If you've visited The Bircher Bar before, you'll likely know that we are passionate about all things health.
From medicinal fungi like Turkey Tail Mushroom and Lion's Mane Mushroom to supplements such as vegan protein powder and vegan collagen - we are always looking for natural ways to improve your health and get the most out of life!
One aspect of health that can't ever be ignored is your immune system - particularly in the modern age.
Many people focus on finding out what foods are low in calories on their fitness or weight loss journey, but it's arguably more important to eat food that has a lot of vitamins, proteins, and other nutrients for your overall health.
By having a healthy diet you can not only lose weight or build muscle, you will also help your body fight different diseases and illnesses, digestive issues, and countless other health concerns.
To prepare this post we asked Minuca Elena to reach out to 29 of the top nutrition experts and ask them the following question:
What are the best immune-boosting foods?
Keep reading to see what the experts had to say. They shared a lot of useful tips that you can apply and most of them can be adapted to any diet.
The best immune-boosting foods contain both antioxidants to prevent cell damage and anti-inflammatories to keep your body from being in a chronically stressed state (which lowers your immunity).
Also, foods that heal the gut microbiome are important, as gut health is crucial to immunity and overall wellness.
● Prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals (toxins from food or the
environment), and boost immunity
● Combat skin aging by promoting the production of collagen; also
protective for hair and nails
● Reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduces heart disease risk factors
● Reduces risk for Type 2 (lifestyle-induced) Diabetes
● Reduces risk for certain cancers and suppresses cancer growth
● Defends eyes against damaging UV light
● Prevents damaging over the response from the immune system (chronic low inflammation) caused by toxins, stress, excess weight, and processed foods
● Aid in weight loss by preventing insulin resistance and metabolic disturbances which contribute to weight gain
● Protective against numerous health problems including depression, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, auto-immune diseases & some cancers
BEST FOODS LOADED WITH BOTH
Dark Leafy Greens – antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, fibre - Spinach, kale, swiss chard, collard greens
Broccoli – antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, fibre (both types!) & also cauliflower, cabbage & Brussels sprouts
Walnuts & Pistachios highest in Omega 3’s
Berries & Cherries - antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, fibre
Whole Eggs – Antioxidants, Beneficial Fat (pasture-raised are higher in Omega 3s)
Mushrooms - antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, fibre · All varieties beneficial
Avocado – Omega 3’s, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, fibre - superfood superstar
Garlic – antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, pre-biotic, Feeds healthy bacteria in the gut, Antimicrobial
Ginger – antioxidant; anti-inflammatory
Apple Cider Vinegar – antioxidant, anti-inflammatory & prebiotic
Green Tea, especially Matcha - antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, gut healing. Note: make your own matcha lattes with, preferably, oat or hemp milk.
Restaurant-made matcha lattes are likely cheap, pre-mixed powders loaded with sugar or sugar substitutes and additives.
There are many foods that can provide the essential nutrients we need for a healthy immune system.
Unfortunately, there are no foods that can boost your immunity in such a way that you can cure or completely prevent disease. A few of the vitamins and minerals that help support a healthy immune system include vitamins A, C, E, and the mineral zinc.
Most healthy adults shouldn't need to supplement with these nutrients if they are eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods.
You can find Vitamin A (either preformed vitamin A or provitamin A carotenoids) in foods like beef liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, and spinach.
Citrus fruits are an obvious choice for vitamin C, but bell peppers, kiwi, broccoli, and strawberries are also excellent sources.
For vitamin E, look to nuts and seeds. Sunflower seeds, almonds, and hazelnuts are excellent sources of this nutrient.
Many animal-based foods are rich sources of highly bioavailable zinc. Though plant-based foods (such as whole grains and legumes) may have zinc, they contain phytates that bind to zinc and limit its absorption.
Oysters, beef, crab, and lobster are some excellent sources of zinc. Oysters are actually one of the richest food sources of this mineral you can find.
I would consider oysters a great food choice to help support a well-functioning immune system when included as a part of a varied diet.
The best immune-boosting foods are ones that contain high levels of antioxidants. Vitamins A, C, E, selenium, and zinc.
Although we should take some supplements in order to round out our diet, we do need to eat foods that have these nutrients.
