Having a healthy immune system is something we should all be prioritizing, it’s what protects our bodies from bacteria, viruses, and other foreign bodies. One of the best ways to keep your immune system operating at full capacity is through eating healthy, nutrition-dense foods which naturally contain immune system-boosting properties.
Here are 7 of the best foods to include in your diet for an immune system boost.
Foods to Boost the Immune System: Citrus Fruits
When most people think about the foods they know boost their immune system, the first (and sometimes only) food that comes to mind is oranges. Oranges and other citrus fruits are packed with vitamin C, which increases the production of white blood cells, which are essentially the soldiers in our blood that seek out and fight infections.
Some popular citrus fruits you can eat are grapefruits, oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes, and satsumas. It is really important to get your daily dose of vitamin C through the foods you eat and supplements you take, as your body does not produce the vitamin itself. Citrus fruits are particularly good because you can eat them as they are, juice them, or squeeze them over food to add some zest and an immune boost!
Foods to Boost the Immune System: Red Bell Peppers
Did you know that, by weight, red bell peppers contain twice as much vitamin C as citrus fruits? This means that they offer just as many benefits, if not more, when you add them to your meals, salads, or simply snack on them alone or with hummus. Red bell peppers are also a great source of beta carotene, an antioxidant that has similar effects as vitamin C and has been seen to fight cancer cells, as well as vitamin A which supports eye health.
Foods to Boost the Immune System: Broccoli
Broccoli is considered a “superfood”, and for a good reason – it’s absolutely crammed with vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, C, and E, as well as loads of fibre, and antioxidants such as sulforaphane. The phytochemicals found in broccoli, including glucobrassicin, carotenoids, and kaempferol, are what really boost the immune system since they are such strong antioxidants. The best health benefits result from cooking the broccoli as little as possible, so try slicing it thinly and frying it, roast it gently, or eat it raw, if you can.
Foods to Boost the Immune System: Garlic
Garlic is a brilliant addition to almost any savoury dish. Not only does it have a fantastic flavour, but it also provides considerable health benefits! The immune system boost is a consequence of a heavy concentration of sulphur-containing compounds in the garlic, such as allicin. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health in the US, the properties of garlic may help to lower blood pressure and slow down any hardening of the arteries, which will help improve blood flow and help get your white blood cells to the areas of the body they’re needed as fast as possible.
Try adding a teaspoon of garlic to your meals, as it will offer you the benefits without significantly altering the flavour. While garlic powder works, whole pieces are best, so a jar or pre-diced garlic is your most convenient option.
Foods to Boost the Immune System: Ginger
Have you ever seen an “Immune Boosting Shot” in a health food shop or café? If you have, you’ll have seen that most of these juices are packed with ginger. Why? Ginger supports the immune system through its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which is why so many people add it to tea and hot water when they get ill with a cold or the flu to combat their sore throat.
There is also evidence to show that ginger can help with nausea, and can be as preventative as some cold and flu drugs. The heat that comes from this root is due to gingerol, related to capsaicin, which can help to decrease pain and may lower cholesterol. This is another food that is easily added to stir-fries, curries, chilis, and desserts.
Foods to Boost the Immune System: Spinach
Spinach is another incredible superfood that is rich in vitamins C and E, both of which support the immune system, along with beta carotene, which as we talked about with red peppers, helps to prevent the oxidation of cells and fights cancer.
You will get the most health benefits from spinach when it is cooked as little as possible, or not at all, so it retains all of its nutrients. Bear in mind though, that a light cooking actually enhances its vitamin A output and allows for other nutrients to be gained from the oxalic acid, so feel free to mix fresh leaves into your hot food, such as omelettes or tofu scramble, pasta dishes, and use in burgers instead of iceberg lettuce.
Foods to Boost the Immune System: Berries
Berries of all colours are extremely talented at reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in cells and the body, but they also boost your levels of natural “killer” cells, which are essentially the rapid-response unit for your white blood cells. Unlike other parts of your immune system, these cells don’t need to be activated by a history of exposure, and so act fast against viruses and cancerous cells.
While many weight-loss diets will tell you to cut berries out of your diet due to the sugars they contain, however, the nutritional benefits of berries far outweigh the sugars, which are often released slowly, unlike refined sugars such as those added to chocolate and other sweets, so is generally good for maintaining normal blood sugar levels.
As you can see, there are so many foods you can easily add into your diet for an immune system boost, as well as providing your body with many other health benefits, too.
Of course, it’s not always possible to pack all of these foods into your daily diet, and so supporting your diet with a high quality, ethical multivitamin is the best way to ensure you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals you need to thrive. Our multivitamin does just that – to find out more about what our multivitamin has to offer, click here.