15 Foods That Boost the Immune System

Nobody wants to get sick. It can be disruptive, costly, and may even be life-threatening at times. Thankfully, we can turn to Mother Nature for help. Eating certain types of foods may help keep your body’s immune system strong. If you are looking for ways to prevent colds and other infections, plan your meals to include these 15 foods that boost the immune system.

Foods That Boost the Immune System

1. Citrus Fruits

OrangesMost people turn to vitamin C when they catch a cold. Besides boosting the immune system, it is believed that vitamin C increases the production of white blood cells, which are a key component in fighting infections.

Almost all citrus fruits contain vitamin C. Popular citrus fruits include oranges, lemons, limes, and tangerines. Because the body doesn’t produce or store it, an individual needs daily vitamin C for optimum health. The recommended daily amount for adults is 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women.

2. Ginger

Ginger is another popular immune boosting food. It may help decrease inflammation, reduce a sore throat, and ease other inflammatory illnesses. It may help with nausea as well.

Ginger may also reduce chronic pain and may even possess cholesterol-lowering properties. It also packs some heat through gingerol, a relative of capsaicin.

3. Garlic

GarlicFound in almost every international cuisine, garlic adds zing to food and is a must have for your health. In fact, early civilizations recognized its value in fighting different types of infections.

Garlic may slow down hardening of the arteries, and there’s some evidence that it may help lower blood pressure. The immune-boosting properties of garlic seem to come from a high concentration of sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin.

4. Broccoli

Broccoli contains lots of vitamins and minerals. One of the healthiest vegetables around, broccoli is packed with vitamins A, C and E, fiber, and antioxidants. Top tip: to get maximum nutrition from this vegetable, cook it as little as possible. Research has shown that steaming is the best way to cook and get more nutrients from broccoli.

5. Red Bell Peppers

Red Bell PeppersOunce for ounce, red bell peppers contain almost three times as much vitamin C as an orange. They are also an excellent source of beta carotene. Aside from boosting the immune system, vitamin C can help you maintain healthy skin. Beta carotene, meanwhile, is converted into vitamin A by the body and helps keep eyes and skin healthy.

6. Yogurt

Look for yogurts with the phrase “live and active cultures” printed on the label (such as Greek yogurt). These cultures may help stimulate the immune system to fight diseases. Try to buy plain yogurt rather than those that are flavored or loaded with sugar. If you want to sweeten plain yogurt a little bit, use a drizzle of honey or healthy fruits instead.

Yogurt can also be an excellent source of vitamin D, so try to choose brands fortified with this vitamin. It is believed that vitamin D helps regulate the immune system and boost the body’s natural defenses against diseases.

7. Almonds

AlmondsWhen it comes to preventing/fighting off colds, vitamin E doesn’t get as much attention as vitamin C. But vitamin E is also important to achieving a healthy immune system.

It is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it requires the presence of fat in order to be absorbed properly. Nuts such as almonds are rich in vitamin E and contain healthy fats. Adults need approximately 15 mg of vitamin E every day. A half-cup serving of almonds (about 46 whole, shelled almonds) provides 100% of the recommended daily amount.

8. Spinach

Spinach is in this list of foods that boost the immune system not just because it is rich in vitamin C — it is also rich in antioxidants and beta carotene, both of which may increase the infection-fighting ability of the immune system. Like broccoli, spinach is healthiest when cooked as little as possible.

9. Green Tea

Green and black teas are packed with flavonoids (a type of antioxidant). In particular, green tea contains epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). In studies, EGCG showed the ability to enhance immune function. The fermentation process that black tea goes through destroys most of the EGCG. On the other hand, green tea is steamed and not fermented, so most of the EGCG is preserved.

Additionally, green tea is a good source of L-theanine, an amino acid that may aid in the production of germ-fighting compounds in the body’s T cells.

10. Turmeric

TurmericYou may know turmeric as an ingredient in many curries. This bright yellow spice has been used for years as an anti-inflammatory in treating osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Research shows that curcumin (which gives turmeric its color) can help reduce exercise-induced muscle damage. It also looks promising as an immune booster and an antiviral. However, more research is needed regarding this matter.

11. Papaya

Papaya is a fruit packed with vitamin C. You can get the recommended daily amount of vitamin C in a single medium-sized fruit. Papaya also has a digestive enzyme known as papain that has anti-inflammatory effects. This fruit also has decent amounts of folate, magnesium, and potassium, all of which are beneficial to overall health.

12. Kiwi

Like papaya, kiwi contains a lot of essential nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and potassium. Vitamin C boosts your white blood cells to fight infection. Kiwi’s other nutrients, meanwhile, help keep the rest of your body functioning properly.

13. Button Mushrooms

Button mushrooms contain the mineral selenium and the B vitamins niacin and riboflavin. If you are low on selenium, you are more likely to get a more severe reaction to the flu. Meanwhile, both niacin and riboflavin play a role in achieving a healthy immune system.

14. Watermelon

WatermelonIt is not only refreshing. When it is ripe, watermelon also has plenty of an antioxidant known as glutathione. Glutathione strengthens the immune system so it can better fight infection. To get the most glutathione in watermelon, eat the red and pulpy flesh near the rind.

15. Sweet Potato

Like carrots, sweet potatoes contain beta carotene. The body converts beta carotene into vitamin A, which mops up harmful free radicals. This helps boost the immune system and may even slow down the aging process.


When it comes to foods that boost the immune system, pay attention to serving sizes so that you don’t get too much of a single nutrient and too little of others. Eating right is essential for good health, and consuming the foods on this list may help protect you from colds, infections, and other illnesses.

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