These are my favourite foods that boost your immune system:
- Berries - Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, goji berries
- Citrus - Oranges, lemons, kiwi
- Fermented foods – kimchi, sauerkraut
- Plain non-fat Greek yogurt
- Cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts
- Spices – Turmeric, ginger, cayenne pepper, garlic, cinnamon
- Oysters for zinc
- Dark chocolate
- Brazil nuts for selenium
- Mushrooms –Shiitake, oyster, white button, portobello
I recommend all of my clients to incorporate fruits and veggies with each meal to round out their diet and to cover their nutritional bases.
If this list feels overwhelming, pick one or two from this list, then rotate other ones in so that you slowly get a wide variety into your diet.
Along with drinking enough water, if you include these foods into your diet, you’ll bulletproof your immune system and improve your overall health.
Nutrient-dense foods that contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other compounds are generally great for your immune system, but some are even better than the rest.
For example, garlic is an immune-system boosting food with specific properties that even other “healthy” foods do not.
Research indicates that garlic can enhance the immune system by stimulating certain cell types and mechanisms, including the modulation of cytokine secretion, immunoglobulin production, phagocytosis, and macrophage activation.
As a family, legumes are outstanding immune system boosters due to their high content of zinc and other vital micronutrients. Legumes that are great for your immune system include chickpeas, lentils, and beans.
Legumes do contain phytic acid, which can reduce the amount of zinc absorbed in their consumption, but they are still one of the best plant sources of zinc and provide large amounts of protein and fibre per serving as well.
Lastly, foods high in vitamin C are generally great for your immune system. According to the journal Nutrients:
“Vitamin C contributes to immune defence by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system.”
Foods high in vitamin C that are great for the immune system include citrus fruits, peppers, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and berries.
Ted Kallmyer - Healthy Eater
If you want to have a healthy immune system, there are basically two words to use as your guide when it comes to nutrition. Plants and Color.
1. Plants: You’ll want to eat as many plants as possible each day.
Plants are powerhouses in immune system nutrition because they are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fibre.
All of these nutrients are needed for a healthy immune system, from healthy probiotic flora in your gut to a healthy lymphatic system.
2. Colour: You want to eat colourful plants. Greens, dark greens, reds, yellows, oranges, purples, etc.
The colourful pigments in plants have so many benefits to your body including immune system health. Focusing on colour also helps ensure that you’re getting a variety of plants and not just a couple.
You could eat potatoes all day which are technically a plant, but you wouldn’t be giving your immune system everything it needs to be healthy.
In addition to using the words plants and colour for a healthy immune system, you should also eat vitamin D rich foods like fish, eggs, and mushrooms.
Your skin naturally makes vitamin D from sunlight but during the Winter months this production goes down and if your lifestyle is such that you can’t get out in the sun much, you won’t be getting enough daily vitamin D.
Since vitamin D is so important for immune health, focus also on eating vitamin D rich foods often and also taking a good vitamin D supplement daily.
Robert Herbst - W8LifterUSA.com
It is almost a cliché that people should eat foods high in vitamin C and perhaps other antioxidants to boost their immune system. Yet the immune system is not monolithic.
There are different types of immunity such as innate and adaptive and degrees of the immune response, some so severe such as the inflammatory cytokine storm or autoimmune diseases that one can suffer a debilitating illness or even death.
While much work needs to be done, some research indicates that having increased levels of testosterone will modulate a severe cytokine response such as the kind that can lead to death in some cases of COVID-19.
Eating certain foods such as red meat and egg yokes can raise one's testosterone levels.
Yet those foods are also high in fat and cholesterol, which have been linked to other health issues.
So the best answer may be to follow the advice your mother always gave you of eating a balanced diet. One should not overemphasize one food or group, but eat it in conjunction with others for a balanced and healthy life.
Taking good care of ourselves is more important than ever given the year we’ve all had.
As vaccines are being administered across the country, there are other things we can do to maintain good health.
Eating a healthy diet focused on immune-boosting foods can help ward off viruses and bacteria that can ultimately lead to infection and illness.
Consider reaching for some of these immune-boosting foods next time you head to the refrigerator:
Citrus Fruits – these naturally sugar-packed foods are loaded with Vitamin C and can help boost immunity and lower inflammation. One cup of pineapple contains nearly 79 milligrams of Vitamin C.
