How To Boost The Immune System With Food

by Funmi // in Nutrition

How to boost the immune system with food is a great question! We know that we can't always prevent illnesses, but we can do our best to keep a healthy immune system.

The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues and organs that work together to protect the body from infection. It’s an incredible system with many components, but it can be weakened by stress and illness.

In this article, we’re going to show you how to boost your immune system with food. These healthy foods will provide key nutrients for fighting off infection while boosting your energy levels to fight stressful days.

What is the immune system about?

The immune system is designed to protect the body from viruses, bacteria and parasites that cause disease, as well as toxins, cancer cells and blood components that can trigger an immune response.

The immune system is a network of organs, cells and proteins that work together to identify, target and eliminate harmful invaders.

How does the food we eat support a healthy immune system?

how to boost the immune system with

It is important to note that you cannot always prevent illnesses, but you can boost your immunity with good nutrition!

A healthy immune system requires nutrients and antioxidants from fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

These foods contain key components that boost the body's ability to fight off infection and disease.

Phytochemicals are chemicals found in plants that support immunity. They protect against oxidative stress (the process of unstable molecules damaging cells), reduce inflammation (an immune system response to injury or disease), and fight infection.

Antioxidants are another type of phytochemical that support immunity by reducing inflammation. They also help cells communicate better, which is important for the immune system. Examples include vitamins C, E, beta-carotene and zinc.

Vitamins A, C and E are vitamins that support immunity. They also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, macular degeneration and other diseases.

Zinc is a mineral that boosts immunity and helps to heal wounds by producing new cells. It's important for immunity because it fights off infection and promotes cell growth and division.

Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential type of fat that the human body cannot produce by itself. These may help reduce inflammation in autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Foods that help boost your immune system 

how to boost the immune system with

Food is one of the best ways to boost your immune system. Many people think that they can only build up their immunity by having a vaccine, but this isn't true!

Vaccines are designed to make you immune against specific viruses, and while it's still possible to get sick even after a vaccine, it can be somehow contained and less severe.

Food has the ability to increase your immunity regardless of whether you have already been exposed or vaccinated against a particular virus or not!

Your body is still able to build up its own defences and protect itself. So if you think that you can continue eating poorly just because you've had a flu shot- think again.

It is crucial to maintain a healthy diet for your body to function properly and efficiently. The better you eat, the healthier you'll feel and the more resistant you will become towards diseases of all kinds!

Here are 18 great food choices that boost immunity:

1. Garlic

Garlic contains allicin, which helps to fight off infection. It can also help prevent cancer and lower cholesterol. It has been used for centuries to treat many conditions and can be found in a variety of dishes.

2. Ginger

The active ingredient (gingerols) is also found in ginger, which helps fight off colds and flu. This spice is most commonly used for digestion at Westen medicine and can be found in dishes across the world.

3. Onion

Like garlic, onion contains allicin and is a wonderful source of immune-boosting nutrients. You don't need to eat raw onions—cooking them makes the nutrients more available to your body (and you can get onion breath from cooked onions).

4. Turmeric

The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Like garlic, onion and ginger, turmeric spice can be used in curries and other dishes across the world.

5. Cinnamon

This spice can help control blood sugar levels in diabetics and those with insulin sensitivity. It also may reduce inflammation and lower LDL cholesterol.

6. Apples

This tasty fruit is a great source of antioxidants, such as vitamin C and quercetin, which help to protect the body from harmful free radicals. Quercetin has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory benefits and can help reduce the risk of natural infection.

7. Strawberries

These tasty berries are full of powerful antioxidants that help fight off disease. They also contain vitamin C as well as fiber, which helps improve digestive health.

8. Broccoli

This superfood is full of nutrients that help to boost immune function, including beta-carotene and vitamin C. It's best eaten steamed or lightly cooked (for example, in a stir-fry) to preserve nutrients.

9. Sweet potatoes

These orange root vegetables are full of beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. Vitamin A helps to boost immunity and keep skin looking healthy. They're also high in fiber, potassium and vitamin C.

10. Spinach

This green leafy vegetable is full of immune-boosting nutrients, including vitamin A and vitamin C. It's also very low in calories, so try adding some fresh spinach leaves to your next salad.

11. Papaya

This tropical fruit can help protect the skin from sun damage and contains a wealth of immune system-boosting nutrients. Plus, it's delicious!

12. Blueberries

These tasty berries are rich in antioxidants and help fight off free radicals in the body. They're also an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C and manganese.

13. Green tea

Rich in antioxidants such as EGCG, green tea can help prevent infections and stimulate immune function. It can also help to lower cholesterol and improve heart health.

14. Oats

If you're looking for cheap, healthy food that helps boost immunity, then oats are perfect. They contain beta-glucans, which help to strengthen the immune system and may reduce the risk of contracting common infections such as colds and flu.

15. Red chilli peppers

These tasty treats are a great source of vitamin C, which helps to fight off infection and promote healthy skin, bones and teeth. They're also high in capsaicin (a compound that gives the heat in spicy food) that has been shown to help control blood sugar levels.

16. Tomatoes

This versatile fruit can be used to make low-calorie meals that are full of immune system-boosting nutrients. They're also a good source of fiber, potassium and vitamin C.

