Best Foods for Immune Support: Stay Healthy with These Top 10 Foods for Immunity

Healthy,Food,Selection,On,Gray,Background.,Detox,And,Clean,Diet

It’s no secret that what we eat has a profound impact on our health. And while many of us face a busy lifestyle, did you know that specific foods can make a huge difference in helping you fight off infections like colds and the flu?

Keep reading to discover 10 of the best foods for immune support, and stay healthy and sniffle-free all year long.

10 Best foods for immune support

Carrots:

Carrots are loaded with beta-carotene, which converts into vitamin A, a crucial nutrient for enhancing immune cell activity. Just one raw carrot offers an impressive 175% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Vitamin A.

These root veggies are also rich in vitamin C, which supports the production of antibodies (proteins that bind to and help eliminate unwanted substances that enter the body). Vitamin C also helps with iron absorption and acts as an antioxidant, protecting immune cells from free radicals (molecules produced during normal metabolism or due to toxin exposure).

Add diced carrots to soups or stews, or slice and roast them with olive oil, salt, and fresh herbs for a delicious, sweet side dish.

  • For alternative sources of beta-carotene and vitamin C, try:
  • Red peppers
  • Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Butternut squash
  • Cantaloupe

Green or chamomile tea: 

Green tea has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best foods to boost your immune system.

“Green tea is one of my top 10 favorites because it is a powerful antioxidant and has strong antiviral and antibacterial properties,” says Beth Reardon, Director of Integrative Nutrition at Duke Integrative Medicine Center. She recommends drinking three to five cups of green tea daily to replenish antioxidants and keep your immune system primed.

If you don’t do well with caffeine, try chamomile. A study from the Imperial College of London highlighted chamomile tea’s ability to increase phenol levels, which are natural antioxidants with antibacterial powers.

Fermented dairy: 

Yogurt and its fermented relative, kefir, are natural sources of probiotics, or beneficial bacteria found in foods and supplements.

Related:   Do we Abuse the use of Antibiotics

Probiotics support healthy digestion, ensure efficient nutrient absorption, and colonize the gut lining, crowding out opportunistic pathogens.

When choosing fermented dairy products, look for the “Live & Active Cultures” seal, certified by the National Yogurt Association. This seal guarantees a good quantity of live organisms.

If dairy doesn’t suit your system, try goat milk yogurt, which many people find easier to digest. Or opt for non-dairy fermented foods like:

  • Miso
  • Tempeh
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi

Aim for at least one serving of a probiotic-rich food each day.

Goat milk: 

You’re probably familiar with goat cheese, but have you ever tried goat milk? Studies show it’s an effective immune-boosting elixir that stimulates an anti-inflammatory response in human immune cells. It also triggers the release of certain immune cells that play a crucial role in eliminating invaders, bolstering your body’s natural defense mechanisms.

If goat milk doesn’t suit your palate, goat cheese or goat milk butter offer similar benefits.

Mushrooms:

Mushrooms stimulate immune-related substances in the body and provide a sort of “dress rehearsal” for the immune system, priming it to fight bacteria due to their resemblance to bacterial cell walls, Reardon says.

And it’s not just exotic Asian varieties like reishi or cordyceps that offer benefits. A study at Tufts University found that eating white button mushrooms significantly increases natural killer cells in the body, which are white blood cells that destroy infected and diseased cells, preventing viruses and cancer from spreading.

Reardon cautions that raw white button mushrooms may contain harmful compounds, but cooking deactivates those compounds. So add mushrooms to stir-fries or soups and cook thoroughly to enjoy their immune-boosting benefits.

For those who aren’t fond of their earthy flavor, mushroom supplements are a convenient, effective alternative.

Brazil nuts: 

Brazil nuts are one of the best food sources of selenium, with just two nuts supplying 200 micrograms of the essential mineral–or 363.6% of your RDA.

Related:   Turmeric: The Wonder Spice

Selenium has been shown to activate enzymes that support optimal immune function and enhance the functioning of white blood cells, strengthening the body’s defense against illness and infection.

If you’re not a fan of Brazil nuts, try alternative sources of selenium like:

  • Tuna
  • Lean beef
  • Chicken and turkey
  • Brown rice
  • Eggs

Shellfish:

Shellfish are a fantastic source of zinc, which is needed for proper immune cell functioning and signaling, as well as reducing oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Research shows zinc can be extremely beneficial in treating conditions like pneumonia and respiratory tract infections.