Other sources of citrus include tangerines, lemons, limes, and grapefruits.
Leafy Greens – often termed as “superfoods” these greens, such as kale, spinach and arugula are a fabulous addition to a healthy diet.
Their secret ingredient – flavonoid antioxidants – is a great source of Vitamin A and C.
Ginger – With both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, this little gem helps to cleanse the lymphatic system which helps eliminate the body’s toxins.
Consider whipping up a cup of homemade ginger tea. Simply boil 8 cups of water with 1 cup of thinly sliced unpeeled ginger.
Reduce it down to 5 cups (about 25 minutes), add in ¼ cup of honey and you have a healthy hot drink for you and a few friends.
Garlic – This commonly used addition to many classic dishes has been shown to reduce cholesterol, kill viruses and bacteria, and is most well known as a cancer-fighting agent.
Some say when eaten daily, it can reduce your risk of getting a cold by 50%. You may want to think twice about telling your chef to “hold the garlic” next time.
Sarah Schlichter - Bucket List Tummy
Many colourful fruits and vegetables are great for immunity, like sweet potatoes, broccoli, blueberries, strawberries, and oranges, as they are high in Vitamin C, and antioxidants, such as phytonutrients.
Since Vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient, it needs to constantly be replenished in the body.
Research has shown that being deficient in vitamin C may impair immunity, while extra doses can reduce the duration of sickness.
Foods that provide zinc, such as lentils and beans, meats and eggs with yolks are also fantastic for immunity, since zinc aids in the development of white blood cells, which can help reduce inflammation.
Foods rich in Vitamins A and D, such as sweet potatoes and leafy greens, and seafood and dairy products, respectively, also help strengthen the immune system by ensuring all cofactors are working correctly.
Aside from diet, getting adequate sleep, managing stress and regular exercise can also help contribute to a healthy immune system.
Melissa Eboli - Via Melissa
There are so many foods in nature that are beneficial for your immunity! Let’s start with fruit.
Kiwis, berries, oranges, and apples are all great for boosting immunity, as these are all high in vitamin C. The skin of an apple has a flavenoid called quercetin that both boosts immunity and reduces inflammation.
Berries contain polyphenol which is an antioxidant that helps boost immunity.
Other foods that are high in vitamin C include spinach, kale, broccoli, and bell peppers.
Another vitamin class to indulge in to boost your immunity are foods rich in vitamin D. Mushrooms, egg yolks, and fatty fish such as salmon would be your best source here.
The last category I’ll touch on for boosting immunity is nuts and seeds. Almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios, and brazil nuts are my top picks. They are high in vitamin C and each has some zinc in them as well.
Nuts and seeds alike such as flax and chia are also high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega fatty acids are beneficial for enhancing your immunity. They also regulate your inflammatory response in the body.
Speaking of inflammation, turmeric and ginger are superior when it comes to reducing inflammation, which is directly correlated to having good immunity.
Lastly, one thing to keep in mind is to indulge in alkalizing foods and to avoid foods that are considered acidic. All suggestions above would be considered alkalizing foods.
It's now more important than ever to keep your immune system healthy! And popping pills is not the answer.⠀
Healthy food beats supplements any day! ⠀
Here are my nutrition tips to help keep your immune system strong and help keep you healthy all winter long: (FYI—sorry folks but you can’t really “boost” your immune system. If only...)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
- Include a vitamin C-rich fruit at breakfast- citrus fruits are full of antioxidants!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
- Add nuts and wheat germ to your yogurt- yogurt is rich in probiotics along with protein, vitamins B12 & D can help with #immunefunction.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
- Build a healthy salad full of colourful produce! The more colour on your plate, the more nutrients & antioxidants you will get.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
- Pour a cup of tea with ginger! Tea is full of polyphenols and flavonoids-antioxidants that will help keep your immune system strong.⠀
- Include miso soup and other fermented foods to promote gut health! Miso soup is full of probiotics that promote digestive health and immune function.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
- Cook with spices and herbs! Spices and herbs can help keep our immune system strong. Turmeric is a great option.
