The immune system is an essential part of the human body. The vast system is spread throughout the body and involves a variety of cells, organs, proteins, and tissues. Via a complex process, the immune system can identify pathogens and foreign entities (i.e. bacterium, viruses, and parasites) and formulate an immune response that attacks and destroys the foreign entities, thus ensuring our overall health and wellness (Newman, n.d).
Since the immune system is so vital to maintaining our health and wellness, it’s important that we take active steps to boost and improve our immune systems, and the foods we eat are a simple but powerful way to do just that. The following outlines 10 foods that are linked to boosting our immunity.
Citrus fruits are high in Vitamin C which is linked to the increased production of white blood cells. White blood cells are essential for helping the body fight infections (Schend, n.d.). Certified nutritionist Vanessa Spiller notes that citrus fruits are also high in plant compounds that offer anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that support the immune system (Castaneda, 2020). Some citrus fruits high in Vitamin C include oranges, limes, lemons, tangerines, and grapefruit among others.
Broccoli is a nutrient-rich food that offers great immune-boosting properties. It is filled with many vitamins and minerals such as Vitamins A, C, and E. It is also high in fiber and other antioxidants which work to support the immune system and ensure it is functioning optimally (Castaneda, 2020).
Red Bell Peppers
Red bell peppers, much like citrus fruits, are also high in Vitamin C which helps the body form antibodies that help the immune system fight illness (Castaneda, 2020). Ounce for ounce, red bell peppers possess nearly 3 times as much Vitamin C as an orange. They also are high in beta carotene which is converted to vitamin A within the body, helping to promote healthy skin and eyes. Additionally, beta carotene is associated with the reduction of inflammation and an increase in disease-fighting cells which supports immunity (Schend, n.d.).
Oysters can offer powerful benefits for our immune systems because of the zinc they possess. Zinc is shown to help fight off viruses because it aids in the creation and activation of white blood cells which are heavily involved in the immune response. Zinc also supports the immune system with tasks such as healing wounds (Schend, n.d.).
Dark, Leafy Greens
Dark, leafy greens, much like red bell peppers, are good sources of beta carotene. In addition to being good for the eyes and skin, beta carotene is associated with increasing the number of disease-fighting cells in the body and reducing inflammation, both of which support immunity (Castaneda, 2020). Many dark leafy greens are also high in Vitamin C which helps to increase the infection-fighting ability of the immune system (Schend, n.d.).
Examples of dark leafy greens include spinach, kale, and arugula. In order to obtain the maximum health benefit, dark leafy greens are best-prepared lightly cooked and paired with healthy fats. This allows for the maximum and easiest absorption of Vitamin A into the body (Castaneda, 2020)
According to a registered dietician with the Cleveland Clinic, Anna Kippen, Vitamin E is an essential antioxidant for maintaining the immune system as we age, and nuts are packed with this essential vitamin (Castaneda, 2020). For best absorption, Vitamin E requires the presence of fat because it is a fat-soluble vitamin, and many nuts also serve as a healthy source of protein and fat (Schend, n.d.).
Garlic contains compounds that support the immune system by naturally working to destroy bacteria. It was relied upon by some early civilizations for its value in fighting off infections. Research suggests that consuming garlic can help minimize the chances of getting and staying sick. The immune-boosting properties of the herb appear to come from the high concentration of sulfur-containing compounds like allicin (Castaneda, 2020).
While not widely noted for its immune-boosting properties, yogurt that possess live and active cultures, as well as Vitamin D, can be highly beneficial for the immune system. The probiotics found in yogurt and other fermented products are known to stimulate the immune system, helping it to fight off viruses and disease.
Vitamin D has been shown to help regulate the immune system and is believed to boost the boy’s natural defenses against disease (Cstaneda, 2020).
Ginger offers benefits for the immune system because of its anti-inflammatory properties. It is the anti-inflammatory properties that work to support the immune response of the body by preventing inflammation from getting out of control and preventing inflammatory diseases within the body. This then prevents excess cellular and tissue damage and allows the immune system to effectively ward off viruses, bacteria, and disease (University of Chicago Illinois, 2020).
Tea can also serve as a strong booster of the immune system. Teas such as white tea, green tea, and black tea all possess polyphenols and flavonoids. These antioxidants seek out and destroy free radicals which can damage cells if not removed (Castaneda, 2020).
While these are not all of the foods that offer benefits for the immune system, this list is a good place to start. By making more intentional efforts to ingest those foods that boost the power of our immune system, we decrease our chances of contracting illnesses and promote the body’s ability to quickly rid itself of viruses, bacteria, and disease it does contract. We are then in better shape to live vibrant and long lives.
- Castaneda, R. (2020, March 23). 8 foods that can support your immunity. US News & World Report.
- Newman, T. (n.d.). The immune system: Cells, tissues, function, and disease. Health News – Medical News Today.
- Schend, J. (n.d.). What to eat and drink to boost your immune system. Healthline.
- University of Illinois at Chicago. (2020, 1). Boosting the anti-inflammatory action of the immune system. ScienceDaily.
- WebMD. (2020). Slideshow: Immune-boosting foods.