Reardon recommends eating shellfish once or twice a week to make sure you’re getting enough zinc. Great zinc-rich food options include:

  • Oysters
  • Crab
  • Lobster
  • Mussels
  • Alaskan crab

Beans:

Beans are packed with fiber, making them an immunity-boosting powerhouse.

Fiber reduces inflammation and nourishes beneficial gut microbes, as it breaks down into short-chain fatty acids. This breakdown process stimulates the activity of immune cells in the digestive tract, where up to 80% of the immune system resides.

Soluble fiber, in particular, is essential for a strong immune system. It transforms into a gummy consistency, binds with unwanted substances like germs, and helps eliminate them from the digestive tract. It also calms the inflammatory response, optimizing immune system function.

A University of Illinois study revealed that a diet high in soluble fiber can significantly reduce susceptibility to illnesses.

While all beans offer soluble fiber, lima beans shine with 3.5 grams per serving, surpassing the 1 gram found in other beans like chickpeas and black-eyed peas. However, kidney, black, navy, and pinto beans are also excellent options.

Garlic: 

Garlic may be one of the most well-known foods for immune support. It’s packed with sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin, which assist in the absorption of zinc–which you now know is a key nutrient for immunity.

Related:   Can nasal washing help?

Furthermore, research shows that garlic compounds stimulate the disease-fighting response of white blood cells and other immune cells like macrophages and T-cells.

To fully unlock the immune-boosting power of garlic, chop or crush it and allow it to be exposed to air for a few minutes. Consuming raw garlic provides maximum potency, but incorporating it into hot dishes during the final cooking stages is a viable option if you’re sensitive to its strong taste.

If you still don’t like the flavor, garlic supplements offer an alternative way to benefit from its immune-boosting potential.

Raw honey:

Honey is a fantastic remedy for cough. In fact, one study discovered that children with upper respiratory infections experienced greater relief from a small serving of honey before bedtime than from over-the-counter cough suppressants.

But honey offers more than just soothing relief for a sore throat. Raw, unpasteurized honey has powerful immune-boosting potential.

Unlike most processed honey on grocery store shelves, raw honey retains its naturally occurring antioxidants, enzymes, and other beneficial compounds. It acts as a natural antibacterial, stimulates immune cell production, and reduces inflammation in the gut.

Enjoy raw honey on its own, add it to warm beverages, or use it as a natural sweetener in recipes.

Maintaining a strong immune system is crucial for your health and well-being. By incorporating these immune-boosting foods into your diet, you’ll give your body the nutrients, antioxidants, and other beneficial compounds it needs to function properly and keep you feeling strong and resilient–no matter what life throws your way.

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8702655/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8801482/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2854912/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6162863/

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-Consumer/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0985056221002156

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5707683/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2855614/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8234133/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6076941/#:~:text=Green%20tea%20has%20been%20shown%20to%20combat%20these%20organisms%20in,contribute%20to%20the%20antimicrobial%20effects.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995283/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20722909/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5374383/#:~:text=Another%20study%20showed%20that%20four,microbial%20community%20structure%20%5B5%5D.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8110871/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7166318/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3539293/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4626640/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7040033/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0034528822003022

https://bmcimmunol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2172-10-12

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7472412/

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Selenium-HealthProfessional/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8869304/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9498495/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3277928/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3723386/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3724376/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK73822/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9775844/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7855848/

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34255547/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257631/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20138982/

Click to access Lima-Bean-phaseolus-Lunatus-L-A-Health-Perspective.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6271412/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25961060/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32836826/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25386977/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5424551/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5245888/#:~:text=All%20three%20treatments%20improved%20the,sleep%20quality%20of%20the%20child.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5549483/

https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/23/9/2322/htm

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32817011/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5551541/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/

Author
Carrie Solomon

Carrie Solomon is a freelance health writer, copywriter, and passionate wellness enthusiast. She’s on a mission to help wellness-focused companies educate, engage, and inspire their audiences to make the world a healthier, happier place. Learn more about her at copybycarrie.com or on LinkedIn.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*