- Enjoy some grilled salmon with a side of sauteed broccoli. Salmon is full of protein and vitamin D which is important for immune health.
In addition to eating a well-balanced diet, it's important to ensure you're getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and de-stressing as much as possible!⠀⠀
Dr. Candice Seti - The Weight Loss Therapist
Your G.I. tract represents a huge part of your immune system so you want to keep it healthy and happy and full of all that good bacteria.
Having a healthy gut microbiome can boost immunity and lower the risk of respiratory infection.
So, consider adding probiotic-rich foods (like sauerkraut, kimchee, kefir, tempeh, and kombucha) into your diet regularly and/or using a daily probiotic supplement.
Garlic is a wonderful tool for boosting your immune function. When you crush garlic, allicin is released, which is a natural antimicrobial agent.
Regular intake of allicin can help your body fight off any infection-causing microbes that may find their way into your system.
BUT, heat can deactivate the effects of allicin, so mince or grate garlic and throw it on your food after cooking.
While not technically a ‘food,’ one of the simplest and most effective ways to keep your body healthy and functioning optimally is to ensure an adequate water intake.
Drinking water regularly helps your body eliminate toxins while providing the support your body needs to keep your immune system humming along.
Consider upping your water game by setting hourly water reminders or drinking a large glass before every meal.
Carlotta Petti - My DNA
Maintaining a healthy immune system is something that can be achieved with good nutrition and lifestyle choices.
When the cold season approaches, people are particularly interested in ensuring that the immune system is able to keep them safe from infections.
This can be achieved by ensuring balanced nutrition that provides essential vitamins and minerals as well as by maintaining us physically active.
Evidence shows that low levels of some micronutrients such as Calcium, Iron, Vitamin C, A, D, Folate, and other B vitamins are linked to more frequent infections.
Therefore, regularly consuming foods rich in such nutrients is important to support the function of your immune system.
When it comes to foods that can support your immune system, there is often no need to look for fancy options, but focusing on simple, wholesome, and natural foods may already be more than enough.
Hero foods like green leafy vegetables are rich in Vitamin C, Folate. Also, meat and fish as well as legumes and nuts are important foods that provide the immune system with a range of B vitamins, but also Calcium and Iron.
Evidence shows that antioxidants can improve immune responses, therefore food containing also Vitamin E, as well as vitamin C and carotenoids are considered really good for your immunity.
It is important however to remember that we are all different and every one of us needs personalized recommendations as to what foods are more able to support our own immune system.
Your body may struggle to metabolize some of those important nutrients for immunity and a DNA test can reveal this crucial information to understand your body’s needs for certain vitamins and minerals.
The insights coming from your DNA into what nutrients your body needs the most can help you focus your daily nutrition on those foods that can boost your micronutrient levels and support your immune system.
Katrina Love Senn - Weight Loss Healing
1. Vegetables and Fruits
For extra immunity choose brightly coloured vegetables and fruit. Green vegetables, such as spinach and kale are chlorophyll-rich.
Whilst beetroots, pomegranates, pumpkins and tomatoes, for example, are super high in antioxidants. Eat organic (or pesticide-free) wherever possible.
2. Fermented Foods
It is estimated that 70% of our immune system lives in our gut. This means that we can boost our immunity, with good gut health.
Fermented foods are naturally rich in probiotics, which can help to support digestion and create a healthy microbiome.
Try fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and miso to find the ones you like best. Also, experiment with fermented drinks such as kefir and kombucha.
For even the most dedicated health warriors, it can be difficult to eat enough greens on a consistent basis. Enter green powders!
Mixed into a smoothie, green powders can taste delicious whilst also boosting our immunity naturally.
Check out green powders such as chlorella, spirulina or wheatgrass. Or try a blend of different greens that taste good, according to your personal preference.
Seeds are small but power-packed with nutrients! They are easily absorbed by the body and make a healthy addition to smoothies, salads and breakfast cereals.
Rich in protein, essential fatty acids and fibre. Some of my favourites are sesame, hemp seeds, chia and flax seeds.
Luke Jones - Hero Movement
There are various factors that can contribute to the strength of our immune system and our ability to fend off infections - our diet is one of them.
Here are a few foods that I like to include on a regular basis, almost as the first line of defence.