17. Potatoes

Full of potassium and vitamin C, potatoes are an inexpensive food that helps fight off infections and keep your immune system healthy.

18. Coconut oil

This healthy oil is full of lauric acid, which has been shown to have antimicrobial and antiviral properties.

It can be used in place of butter or vegetable oil when cooking, although it does have a high level of saturated fat so don't overdo it.

Tips on eating a healthy diet for strong immune system

how to boost the immune system with

1. Avoid junk food for best results 

While all types of food can be good, the kind that is rich in vitamins and minerals should be preferred over others. 

Junk foods are typically poor in nutrients and high in calories, which makes them a poor choice to feed your immune system with. Instead, stick to fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

2. Use food as medicine 

Many of the foods that are touted as immunity-boosting actually work! For example, garlic contains the compound allicin, which is responsible for its powerful antibiotic properties. 

Other examples include hot peppers and ginger roots. These foods contain capsaicin and gingerol, which are natural substances that fight viruses and bacteria.

3. Avoid processed foods

Processed foods contain a lot of chemicals. These might seem convenient, but they are not good for your immune system in any way. 

For example, sodium benzoate is an additive that is commonly used as a preservative in soft drinks. It can cause adverse effects to the nervous system by creating benzene, a known carcinogen.

This means that if you want to boost your immune system with food, avoid processed foods as much as you can.

4. Stay hydrated

Proper hydration is essential to keeping your immune system strong. When the body is dehydrated, it cannot build white blood cells or fight off infection as well as when it is properly hydrated. 

Therefore, drinking plenty of water throughout the day will keep your immune system in tiptop shape.

5. Eat your fruits and vegetables

The best way to boost the immune system with food is by eating a diet rich in veggies, fruits, legumes and nuts.

These foods contain key components that boost the body's ability to fight off infection and disease.

6. Exercise often for best results

Exercising is another great way to keep your immune system strong. People who exercise often tend to have lower levels of stress, which creates a healthier environment in the body.

When you are stressed or anxious, it is harder for your immune system to fight off infectious bacteria and viruses. That's why recovering from intense workouts will help keep them away.

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Immunity And Weight Management

how to boost the immune system with

Immunity plays an important role in weight management, as the body immune system helps with the regulation of metabolism as well as preserving lean muscle mass.

If your immunity is low, it can lead to more than just colds and flu – it can result in an underperforming thyroid gland or a slow metabolic rate!

When you are trying to lose weight it is all too easy to let your immunity slip, as many of the foods which can boost it are also higher in calories.

But if you want to be prepared for illness and tiredness, you need to eat foods rich in antioxidants and nutrients.

Split your plate into four sections: vegetables, proteins, grains/carbs, fruit

1. Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower are among the best vegetables to include in your diet.

They are all rich in a compound called indoles which helps the liver get rid of excess estrogen, an estrogen metabolite that has been linked to breast cancer. The fiber also helps keep insulin levels low, aiding weight loss and curbing cravings.

Leafy greens such as kale, spinach and watercress are low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods that also help boost immunity.

They are high in beta-carotene (a type of antioxidant found in the eye which helps prevent cataracts and macular degeneration ) as well as vitamin C, an important water-soluble antioxidant that protects cells from free radical damage.

2. Protein

Lean protein is an important dietary component when it comes to weight loss as it helps you to feel full for longer.

Fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel are rich sources of vitamin D and immune-boosting mineral that helps the body produce over 200 antimicrobial peptides, which can fight off bacteria and viruses.

Spice up your meals with garlic, ginger, onion and turmeric! These super spices have antiviral and antibacterial properties as well as antioxidants to help protect your cells from damage.

3. Grains And Carbs

Whole grains such as brown rice, oats and quinoa are packed with dietary fibre which can help regulate blood sugars for longer periods of time, keeping insulin levels low.

They also contain a compound called beta-glucan that boosts immunity by activating white blood cells to fight infection .

4. Fruit

Citrus fruits such as grapefruit and oranges are low in calories yet high in antioxidants, including vitamin C and beta-carotene.

Just one half of orange provides 100% of your daily intake of vitamin C. The fruit also contains a compound called hesperidin which has been proven to strengthen the immune system and fight infections.

Fruits that are dark, purple or red all contain anthocyanins, a flavonoid that increases our bodies' antioxidant potential to help us fight disease.

This includes blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries.

how to boost the immune system with

Final thoughts on how to boost the immune system with food

There are many ways to keep your immune system strong, but what's most important is that you focus on eating foods rich in antioxidants and nutrients.

This can also help with weight management as well! In this article, we've covered the best fruits, vegetables, proteins and grains for a healthy diet.

If these principles sound overwhelming at first, don't worry, just focus on adding each to your meals slowly over time and you will notice a health difference!

What type of immunity-boosting ingredients do you eat? Comment Below. I will love to know!

More Resources

Boosting the Immune System, From Science to Myth

Nutrition and Immunity

About the author 


Funmi is a Certified Functional Health Coach. She is passionate about helping female entrepreneurs transform from Stress and burnout so they can begin to thrive in their body and, by extension, their businesses.

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