12 Natural Foods to Boost Your Immune System

Updated on May 22, 2018
Kaitlyn Lo profile image

Kaitlyn has a background in psychology and writes articles that teach you how to lean on your body, mind, heart, and on those around you.

By Valeria Boltneva. CC0 Creative Commons
By Valeria Boltneva. CC0 Creative Commons | Source

Do you have allergies? Get sick all the time? Or are you suffering from chronic illnesses? The immune system is our body’s primary defense against environmental toxins and pathogens that make us sick and can prevent our body from healing properly.

Here's a list of foods to eat that will provide all the essential nutrients your body needs to protect you more effectively, and help you heal more quickly from illness as well.

1. Garlic

Garlic adds so much flavor to your food and is also great for shoring up your body’s defense system. Garlic is chock full of sulfuric compounds like allicin that are responsible for the plant’s immune-boosting properties. Adding just a clove or two into every meal can have an antiseptic and antibacterial effect on your body.

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By Skitterphoto. CC0 Creative Commons | Source

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2. Ginger

Another flavor-enhancing plant, ginger is also another go-to ingredient to add to your food that will help you fight off sickness and disease. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that can make your sore throat and other inflammatory discomforts feel better. Because ginger reduced inflammation in the body, ginger can also decrease chronic pain and PMS related cramps.

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By Pixabay. CC0 Creative Commons | Source

3. Yogurt

When eating yogurt, make sure you buy yogurts that have live and active cultures. Greek yogurt will often have those active cultures that will help populate your gut with healthy flora. As your gut health improves, your immune system will also be able to fight off illnesses more effectively. Go for plain, unsweetened yogurt and flavor it with fresh fruit at home. The added sugar in the flavored or sweetened variety will undermine the health benefits of yogurt.

Yogurts fortified with vitamin D will provide an added boost to your immune system as Vitamin D is crucial to maintaining a strong immune system.

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By Pixabay. CC0 Creative Commons | Source

4. Almonds

While Vitamin C is the most well-known vitamin for colds, Vitamin E is just as crucial for the immune system. Because Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, it needs to be taken with a source of fat to be digested and absorbed properly by the digestive system. So almonds are the perfect little packages of natural Vitamin E pills as they are full of the vitamin and are a great source of healthy fats.

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By Keegan Evans. CC0 Creative Commons | Source

5. Turmeric

Most often added to curries, this yellow spice is a powerful anti-inflammatory, which can treat inflammatory illnesses arthritis and reduce flu symptoms. Turmeric’s antimicrobial properties can also fortify your body against disease-causing germs.

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By Ajale. CC0 Creative Commons. | Source

6. Poultry

There’s a reason why you drink chicken soup when you get a cold. It turns out; chicken soup does more than make you feel happy. Poultry, like chicken and turkey, is packed with Vitamin B6. This vitamin is needed for your body to make new red blood cells and is an important catalyst for many crucial reactions in your body. Just one 3oz serving of white chicken or turkey meat will give you half of your daily recommended amount of Vitamin B6, making poultry an easy source of the vitamin.

The gelatin, chondroitin, and other nutrients that have been made more accessible to the body in cooked chicken bones will also soothe your body and boost your immunity.

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By Public Domain Pictures. CC0 Creative Commons | Source

Did You Know?

Regular, moderate exposure to everyday germs, especially during childhood, is important for the development of a strong immune system. So while hygiene is important, don’t stress too much if you or your child accidentally touches something dirty.

7. Shellfish

Most of us don’t think of zinc when we’re trying to fend off a cold, but zinc is very effective at fortifying the immune system, especially when paired with Vitamin C. Since shellfish like crab, clams, lobster, and mussels, are very high in zinc, making a seafood boil can be a fun and delicious way to boost your immunity.

But make sure you don’t overdo the zinc as too much of it can have the opposite effect and weaken your immune system instead. For an adult man, 11mg is the recommended daily amount of zinc to take. An adult woman should cap it off at 8mg.

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By Terje Sollie. CC0 Creative Commons | Source

8. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are chock full of selenium, riboflavin, and niacin - all nutrients essential for the health of your immune system. The polysaccharides in mushrooms are also known to strengthen immunity.

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By Pixabay. CC0 Creative Commons | Source

9. Sweet Potato

Just one medium sweet potato will provide 120% of your daily recommended amount of Vitamin A and 30% of Vitamin C for just 100 calories. Both of these vitamins are essential for an effective immune system. The high fiber of sweet potatoes will keep your gut happy as well.

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By Ela Haney. CC0 Creative Commons | Source

10. Broccoli

Broccoli is filled with nutrients that work together to strengthen your immunity. The vegetable has as much Vitamin C as an orange, but none of the sugar. It is high in beta-carotene, potassium, zinc, magnesium, and iron, which are all immune-boosting nutrients.

By Zamani Sahudi. CC0 Creative Commons.
By Zamani Sahudi. CC0 Creative Commons. | Source

11. Miso

A staple in the Japanese diet, miso is made from fermented soybeans and are full of gut-healthy probiotics. An imbalance of healthy bacteria in the gut is associated with a weakened immune system that can trigger irritable bowel syndrome, food allergies, and gastroenteritis. So, miso is an easy and delicious way to add some healthy flora in your gastrointestinal tract, which will work to protect your digestive system from harmful pathogens.

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By leeyoping0. CC0 Creative Commons | Source

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12. Papaya

Another fruit packed with Vitamin C, just one papaya will give you 224% of your daily recommended amount of Vitamin C. The digestive enzyme in papaya, called papain has anti-inflammatory properties, and the potassium, folate, and Vitamin B in this sweet fruit all work together to fortify your immune system.

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By picmamba.com. CC0 Creative Commons | Source

Variety is Key

While each of these foods contains compounds that will boost your immunity, don’t just pick one food and eat an overwhelming amount of it. Foods work best when eaten together with a wide variety of other healthy foods. So, pick a few ingredients from this list every day and have fun discovering new delicious combinations!

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 KV Lo

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      • Kaitlyn Lo profile imageAUTHOR

        KV Lo 

        4 months ago

        @Tawnya: Which other foods would you like to tell us about? I could add them in to this list!

      • profile image

        Tawnya 

        4 months ago

        I never would have guessed that garlic would boost your immune system. I'll admit, I was surprised by several things on this list, as well as several things that were not on this list.

      • profile image

        Leah 

        4 months ago

        Such a great post! We try to have at least 3 of these per dinner. Great for people with sensitive tummies too.

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