Eating a balanced diet is one of the best ways to prevent illness and keep your immune system functioning at its optimal capacity. When you do get sick, however, it is essential that you consume foods that support that system so that you can recover faster from an infection.
To help boost your immune system, we asked nutrition experts for their top 10 immune-boosting foods to eat during cold and flu season as well as all year long.
1. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are packed with essential nutrients that can boost your immunity. These include vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
They contain anti-inflammatory properties and are high in dietary fiber, making them an excellent addition to any diet.
2. Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens like spinach, kale and swiss chard are packed with vitamins C, K, folate and beta carotene that support your immune system. Plus they supply other essential nutrients like iron and potassium as well.
Cruciferous vegetables like kale, mustard greens and collard greens contain glucosinolates which inhibit cancer cell growth. Furthermore, they supply calcium and magnesium which are vital for bone health.
Eggs are packed with immune-boosting vitamins and minerals. Furthermore, they’re high in protein as well as beneficial fats.
Vitamins B6 and B12, as well as zinc, are essential for a strong immune system. Not only do they assist in producing antibodies in the body but they also support nerve cells and red blood cells by maintaining their health.
Eggs are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and choline, both beneficial to brain health. Furthermore, eggs may reduce a person’s risk for heart disease and cancer by helping build stronger bonds between cells.
Fruits are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and bioactive compounds that support immunity. Vitamin C, beta-carotene and flavonoids are just three examples.
They contain fiber to aid with digestion and the growth of new cells, plus they’re low in calories with 88 percent water content to keep you feeling hydrated.
5. Vegetable Juices
Eating fresh juices is an excellent way to get the essential nutrients your body requires. Plus, juices may even help ward off cold and flu symptoms.
Vegetable juices are an excellent source of vitamin C, which strengthens your immunity by increasing production of white blood cells and antibodies. Plus, they contain zinc which combats bacteria and viruses.
6. Whole Grains
Whole grains provide essential nutrients and a range of phytochemicals to support the body’s immune system. These include B vitamins, fiber, zinc and iron.
Whole grain products differ from refined grains in that they retain both their bran and germ after milling. Furthermore, these grains still contain the starchy endosperm which provides carbohydrates and protein but in a more concentrated form.
Seafood is one of the best food groups for supporting immune health. It contains essential vitamins, minerals and anti-inflammatory nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids, iron, selenium and zinc.
Seafood is also an excellent source of vitamin D, which boosts your body’s resistance to disease. A study of over 420,000 people revealed that eating seafood reduced respiratory deaths by 20 percent.
Essential oils are an excellent way to support the immune system. Many contain antimicrobial, antioxidant and antiviral properties which can strengthen the body’s defenses.
Some of the best essential oils for immunity include eucalyptus, clove, and lemon. Frankincense is another highly beneficial oil that can help to bolster your immunity.
Echinacea is a popular herb that supports your immune system and combats infection. Additionally, it’s known to be anti-inflammatory and may help alleviate pain.
However, it’s essential to be aware that echinacea may pose risks for those with certain health conditions like autoimmune diseases or who take immunosuppressants. Therefore, consult your GP or healthcare professional before trying this supplement.
10. Green Tea
Green tea is an excellent way to strengthen your immune system. It contains antioxidants and the amino acid L-theanine, which may support the function of white blood cells.
Anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric can help combat conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. Plus, it’s an excellent source of selenium – a trace mineral which helps lower your risks for infection and oxidative stress.