Fermented foods like yoghurt, kimchee, kombucha, kefir, dark chocolate and miso are rich in probiotics. These may inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and potentially boost the numbers of certain immune cells (although more research is needed).
Dark berries like blueberries and blackberries contain anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid that can act as a powerful antioxidant, fending off free radical damage.
Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and chard are rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and other important antioxidants that may help to bolster immune function.
Garlic is often used as a home remedy to protect against the common cold, potentially due to the effects of the compound allicin.
Green tea contains flavonoids and may help increase the number of regulatory T cells in the body, which play an important role in immune function.
Again, while there are certain dietary compounds that may give us a helping hand, it's important to keep in mind that nutrition is just one piece of the immune-system puzzle and more research is needed.
1. Whole grains: Whole grains have been shown to have a prebiotic effect on the gut, meaning that they stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria.
Prebiotics have been shown to have beneficial effects on immune and metabolic function in the gut.
2. Fish. Sufficient protein in the diet is important for the immune system. One of the reasons for this is the need for protein to produce antibodies.
Some fish is also a source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential fatty acids that must be obtained in the diet.
Sufficient intake of omega-3 fat is important for immune health and helps to maintain the proper balance between the intake of omega-6 and omega-3 fat, which is often difficult with the typical American diet.
3. Carrots. Carrots are a source of beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A.
This nutrient is considered an antioxidant and plays an important role in defending the body against pathogens.
One of its functions relates to the development of healthy mucus layers in the respiratory and intestinal tract.
Vitamin A deficiency has been associated with an increased risk of infection. While deficiency of this nutrient is uncommon in the US, it remains a problem worldwide.
Whenever I feel something creeping up in my system, I know it's "that season" or I notice an uptick in my friends getting sick, there are two things that I turn to.
I rarely get sick and even when I do, it lasts a day or two at most.
One of my secret tools is an elderberry powder called Effer-C, which is like Emergen-C but without the added sugars.
Elderberry helps tame inflammation, lessen stress (something that can heavily damage your immunity) and reduce cold and flu symptoms.
The powder also has 1000mg of vitamin C, one of the most important nutrients when it comes to strengthening immunity.
My second go-to is a food that most people overlook as a vitamin C powerhouse - spinach. It's also high in zinc, beta carotene, and numerous antioxidants, all of which increase our infection-fighting ability.
Spinach is healthiest when minimally cooked so that it retains its nutrients, but light cooking makes it easier to absorb vitamin A and releases other nutrients. A lot of spinach with a little preparation variation is the way to go.
Sarah Cull - Life In Full Flavour
While many foods have immune-boosting properties, there are some that really stand-out.
If you're looking for an immune-boosting meal, try oily fish as your protein, which is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. There is a great deal of evidence that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of immune-attacking conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Pair the fish with a side of broccoli which is a source of vitamin C, as well as containing a range of antioxidants, alongside sweet potato which is full of beta carotene, a source of vitamin A.
Finish off with a portion of blueberries that contain immune-boosting flavonoids. Numerous studies have shown flavonoids play a vital role in the immune defence system of the respiratory tract.
If you have a sweet tooth, then dark chocolate is full of antioxidants to help protect your body from free radicals.
We often forget that gut health is closely tied to our immune system. An imbalance of the "good and bad bacteria" can make you more susceptible to infections such as the common cold.
A healthy and balanced digestive tract will have a positive impact on your overall health and wellbeing beyond just your stomach.
Along with taking a daily probiotic supplement, you can include fermented foods in your diet which have naturally occurring probiotics.
Some popular fermented foods you can find at your local grocery store are yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kombucha and kefir.
In the last few years, there's been a surge in popularity around gut health in the wellness industry which has subsequently led to brands and small businesses catering to this trend by creating new fermented and probiotic foods.
At almost any health food store you can find an array of designer fermented foods ranging from chilli paste, mustards, pickled vegetables, probiotic teas, and fermented garlic.
You can get creative in your kitchen and whip up some delicious gut-healthy recipes with an added bonus of immunity-boosting!
Paula Sturm - Radically Nourished
Nutrition plays an important role in supporting a robust immune system.
