There are many fruits that boost immunity and reduce risk of certain diseases. Research shows that we should eat nine servings of fruits each day to stay healthy. Apples, oranges, kiwis and pomegranates appear to be some of the best immune boosting fruits on the planet. Immunity is the ability of the body to resist disease. Proper immune system plays a major role in the overall health. And, in this article; we will discuss about the best fruits that boost immunity.
The best foods for boosting your immune system
A strong immune system helps to keep a person healthy. Can specific foods boost the immune system?
The immune system consists of organs, cells, tissues, and proteins. Together, these carry out bodily processes that fight off pathogens, which are the viruses, bacteria, and foreign bodies that cause infection or disease.
When the immune system comes into contact with a pathogen, it triggers an immune response. The immune system releases antibodies, which attach to antigens on the pathogens and kill them.
Incorporating specific foods into the diet may strengthen a person’s immune response. Read on to discover foods that boost the immune system.
Which foods boost the immune system?
A healthful, balanced diet plays a vital role in staying well. The following foods may help to boost the immune system:
Blueberries contain a type of flavonoid called anthocyanin, which has antioxidant properties that can help boost a person’s immune system. A 2016 studyTrusted Source noted that flavonoids play an essential role in the respiratory tract’s immune defense system.
Researchers found that people who ate foods rich in flavonoids were less likely to get an upper respiratory tract infection, or common cold, than those who did not.
2. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate contains an antioxidant called theobromineTrusted Source, which may help to boost the immune system by protecting the body’s cells from free radicals.
Free radicals are molecules that the body produces when it breaks down food or comes into contact with pollutants. Free radicals can damage the body’s cells and may contribute to disease.
Despite its potential benefits, dark chocolate is high in calories and saturated fat, so it is important to eat it in moderation.
Turmeric is a yellow spice that many people use in cooking. It is also present in some alternative medicines. Consuming turmeric may improve a person’s immune response. This is due to the qualities of curcumin, a compound in turmeric.
According to a 2017 reviewTrusted Source, curcumin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
4. Oily fish
Salmon, tuna, pilchards, and other oily fish are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acidsTrusted Source.
According to a 2014 report, long-term intake of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
RA is a chronic autoimmune condition that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks a healthy part of the body.
Broccoli is another source of vitamin C. It also contains potent antioxidants, such as sulforaphane. For these reasons, it is a good choice of vegetable to eat regularly to support immune system health.
6. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are rich in beta caroteneTrusted Source, a type of antioxidant that gives the skin of the potatoes its orange color.
Beta carotene is a source of vitamin A. It helps to make skin healthy and may even provide some protection against skin damageTrusted Source from ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Spinach may boost the immune system, as it contains many essential nutrients and antioxidants, including:
- vitamin C
- vitamin E
Vitamins C and E can help support the immune systemTrusted Source.
ResearchTrusted Source also indicates that flavonoids may help to prevent the common cold in otherwise healthy people.
People use ginger in a variety of dishes and desserts, as well as in teas.
According to a review, ginger has anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties and is likely to offer health benefits. However, more research is necessary to confirm whether or not it can effectively prevent illness.
Garlic is a common home remedy for the prevention of colds and other illness.
One reviewTrusted Source looked at whether taking garlic supplements containing allicin reduced the risk of getting a cold.
The group of participants taking a placebo had more than double the number of colds between them than those taking the garlic supplements. However, the researchers concluded that more research is necessary to determine whether or not garlic can help to prevent colds.
10. Green tea
Green tea contains only a small amount of caffeine, so people can enjoy it as an alternative to black tea or coffee. Drinking it may also strengthen the immune system.
As with blueberries, green tea contains flavonoids, which may reduceTrusted Source the risk of a cold.
7 immunity boosting foods to fight seasonal infections
Transition from winter to summer can be tricky. Don’t let your guards down and include these healthy foods in your daily diet to ward off infections.
As the winter season bids adieu, a host of seasonal infections like flu, cough and cold can be triggered by rise in the count of allergens that can weaken immunity. Transition from winter to summer can also be tricky as there may be a difference in daytime and night temperature which could confuse people whether or not to continue wearing woollens. To prevent falling ill, it is recommended to add some immunity boosters to your diet that can help you adapt to the changing weather in a healthy way. (Also read: Beat Omicron with these immunity-boosting drinks)
When you are eating a well-balanced diet with foods of all groups included in your plate, you acquire the right ammunition to fight bacteria and viruses. “No specific food is a sure-fire way to prevent illness during the plus or minus degree weather, but following a healthy balanced diet will not only satisfy your body’s needs, but also provides adequate nutrients needed which have various benefits,” says Haripriya N. executive nutritionist at the Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, OMR Chennai.
