A strong immune system can help you stay healthy year-round. While there are many lifestyle changes that you can make to boost your immune health, diet is one of the most impactful. There are several foods that boost immune system health, but we’re going to share some of the best ones to add to your diet.
Best Foods That Boost Immune System Faster
Ginger adds a zip of flavor and spice to food, but it’s also great for your health. Gingerol, a component of ginger root, helps improve digestive health, eases nausea and can even help with inflammation.
Ginger’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects are well-documented, and these are the effects that can boost immune health. In fact, test-tube and animal studies have found that ginger can improve the immune system response.
Try this immune-boosting tonic made with fresh ginger, garlic, lemon and honey.
Turmeric is a common spice known for its rich orange color and its health-boosting component, curcumin. It’s a member of the ginger family, so not surprisingly, it also has immune-boosting effects.
Research has found that turmeric can help activate B cells, T cells, neutrophils (a type of white blood cell), macrophages (another type of white blood cell) and dendritic cells (antigen-presenting cells). It can also help improve the body’s antibody response.
There are so many ways to add turmeric to your diet for immune support. Powdered turmeric is the simplest way. Just add it to your food like you do other spices. Be sure to include black pepper. Black pepper contains piperine, which helps the body use the curcumin in turmeric.
Here’s another great way to add turmeric to your diet: an immune booster shot. This drink is loaded with immune supporting ingredients, like turmeric, ginger, lemon juice, honey, cinnamon, apple cider vinegar, orange juice, cayenne pepper and more.
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Miso is a paste made with fermented soybeans and rice or barley malt. It’s a popular ingredient in Asian dishes, particularly in Japanese cuisine. Miso has an umami flavor and is commonly added to soup.
Because it is a fermented food, miso can help support gut health. Most of your immune system is located in your gut, so a healthy gut equals a healthy immune system.
Research has also found that a diet rich in probiotics, like those found in miso, can help you recover faster if you do get sick.
If you want to add miso to your diet, try this recipe. It also contains other immune-supporting ingredients, like garlic, lemon and leafy greens.
Green tea is well-known for its health benefits, but did you know that it can also help boost your immune system?
Green tea is rich in antioxidants like epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG. EGCG can not only help ease inflammation, but it can also help enhance immunity.
One test-tube study found that EGCG could alter the activity of certain proteins, which may help prevent the flu virus from spreading.
Green tea also contains catechins, which may also offer protection against infection and have antiviral properties.
Try drinking green tea in the morning or afternoon. Plain tea is best.
If you prefer cold drinks, try this lemon ginger iced green tea recipe:
You can’t have a list of foods that boost immune system health without including citrus fruits. Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C, one of the most well-known and important vitamins for immune health.
Citrus fruits include:
Try having a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice in the morning or packing some tangerines with your work lunch.
If you want an even bigger immune boost, try this winter citrus smoothie. It’s loaded with immune-supporting ingredients like oranges, ginger, beets, mango, raspberries, honey, turmeric and more.
If you want to load up on vitamin C but aren’t a fan of citrus fruit, reach for some bell peppers. Bell peppers actually contain more vitamin C than citrus fruits. They can also help reduce oxidative stress, which can weaken your immune system.
They’re among the top foods that boost immune system, and they add a ton of flavor to dishes.
While all colors of bell peppers are healthy (red, green, yellow and orange), red peppers have more nutrients.
Try adding bell pepper to your morning smoothie, breakfast or salad. Raw is best, as vitamin C degrades in high heat.
Here’s a great recipe for a pepper salad that’s delicious and healthy:
Mushrooms have long been used for medicinal purposes, and they may also help with immune health. Many varieties of mushrooms can help reduce the inflammatory response caused by pro-inflammatory cytokines, allowing antibodies, B cells and T cells to do their work.
The cell walls in medicinal mushrooms are made up of polysaccharides, which are long chains of carbohydrate molecules. They also contain beta-glucans, which have been shown to help protect against viruses, bacteria and other pathogens.