In order to function properly, it needs specific vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, amino acids, essential fats, fibres, and fermented foods to nurture the multiple systems involved in keeping the immune system operating in harmony within our body.
For instance, it’s important to support gut health and keep inflammation in check for a strong immune system. It’s amazing to note that 70-80% of the immune system is housed in the gut.
This is because our gut has significant contact with the outside world through the food and beverages we ingest that could expose us to potential pathogens.
Now, what are the strategies we can implement to keep our immune system in tip-top shape?
Before we talk about food specifically, let’s talk about toxins because toxins put a huge strain on our body and immune system by creating inflammation and putting a strain on our detoxification system.
So, choose organic foods whenever possible to reduce herbicide and pesticide exposure that can have a negative impact on your gut microbiome. When our microbiome is compromised our immune system takes a hit.
Reduces plastic exposure by choosing to store foods in glass containers and ditch the plastic water bottles.
Probably the most important thing to remember is to load up on veggies and get a moderate amount of fruit! At least half of your plate is full of veggies with some fruit at breakfast or a snack.
Just doing this will guarantee that you are getting the important vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that support your immune system and keep inflammation low.
With that, make sure you are getting a variety of veggies and fruit instead of eating the same ones day in and day out. That variety is important to help feed the good bacteria in your gut and to make sure you are maximizing your nutrient intake.
A fun challenge you can give yourself is to try and get 50 different veggies, fruit, teas, and spices in 7-days.
It’s also important to get enough protein in our diet, a lot of people don’t think of that one for immune support, but it is, especially the amino acids cysteine, glutamine, lysine, tryptophan.
These particular amino acids support adequate glutathione production, healthy gut, and viral activity.
Foods rich in these amino acids would be turkey, chicken, fish, eggs, beef, edamame, seeds, nuts, beans, cheese.
Fats play a role, too! When our diet is too rich in oils high in omega 6s compared to omega 3 we run the risk of increased inflammation which then impacts our immune system because they are interrelated.
Consume more fish and seafood, chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, or take a good omega 3 supplement.
Then reduce your intake of canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, vegetable oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, and cottonseed oil.
Replace those seed oil with monounsaturated fats like olive oil, avocados, avocado oil, and macadamia nuts and oil.
Here are some particular foods that have their own superpowers when it comes to the immune system.
Green tea, oolong tea, and berries contain catechins known to be immune supportive.
Anti-inflammatory agents like curcumin, quercetin, and resveratrol can be found in foods and spices like turmeric, apples, onions, berries, citrus fruits, and berries.
Mushrooms contain beta-glucans and seaweed contains special polysaccharides, both of which can support gut health plus they are loaded with minerals that are immune supportive as well.
Finally, stock your spice cabinet and use them often.
Your spice cabinet is basically a medicine cabinet in your kitchen, small amounts used often have a profound effect on keeping inflammation at bay, providing added vitamins and minerals, and some offer antimicrobial benefits as well.
Apples are a top source of fibre.
In addition to filling you up, apple fibre supports healthy digestion, helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, and curbs “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Apples also feed the good gut bacteria which is tied to stronger immunity!
Elizabeth Girouard - Pure Simple Wellness
Here are my top ten food suggestions to support your immune system:
1. Citrus fruits. These colourful fruits are packed with Vitamin C, a key immune-boosting vitamin that’s been shown to help your body fight infections.
2. Cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli, asparagus, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts contain sulforaphane, a sulphur-rich compound that has numerous immune-boosting benefits.
3. Mushrooms. These powerhouses contain selenium as well as two essential B vitamins – riboflavin and niacin. These delicious vegetables also promote your body’s production of pathogen-fighting proteins.
4. Garlic. This root vegetable contains allicin – an immune-boosting compound. The best way to enjoy the benefits of garlic is to cut it up or crush it – as this process creates an enzyme reaction which releases the healthy compounds.
5. Turmeric. This powerhouse root has high concentrations of curcumin, a substance shown to reduce inflammation within the body.
It is also a great source of phytochemicals that help the body reduce oxidative stress from things like processed foods, pesticides, and environmental toxins.
6. Green tea. This amazing drink gives us a little energy and an immunity boost. It contains the amino acid L-theanine, which is believed to support the production of your disease-fighting T-Cells.
