Your body has a natural system for fighting off disease. By giving your immune system what it needs to work well, you can help keep yourself from getting sick and stay healthy as much as possible.
If you do get sick, certain foods may help you recover from illness faster and give you an edge on maintaining your immune system.
The 12 Best Foods for Your Immune System
If you want to know how to boost your immune system naturally, food may be the answer. Nutrition can be a tricky business, though, and some foods are better than others to help you achieve your goal of staying healthy and free of seasonal flus and viruses.
Most whole foods offer some health benefits, but knowing which ones specifically can affect your immune system can lead you to an illness-free state much quicker. By combining the healthiest immune-boosting foods and other healthy habits, you can create a daily routine that will help you keep those seasonal colds, flus and other viruses at bay.
Consider the benefits of these 12 foods for improving immune health:
- Garlic: Shown to reduce rates of colorectal and stomach cancer in people who consume several garlic cloves per week, garlic is a strong infection fighter. Its active ingredient, allicin, gives garlic anti-bacterial properties.
- Yogurt: Yogurt adds beneficial bacteria to your digestive system, making it work better and boosting your immune response.
- Turmeric: The anti-inflammatory properties of this curry spice can be helpful in treating osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The active ingredient, curcumin, helps muscles recover from strenuous workouts, too.
- Seafood: The selenium found in certain shellfish helps your immune system fight viruses by stimulating your body’s production of cytokines. Respiratory infections can sometimes be blocked by the Omega-3 fats found in some fatty, cold-water fish.
- Oats: This grain improves your immune function by contributing a type of fiber called beta-glucan to your diet. This specialized fiber found in oats and barley includes antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.
- Chicken Soup: Cysteine released from chicken during cooking is an amino acid that may be responsible for the healing powers of chicken soup. Additionally, chicken soup contains collagen to boost the immune system and prevent the spread of inflammation.
- Oranges and Grapefruits: Citrus fruits are some of the best for boosting your immune system. Their high concentration of vitamin C, a nutrient your body cannot store, makes them a daily essential for good health.
- Shiitake Mushrooms: White blood cells fight infection, and mushrooms can help make those white blood cells more aggressive. Adding shiitake mushrooms to your diet may reduce the length of time it takes you to get over an infection.
- Broccoli: Full of vitamins A, C and E, plus antioxidants and fiber, broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat for your immune system. Vitamins A, C and E are essential for optimal immune function, and broccoli delivers them all in one tasty dish. The best way to eat broccoli, to preserve all its nutrients, is raw.
- Ginger: Ginger can decrease inflammation and chronic pain thanks to the active substance gingerol, the element that gives fresh, raw ginger its pungent flavor. Ginger also soothes a sore throat and can settle an upset stomach.
- Sweet Potatoes: The nutrients in sweet potatoes contribute to good skin health, and your skin is an important part of your immune system. The skin blocks a majority of harmful substances from entering your body where they could cause damage. Sweet potatoes contain a high concentration of beta-carotene, essential for vitamin A production.
- Almonds: The combination of healthy fat and vitamin E make almonds strong immune-boosters. Vitamin E is just as important to your immune system as vitamin C, but it can only be absorbed with fat.
Healthy Diet Helps Lead to a Healthy Immune System
During cold and flu season, you may want to try adding these foods to your diet. Any time of the year, however, these nutrient-packed superfoods can help to improve your health and maintain a strong immune system.
Your body has the natural ability to heal itself and protect you from disease, but it needs the proper fuel. By incorporating healthy foods into your diet daily, you can boost your immune system naturally.