Immune Boosting Foods: Does An Immune Boosting Diet Exist?

Written by: Erin Coleman,

B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

Written by: Erin Coleman,

B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

immune boosting foods

Looking to boost your immunity? With the right immune-boosting foods, you can fight off many different illnesses and diseases.

If you properly plan menus and take additional steps to strengthen your immune system, you can dramatically improve your health and quality of life.

Some of the important nutrients needed to strengthen your body's immune system naturally are as follows:

  • Folate
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Protein
  • Probiotics
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Selenium
  • Beta carotene

Choose immune-boosting foods rich in these nutrients to keep your risk of illnesses and diseases as low as possible.

The 11 following immune-boosting foods can help your body fight COVID-19, the flu, other illnesses, and even chronic diseases!

Learn how to keep your immune system strong and fight viruses, bacteria, stress, and more!

The 11 Best Immune Boosting Foods

The 11 best immune-boosting foods to consider adding to your meal plan are:

Green Vegetables

Green vegetables are immune-boosting foods because they're packed with iron, folate, vitamin C, vitamin A, and beta-carotene.

Examples of nutrient-packed green vegetables include Brussels sprouts, green peppers, spinach, kale, broccoli, asparagus, and green beans.

Eat immune-strengthening green veggies by consuming them fresh, adding green veggies to salads, sautéing them, or mixing dried veggie powder into nutrient-packed smoothies!

Fish and Seafood

Fish and seafood are excellent for your immune system for several reasons.

They're loaded with selenium, zinc, selenium, vitamin D, iron, and high-quality protein.

These nutrient-packed foods are also heart-healthy, reducing your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease when consumed in place of high-fat red meats or processed meats.

Fill about 1/4 of your plate of food with seafood, fish, poultry, eggs, or other protein-rich choices, and pair proteins with an array of fruits and vegetables to keep your immune system strong.

We call this the ‘Perfect Plate.'

Yogurt

A popular immune-boosting food, yogurt is loaded with probiotics and protein.

Research shows that probiotics strengthen immunity and support gut health.

Immune-enhancing zinc and vitamin D are also abundant in yogurt.

Choose Greek yogurt instead of traditional yogurt for an extra boost of protein with less sugar.

Eat Greek yogurt before or after workouts, for breakfast, between meals, or with papaya, kiwi fruit, or berries.

Or, add Greek yogurt to immune-boosting smoothies!

Orange and Red Fruits

Vitamin C and vitamin A are immune-boosting nutrients, so it's likely no surprise that consuming orange and red fruit supports a strong immune system.

One medium orange provides about 93% of the daily value of vitamin C for women.

Though it contains less fiber than oranges, 100% orange juice is another superior source of vitamin C.

Cantaloupe, papayas, and strawberries are also exceptional sources of disease-fighting vitamin A or vitamin C.

Aim for about 2 servings of fruit daily when planning an immune-boosting menu!

Kiwi Fruit

Kiwi fruit is an excellent source of immune-enhancing micronutrients.

One kiwi fruit contains 71-85% of the daily value of vitamin C.

Eat kiwi fruit between meals or for breakfast to boost vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber, potassium, and other essential micronutrients.

Eat kiwi fruit with Greek yogurt, as a snack between meals, or add kiwi to nutrient-dense smoothies!

Red and Orange Vegetables

Red and orange veggies are immune-boosting foods because they're loaded with vitamin A, vitamin C, and beta carotene.

Examples include tomatoes, red peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, and squash.

Additional sources of immune-strengthening vitamin A, vitamin C, or both include vegetable juices and 100% fruit juice combined with veggie juice.

Fill half of your plate of food with non-starchy vegetables and the other half with starchy vegetables or whole grains plus protein foods.

Chicken Soup

You've probably been told to eat chicken soup to recover faster from an illness, and you can indeed reap immune-strengthening benefits from following this advice!

The National Foundation for Cancer Research notes that ingredients in chicken soup, including vegetables, chicken, turmeric, ginger, garlic, and N-acetylcysteine, enhance immunity and can lessen the severity of respiratory infections.

Add hearty chicken soup containing vegetables and skinless chicken to your weekly menus, especially if you begin to feel ill.

Turmeric

A popular spice used to season many meals, turmeric is also an immune-boosting food.

Research shows that turmeric enhances immune system functioning and helps treat inflammatory diseases.

Add turmeric to vegetables, frittatas, soups, rice dishes, smoothies, and more!