7. Leafy greens. These colourful vegetables are loaded with antioxidants as well as essential minerals like magnesium, iron, calcium, and potassium, vitamins C, K, E, and many of the B vitamins.
These nutrients support detoxification while keeping your immune system strong.
8. Bone broth. There is a reason your grandma always recommended homemade chicken soup when you were feeling ill.
Bone broth, made by boiling poultry or meat bones, contains many helpful nutrients to heal the gut and to support immunity.
9. Vitamin D. Unfortunately, many people do not get adequate sunlight and are vitamin D deficient. Eat foods like salmon, sardines, beef liver, mushrooms, egg yolks, and tuna for added vitamin D.
10. Seafood. Many types of seafood, like wild salmon and oysters, are good sources of zinc which have been shown to reduce the symptoms and duration of the common cold.
Zinc also helps heal wounds more quickly, supporting skin health.
Jana Mowrer - Health Wins
The immune system cannot be boosted, it can only be supported. The body has a limit on the nutrients it can absorb at one time (this is the absorption rate).
For example, many discuss boosting the immune system with Vitamin C. However, this is a water-soluble vitamin and has a specific absorption rate per hour. Consuming more does not help the body.
In fact, you will just pee it out, as the body is unable to do anything with it and considers it "waste."
Foods that can help support the immune system include a balanced diet of whole grains, lean protein, and fruits and vegetables of all kinds and colours.
The more colour, the more vitamins, and minerals (think spinach, not iceberg lettuce).
Key nutrients to consume and focus on for the immune system include protein, Vitamins A, C, D, and E, and the mineral Zinc.
- Vitamin A sources: red bell peppers, broccoli
- Vitamin C sources: strawberries, kiwi
- Vitamin E sources: nuts, seeds, avocado
- Vitamin D sources: salmon, tuna, eggs
- Zinc sources: Beans, nuts, seeds
- Protein: focus on lean protein sources
Mackenzie Burgess - Cheerful Choices
The best way to keep our immune system strong is to consume a balanced diet rich in colourful whole foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, lean protein, healthy fats, and spices.
Out of this list, one of my favourite ingredients to use is ginger.
Ginger has been shown to help support our immune system, calm nausea, support digestive health, and alleviate muscle pain.
Try adding fresh ginger into recipes like vegetable curry, blended into smoothies, or pickled over tofu bowls.
Dr. Yelena Deshko - Timeless Health Clinic
There's a reason the Hippocrates' quote, “Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food” is so famous.
Almost 70 percent of all new drugs introduced in the United States in the last quarter-century have been derived from natural sources.
In order to best support our immune system, the first place we should look is our diet. Here are some of nature's most potent immune-boosting foods.
Garlic: This flavorful spice has been trusted for centuries to balance the immune system.
Research has linked this to the way garlic enhances and stimulates multiple immune cells.
Both raw and cooked garlic has been linked to a lower rate of contracting both viral, bacterial, and chronic conditions, including cancer.
Shiitake mushrooms: These delicious, meaty mushrooms provide antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, and even anti-cancer effects.
They also help the body absorb cholesterol and use it for energy - so that your overall cholesterol levels go down.
It's also a powerful anti-inflammatory, and an excess in inflammation is linked to many health conditions.
Their secret lies in the fact they're packed with vitamins, minerals, and other crucial chemical compounds for immunity. They're also rich in antioxidants, so they help neutralize oxidative stress in the body.
Green tea: There's a lot of research supporting the benefits of green tea for a healthy functioning body.
Enjoying a cup of green tea or supplementing with its active ingredient, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), has a dramatic effect on T-cell function, giving your body a super immunity boost.
Tommy Pederson - Vekhayn
The best immune-boosting food is broccoli hands down. Broccoli is known as one of the most powerful anti-cancer foods out there.
In fact, broccoli is the vegetable with the highest amount of 'sulforaphane', which is a powerful cancer-fighting enzyme that literally flushes out cancer-causing chemicals.
And in recent science, it was discovered that this enzyme can actually target cancer stem cells in mice.
Furthermore, broccoli is a food that inhibits angiogenesis, which means it can literally starve the cancer cells out of resources in your body, which severely inhibits their growth and ability to spread.
