6 Foods That Can Boost Your Immune System
Does the cold weather make you feel the need to constantly clear your throat and blow your nose? It can be more difficult to maintain your wellness during the winter months but prioritizing your immune system helps prevent colds and flus that can interrupt your healthy lifestyle for a few days. There are several foods that can boost your immune system because they are high in the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to fight colds and flus. Adding more of these foods to your diet will keep you healthier during cold and flu season.
Certain foods and beverages can cause inflammation, which can be dangerous to your immune system and overall health. Some inflammation is normal and even helpful when fighting a cold, but prolonged inflammation can lead to longer term health issues.1 Free radicals that can damage your cells and lead to chronic illness are also created by substances in the food and beverages that we consume, as well as by outside sources, including air pollution and second-hand cigarette smoke.2
Anti-inflammatory foods, such as tomatoes, olive oil, and vegetables like spinach and kale, can fight prolonged inflammation.3 Foods containing Vitamin E, which is also an anti-inflammatory, can reduce your risk of chronic inflammation and the diseases associated with it.4 Antioxidants can reduce the number of free radicals in the body and mitigate cell damage.5 Vitamins C and E are antioxidants, so eating foods high in these vitamins can reduce damage from free radicals, and contribute to your overall health.6
Vitamins A and D impact the immune system more directly. Among other uses, vitamin D can help get rid of pathogens, and vitamin A is used by the tissues that protect against pathogens entering the body.7 All vitamins provide nutritional value that boost your immune system and eating foods rich in these vitamins gives your body the best chance to fight disease. Here are six foods you can incorporate into your diet to get more vitamins. Focusing your diet on these foods that can boost your immune system will help your body fight the germs that abound during cold and flu season.
Green Vegetables and Leafy Greens
Green vegetables and leafy greens like kale, broccoli, and spinach are filled with all kinds of vitamins and other nutrients and are a great way to boost your immunity. With so many varieties of green and leafy vegetables, you won’t run out of sources of vitamins and antioxidants or get tired of eating the same few vegetables.
Kale has vitamins A and C, while chard and collard greens contain vitamins A and E.8 Try including these vegetables in salads or smoothies. They can also be cooked and added to a variety of recipes. One option is to sauté them with olive oil and garlic, or sauté and add to your favourite pasta recipe!
Spinach is another versatile green that contains carotenoids, which your body converts to vitamin A; as well as vitamin C, vitamin B9, iron, and calcium.9 Uncooked spinach has more nutritional value, but both cooked and uncooked spinach can be added to many recipes to increase the amount of nutrients in the meal, so you can vary how you incorporate spinach into your diet.
Broccoli also has lots of nutritional value, and contains vitamins A, C, and E. There are numerous other antioxidants contained in broccoli, as well as a good dose of fiber, another important nutrient.10 Raw broccoli, rather than cooked, contains the most nutrients. Try cutting it up small in salads or eat it raw with your favourite dip!
Plain white mushrooms, also known as cremini mushrooms, contain several B vitamins, including B5, also known as pantothenic acid; B6; B1; B9, as known as folate; and vitamin B3.11 Selenium, which acts as an antioxidant, and zinc, which supports the white blood cells that fight pathogens, are also found in mushrooms.12
Mushrooms can be added to numerous recipes, including omelets, pasta, soups and stews, or sautéed with other vegetables.
Poultry and fish
Both poultry and fish contain some of the B vitamins, notably B6 and B12. Eating 3 ounces of chicken or turkey can fulfill around half of the daily vitamin B6 needed, and chicken stock contains gelatin and chondroitin, which are also helpful for boosting immunity.13
Fish is a good source of B12, and salmon contains vitamin D and selenium as well.14
Add even more vitamins and nutrients to your chicken or fish by seasoning with lemon, a source of vitamin C; turmeric or ginger, which can act as anti-inflammatories and antioxidants;15 or in a stir-fry with lots of vegetables like spinach, broccoli, and carrots.
Yogurt is a source of probiotics, which are good bacteria that can help your immune system.16 Vitamin D, another vitamin vital for boosting your immune system, can also be found in many varieties of yogurt.
You can add your favourite fruits to plain yogurt for an extra dose of vitamins like vitamins C and E.
Almonds are a great source of vitamin E17 and eating a small amount as a snack is a great way to make sure you are getting enough. They are also a great addition to smoothies, whether as whole nuts or as almond butter. Other nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can be found in almonds, including manganese, magnesium, and fiber.18
Kiwis are high in several nutrients and vitamins. Vitamin E19 and vitamin C are the most prominent, but kiwis also contain vitamin B9 and potassium.20 Kiwis are another great addition to smoothies, as well as yogurt, fruit salads, or even salsa.
A varied diet containing different sources of these essential vitamins, as well as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, will help your body stay healthy this cold and flu season. Change up your sources of vitamins regularly by eating different foods that can boost your immune system, to make sure that you are getting enough of each, and to help prevent boredom from eating the same food over and over.
Also, it’s better to get your vitamins and nutrients from your diet and the food you eat, rather than taking a supplement or a multi-vitamin. In addition to eating foods that can boost your immune system, other ways to maintain your immune system include getting enough sleep and reducing stress. If you aren’t sleeping as well as you could be, try our tips for a peaceful sleep here!