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Foods that Support a Healthy Immune System

Foods that Support a Healthy Immune System


Between the COVID-19 pandemic and cold/flu season, now is the time for your body’s defenses to be as strong as possible. To do so, you need to boost your immune system.

A healthy immune system helps your body to combat invaders like bacteria or viruses. While there are no magic cures or fix-alls for a perfect immune system and warding off all illnesses, there are small steps you can take to make your defenses as tough as possible.

healthy, balanced diet that is high in fruits and vegetables nourishes your body and helps to keep your immune system healthy. These foods are often packed with vitamins A, C, D, and other key nutrients that can support your body’s ability to fight infection.

When it comes to foods that boost your immune system, opt for those rich in:

  • Antioxidants – Antioxidants fight damage caused by free radicals or molecules that can damage your body tissues. Antioxidants often come from plant-based foods and include:
    • Artichokes
    • Beets
    • Berries
    • Carrots
    • Dark chocolate
    • Leafy greens like spinach
    • Nuts
    • Red grapes
    • Sweet potatoes
  • Protein – Protein is made of amino acids needed to fuel the immune system. They support immune functions in your intestines. Not getting enough protein can weaken your immunity and cause a higher risk of developing disease. Opt for food sources high in protein like:
    • Beef and pork (processed as minimally as possible)
    • Eggs
    • Fish
    • Nuts like almonds
    • Poultry like chicken and turkey
    • Yogurt
  • Vitamin A – This vitamin helps to produce white blood cells and keep them functioning properly. Not enough vitamin A and white blood cells and you’re more susceptible to infections and may have delays in your recovery when you are sick. That’s why you should include these foods in your diet:
    • Carrots
    • Eggs
    • Leafy greens, especially spinach
    • Liver and fish oils
    • Milk
    • Peppers
    • Squash
    • Sweet potatoes
  • Vitamin C – This powerful vitamin and antioxidant keeps germs like viruses and bacteria from entering the body, kills bacteria that get in, and supports immune cells so they can function properly. When meal planning, don’t forget these sources of vitamin C:
    • Bell peppers
    • Broccoli
    • Cantaloupe
    • Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits
    • Leafy greens
    • Strawberries
    • Tomatoes
    • Tropical fruits like kiwi and mango
  • Vitamin D – It not only promotes bone health. Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with an increased risk of getting infections like the flu. Common food sources of vitamin D include:
    • Fish like salmon and tuna
    • Milk
    • Orange juice
    • Yogurt (also contains probiotics good for both gut and immune health)
  • Vitamin E – This nutrient neutralizes free radicals in the body. Foods loaded with vitamin E include:
    • Avocados
    • Nuts like peanuts and hazelnuts
    • Seeds like sunflower
    • Vegetable oils like sunflower and safflower
  • Zinc – Zinc helps your body to produce immune cells. It reduces your risk and severity of infectious diseases and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Foods high in zinc include:
    • Cashews
    • Chickpeas
    • Meat
    • Oysters
    • Shellfish
    • Whole grains like oats

Other foods that boost your immune system include garlic, turmeric, echinacea, elderberry, green tea, and ginger.

Keep in mind that a healthy diet is a large piece of keeping your immune system strong, but it’s not the only one. Here are a few additional tips to boost your immune system.

  • If you smoke, stop. Smoking makes your body less successful at fighting off disease. If you need help quitting, learn more about our Smoking Cessation Program.
  • Drink more water, and only drink alcohol in moderation.
  • Get 7 hours or more of sleep each night. Set a schedule and routine to get quality sleep.
  • Exercise regularly, at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight with a BMI of 25 or lower.
  • Reduce stress. If there are activities, people, or circumstances causing you to stress each day, consider limiting access. Likewise, if there are activities like meditating, FaceTiming loved ones, or exercising that help you handle stress, make these a higher priority.
  • Continue to practice COVID-19 safety protocols, like washing your hands frequently, wearing a mask, and social distancing.

Want to add more healthy foods to your diet? Visit our friends at LiveWell Frederick. They have plenty of resources to support your healthy eating habits in 2021.