I like to call broccoli the 'cleanser' of all vegetables. Even if you have a bad diet or bad habits, broccoli can do a phenomenal job of repairing that damage.
This is most notably because of the incredible amount of antioxidants in broccoli that can do things like repair cell damage and even lower blood pressure.
Lastly, broccoli has tons of minerals and vitamins that help build your immune system. Your immune system can't work without the critical vitamins and minerals such as Iron, Zinc, and Riboflavin.
With all those antioxidants and enzymes that help your immune system, broccoli is a literal superfood that I think everybody should be eating every day for immune system health.
Alex Davis - Ryan and Alex
Sprouts are often only an afterthought on salads and sandwiches. However, sprouts are up to one times more nutritious than their raw veggie counterparts and a powerful immune system booster.
The process of sprouting a seed, legume, or nut releases tons of enzymes, which help our bodies break down food and better extract their nutrients. There can be up to 100 times the enzymes in sprouts than in other raw veggies.
By eating sprouts, our bodies absorb more vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fatty acids from the food we eat.
What's more, eating a single sprout is sort of like eating the nutrition of the full plant-to-be. The seed contains the building blocks for the plant and its fibre, protein, iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, B-complex vitamins, and vitamins A, C, and K profile.
These little sprouts pack a nutritious punch that shouldn't be overlooked. The best part, you can sprout them from home with a sprouting jar or simply with a mason jar.
So, next time you’re at the market, load on items like alfalfa sprouts and mung bean sprouts for a major immune system boost.
Maru Davila - Flaca Forever
Eat a diet with whole plant foods that are nutrient-dense and provide antioxidants that help decrease inflammation and fibre that feeds the good bacteria in your gut. Low inflammation and a healthy gut will improve your immune defences.
Foods high in Vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and hot peppers, can also strengthen your defences.
Garlic contains compounds that boost the disease-fighting response of some types of white blood cells. Garlic reduces the risk of becoming sick, as well as how long you stay sick. It can also reduce the severity of symptoms of common cold flu.
Zinc helps keep your immune system strong by stimulating particular immune cells and reducing oxidative stress.
Foods high in Zinc: shellfish (e.g. oysters), fish (e.g. flounder), legumes (i.e.chickpeas), nuts and seeds (e.g. pumpkin seeds) and Eggs. Zinc supplements can also help immune response.
Sandy Younan Brikho - The Dish On Nutrition
Vitamin A helps with immune function by maintaining the health of your intestines because of its anti-inflammatory effect which enhances your immunity.
Some foods that contain vitamin A include dairy products, liver, and fish. It is best to consume these foods fresh rather than processed.
Vitamin C is often the first vitamin that people think of in regards to immune-boosting nutrients and that is because it stimulates the formation of antibodies that fight off infections.
Some foods that contain Vitamin C include berries, broccoli, and spinach. It is best to consume these whole in their whole food form rather than liquid form.
If you have a lower level of Vitamin C than normal, you can take supplements, however, you should consult with your doctor before supplementing to find out how much you should add to your diet.
Protein contains amino acids that help with T cell function, which kills infected host cells and regulates the immune response.
Protein-rich foods include beef, poultry, eggs, beans, and nuts. The best way to consume these is by eating fresh protein sources rather than processed.
Kelsey Riley - Planted in the Kitchen
Citrus is notorious for helping to support a healthy and well-functioning immune system. Citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes are packed with vitamin C, an essential vitamin (which means our body can’t make it on its own).
Ensuring you are consistently getting your daily requirement helps your white blood cells form and function properly.
By eating just one orange a day, you’ll come close to hitting the adult daily requirement of vitamin C.
It’s a great coincidence that these immunity-boosting fruits are perfectly in season during the winter months, which is also when we tend to see higher rates of infections and diseases.
During this time period, you'll find that citrus is abundant, full of flavour, and priced cheaper than the rest of the year.
That’s A Wrap!:
As I’m sure you’ve just read, the advice shared by these 29 nutrition experts is all quite similar!
It’s not complicated, but there are a number of things that contribute to building and maintaining a healthy immune system.
If you take the dietary advice offered by these industry experts, you’ll be well on the path to good health and a great lifestyle.
Thank you so much to all the experts that have contributed to this expert roundup.
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