Some of the top mushrooms for immune health include:
- Turkey tail
- Lion’s Mane
Among the foods that boost immune system, medicinal mushrooms are some of the most controversial. So, if you’re going to purchase these mushrooms, make sure that you buy from a reputable source and consult with your doctor first. You can find dried and powdered forms of mushrooms online.
If you want to take advantage of the immune-supporting effects of these mushrooms, try this soup recipe:
Garlic and Onions
One simple way to give your immune system a little boost is to add garlic and onions to your diet. Because both are popular cooking ingredients, you likely already eat them on a fairly regular basis.
Garlic and onions are a part of the same family, and they both contain nutrients and compounds that support immune health.
- Onions contain sulfur, selenium, vitamin C and zinc. They’re also a great source of quercetin, which has antiviral effects.
- Garlic contains allicin, which has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties.
The flavors of garlic and onion complement each other well, and it’s easy to incorporate them into many dishes.
Try this immune-supporting recipe for homemade chicken noodle soup, which has both garlic and onions.
Berries are rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants that help support immune health and fight against free radicals.
- Raspberries and strawberries are excellent sources of vitamin C.
- Blueberries are antioxidant-rich. They contain the flavonoid anthocyanin, which can help fight against respiratory infections.
- Blackberries are high in vitamin A and have been shown to have antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.
The great thing about berries is that they’re naturally sweet and easy to add to your diet. Try mixing fresh berries into your morning oatmeal or cereal.
Smoothies are another great way to get more berries in your diet. This recipe combines frozen strawberries, raspberries and blueberries with fresh kiwi and orange juice for a tasty immune-boosting drink.
Broccoli truly is a superfood and can help support your immune system. This green vegetable is rich in:
- B vitamins
- Antioxidants like glutathione
- Vitamins C, A and E
Steamed broccoli is best, as boiling will degrade some of the beneficial nutrients.
Here’s a great recipe for steamed broccoli:
Elderberry extract has been used for centuries to help fight infections and boost immune health. It’s among the top foods that boost immune system health, and you can easily make your own elderberry syrup right at home.
Why are elderberries great for your immune system?
- They’re high in vitamin C. One cup will give you about half of the recommended daily value of this nutrient.
- They’re a great source of phenolic acids, which are powerful antioxidants that fight against oxidative stress.
- They’re rich in anthocyanins, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
- They’re a great source of polyphenols, which can help increase the number of white blood cells in your body.
Elderberries have a naturally tart flavor. You can eat them fresh, but dried berries are usually more accessible. Of course, you can also find tinctures, gummies, powders and other supplement forms of elderberries.
If you can get your hands on dried berries, you can make your own elderberry syrup at home. Here’s a great recipe to try:
Fermentation and pickling are centuries-old practices for preserving food. They use enzymes to create chemical changes in food that help with preservation.
Kimchi is a Korean dish made with salted fermented vegetables and seasonings. Typical ingredients include cabbage, ginger, chili peppers, garlic, onions, sugar and salt.
Traditionally, kimchi is fermented for a few days or weeks. It contains a number of nutrients that can help support your immune system, including:
- Probiotics like Lactobacillus, which promote gut health. Lactobacillus has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and immune-enhancing effects.
- Vitamins C, K and B6
You can find kimchi in many grocery stores today. Here’s a great recipe to try:
Manuka honey comes from European honey bees that pollinate the New Zealand scrub plant. Researchers found that bees that pollinate from this plant produce honey that is more potent because it contains a higher amount of methylglyoxal.
Manuka honey is rich in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
Recent research has shown that manuka honey can help increase the release of cytokines, which play an important role in the immune response. Cytokines help white blood cells find and destroy pathogens.
Here’s a tasty recipe for an immune boosting smoothie that includes manuka honey, orange juice, turmeric, ginger, carrots and more.