Green Tea

Green tea is packed with antioxidants, which play a vital role in strengthening your immune system and reducing the risk of illnesses and diseases.

Studies show that green tea lessens the chance of inflammation, cancer, and other chronic diseases.

Drink green between meals, with breakfast, or in antioxidant-rich smoothies!

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are an excellent source of immune-boosting vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that helps your body ward off infections.

Many nuts and seeds are good sources of fiber, protein, zinc, heart-healthy fats, and other essential nutrients.

Consume nuts and seeds as a snack between meals or add nuts to rice dishes, salads, oatmeal, Greek yogurt, or whole-grain cereals.

Dip fresh veggies or fruits in nut butter, or add nut butter to your favorite smoothie!

Poultry

Skinless duck, chicken, and turkey are lean sources of immune-strengthening protein, as well as zinc, iron, selenium, and other essential micronutrients.

Fill up each plate of food 1/4 full of poultry, eggs, fish, seafood, or other protein-rich options.

Bake or grill poultry and add it to salads, soups, kabobs, rice, pasta dishes, or casseroles!

Additional Ways to Boost Immunity

In addition to eating immune-boosting foods on a regular basis, other ways to strengthen your immune system include:

Sleep Enough

Lack of high-quality sleep can take a toll on immune system functioning.

Combine a diet rich in immune-boosting foods with getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night.

Sleep in a quiet, cool, dark room and develop a regular bedtime routine.

Don't Smoke

Smoking can weaken your immune system, making you susceptible to illnesses and diseases.

Try to quit smoking on your own or seek help from your doctor or a smoking cessation program.

Steer Clear of Unhealthy Foods

Eating unhealthy foods might make you less likely to consume the immune-boosting foods and nutrients needed to maximize immune function.

Avoid or limit processed meats (sausage, ham, hot dogs, regular bacon, deli meats, etc.), other highly processed foods, sweets, and sugar-sweetened drinks.

Steer clear of fried foods, white bread, and other refined grains as much as possible.

Don't Overdo the Alcohol

Research shows that alcohol, particularly drinking alcohol in access, can take a toll on the strength of your immune system.

More specifically, it increases the chance of developing acute respiratory stress syndrome (ARDS), pneumonia, certain cancers, sepsis, alcoholic liver disease (ALD), poor healing, and postoperative complications.

Limit alcohol or avoid it altogether to keep your immune system strong.

Exercise the Right Way

Exercise most days of the week to build endurance, strength, and your body's immune system.

But avoid overtraining.

Allow your body to recover after workouts in addition to eating a variety of immune-boosting foods.

Consider Multivitamin Supplements

Even if you eat a lot of immune-boosting foods, it's important to take a multivitamin supplement if your doctor suggests doing so.

This helps ensure you receive recommended amounts of the essential immune-enhancing nutrients your body needs daily to function at its best.

Be Mindful of Medications

Some medicines can weaken your immune system, which is why you should only take them when necessary and as directed by your doctor.

Ask your doctor if the medicines you take affect your immune system functioning.

If so, see if you can change your medication regimen or take fewer medicines in favor of making healthy lifestyle changes.

Manage Chronic Diseases Properly

Have you been diagnosed with arthritis, diabetes, or another chronic disease?

If so, it's important to properly manage your condition to reduce inflammation, infections, and the risk of poor healing.

Find out from your doctor how to best manage a chronic disease.

You might make healthy lifestyle changes, take dietary supplements or medications, or need more than one type of treatment.

Minimize Stress

If ongoing or extreme stress is part of your daily routine, reduce stressors in your life as best you can to maximize immune system functioning.

Studies show that chronic stress suppresses immunity and increases your risk of inflammation, cancer, and poor healing.

If you feel stressed most or all of the time, consider relaxation techniques like massage, yoga, meditation, spending time outdoors, going for a walk, or taking a vacation.

Balance Your Menu

To make sure you consume plenty of immune-boosting foods in the right portions, use the Perfect Plate method.

Fill half each plate of food with non-starchy vegetables and the other half with whole grains or starchy vegetables plus protein-rich options like chicken, fish, eggs, or seafood.

Eat fruit about 2 times daily, consume heart-healthy fats at each meal, and plan for three servings of dairy foods (or plant-based equivalents) every day.

Erin Coleman
B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 15 years of freelance writing experience.

She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her dietetic internship at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prior to beginning her career in medical content writing, Erin worked as Health Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Internal Medicine.

Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s currently working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife, and a Mom to two beautiful children.

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