopefully now you’re a bit more grown up you’ll be more of a fan. Not only is broccoli full of rich fiber and antioxidants to support your digestive health, but it’s absolutely loaded with vitamin C, a key factor when it comes to your immunity. Just one cup of broccoli contains 135% of your recommended vitamin C levels, so get your daily portion 3.
Ok, if there was an adult equivalent of broccoli it would be this guy. Kale is certainly far more bitter on the palate than broccoli, but no pain no gain. With roughly the same levels of immune-boosting vitamin C, kale has much higher levels of vitamins K, B, A, manganese, calcium…you get the picture. There are also plenty of additional benefits from these vitamins and minerals such as great-looking skin, healthy circulation and bone health to name but a few 4.
At this point, we probably know that your green vegetables are a huge win for the immune system. Whilst many might put spinach, kale and broccoli in the same league, spinach is the only one with the distinction of being a beloved cartoon character’s go-to muscle-food. Well, if it’s good enough for Popeye, it’s good enough for us: in addition to its high levels of vitamin C and anti-oxidants, it also has its fair share of vitamin E and vitamin A that increase the infection-fighting ability of our white blood cells 5.
#6. Sunflower Seeds
Small, crunchy, great in handfuls as a casual snack or if find yourself wanting to look tough on the set of a TV Western, sunflower seeds contain large amounts of vitamin E that helps regulate the immune system and maintain itself at optimum levels 6.
#7. Goji Berries
These humble little guys that you’ll find dried in your nearest health store were the original “super fruit”, and it wasn’t without merit. Goji berries are a rich source of antioxidants and contain unique compounds called polysaccharides that have been proven to support a healthy immune system 7.
You might not be getting many dates if you love garlic, but you’re a lot less likely to be getting ill either. Garlic has long been known to have medicinal properties, and these mostly come from the compound allicin. This compound has been shown to increase the ability of your immune system to fight infection, especially the flu or common cold 8.
You might love’em, you might hate’em, but the immune boosting properties of oysters are not up for debate. Whilst a great source of protein, oysters also provide a significant contribution to your daily required levels of omega-3 fatty acid, vitamin C, zinc and vitamin A, all of which enhance your immune system’s performance 9.
#10. Miso Soup
Technically we should just say “miso” here, since the soup itself is derived from these protein rich fermented beans – however, most of us don’t really just eat a spoonful of miso paste, but rather turn to the soup version. As it goes, not only does miso soup contain an abundance of vitamins B, K and E, but as a fermented food, it encourages healthy gut bacteria which in turn supports a well-functioning immune system 10.
#11. Acai Berries
These are bundles of antioxidant joy, ones that you will usually find pureed with your customized granola breakfast. If that sounds like you, make your acai bowl a large one: they are also packed with fiber which is beneficial to your digestive health and keeps you regular. In addition, the fruit is high in anthocyanin (like our blueberry friends) which lowers inflammation and boosts immunity 11.
#12. Sweet Potatoes
By far one of the easiest things on this list to prepare and include in the best diet plan: soak in water, pat down, prick with a fork several times and then chuck in the microwave for around 5 minutes or a bit longer if still not tender. This noted low GI carb is one of the richest natural sources of beta carotene that converts into vitamin A, critical to a healthy immune system 12.
This ancient root has long been associated with its health-benefits, and due to its strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, your immune system also improves with a regular measure of ginger in your diet 13.
When looking for the best immune boosting foods, it’s fair to say vitamin C is one of the most common properties. Watermelon has plenty of vitamin C but what really sets it apart from the rest is lycopene, a natural pigment that not only gives the fruit its red color, but also is hugely beneficial in protecting against cell damage 14.
If you’re a fan of curries this will be good news. Turmeric, the commonly used spice of curry aficionados the world over, contains curcumin, a natural compound that’s a potent anti-inflammatory, and has been proven to improve your antibody response and strengthen the immune system.
Nutrition is so important for immunity and, as we mentioned, it’s a great place to start if you want to give those white blood cells a little performance boost. Don’t forget though that if you really want to have an immune system that’s the best of the bunch, do try to look at your lifestyle as a whole, since all aspects, like exercise and sleep, will also do wonders for your body’s ability to fight off any nasty bugs.