The nutritionist suggests 7 foods that everyone, especially children and those with low immunity, should include in their daily diet to ward off seasonal infections.
1. The power of citrus fruits
Vitamin C is called as immune-building nutrient which is known to fight off infections by increasing the production of white blood cells (WBC). It is mainly essential for the kids to build their immune system to prevent seasonal allergies. It is also helpful to balance the electrolytes status which prevents from dehydration and heat flushes. Citrus fruits like mosambi, oranges, lemon, amla, guava and kiwi are packed with vitamin C.
How to add to diet
It can be consumed as amla shot, simple bowl of citrus salad, fresh juices with fibre intact, smoothies etc.
2. Pepper and turmeric
Black pepper (Piperine) and turmeric (curcumin) are Indian spices that are known to be therapeutic in nature. They carry potent antioxidants, anti-microbial properties that ward off infections, enhance mood, improve sleep and prevent cancer. To get utmost benefit, use pepper and turmeric together for better absorption.
How to add to diet
It can be consumed as Golden latte- turmeric pepper milk, turmeric tea, pepper rasam, vegetable salads with dash of pepper powder.
3. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are good source of carbohydrates which provide instant energy. It is also packed with beta- carotene, vitamin C, Vitamin B6, potassium which help to improve the immune system, digestive health preventing constipation.
How to add to diet
This serves as a best snacking option for kids. It can be boiled, mashed, and made as a pancake and be served with fresh fruit homemade jams or yum honey or hot chocolate syrup.
4. Pumpkins and carrots
The bright orange vegetables are loaded with beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, vitamin C, fibre, potassium and other antioxidant compounds, including lutein and zeaxanthin that form healthy mucus membranes and immunity and is therefore highly important to include them in diet on a regular basis.
How to add to diet
Can be consumed as pumpkin carrot soups, pumpkin pancake, and carrot kheer.
Egg as a whole is a high biological value protein which contains essential amino acids required for the growth and development mainly in children. Eggs may cause heat in the body, but if eaten in moderation – 1-2 per day – it proves to be an excellent wholesome food. Drink good amount of water when you include proteins in your diet for better digestion
How to add to diet
Egg yolks contains vitamin D and it can be consumed as egg salads, egg bhurji with pepper or boiled eggs.
Nuts are one of the best nutrient-dense comfort foods that keep you energetic during all the seasons because of the healthy fats (omega 3 fatty acid), folic acid, niacin and vitamins E and B6, and minerals like magnesium, copper, zinc, selenium, phosphorus and potassium present. It’s a best on-the-go snack for expecting mothers, lactating women and children.
How to add to diet
They can be consumed as nutty shake, nuts cookie or mixed nut balls. They serve as perfect snacks throughout the day.
7. Stay hydrated with melons
Watermelons, cantaloupe, muskmelons, pumpkin etc., contain good amount of water, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A, B6, niacin that help regulate body temperature and blood pressure, keep you hydrated and promote skin health. For pregnant mothers it is helpful to control the blood sugar levels as it has good amount of both soluble and insoluble fibre.
8 foods that boost your immune system and can help keep you healthy
- Foods that boost the immune system include citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables, and yogurt.
- Many of these foods contain vitamin C and vitamin A, which help support immune function.
- You can also add ginger, garlic, and turmeric to your food to gain additional immune benefits.
The foods you eat can help support your immune system and keep you healthy.
“What we eat is really central to our overall health, and that includes the immune system,” says Janine Souffront, RDN, a registered dietitian and supervisor of Health Education for L.A. Care Health Plan. “Eating healthy, nutrient-rich foods, can help your body fight off illness.”
Of course, you won’t be able to rely on these foods or nutrients as a miracle cure for sickness. But on top of preventative behaviors — like washing your hands often and getting a flu shot — these healthy foods may help reduce your risk of contracting illness.
“While there is not one food or supplement that can straight-on prevent illness, you can support your immune system by including foods with nutrients that play a role in tissue health and integrity,” Souffront says.
The following foods can contribute to a strong immune system:
1. Citrus fruits
Citrus fruits like oranges or grapefruits are packed with vitamin C, which is well-known for immune support. Adult women should get 75 mg of vitamin C per day, while men should get 90 mg.
Here’s how much vitamin C you can get from common citrus fruits:
- One medium orange provides about 70 mg
- One grapefruit provides about 80 mg
- One lemon provides about 30 mg
To support the immune system, vitamin C helps the body repair tissue and keeps skin and blood vessels healthy. In addition, vitamin C is an important antioxidant, a substance that prevents cell deterioration and improves immune function.
A 2017 review published in Biomed Research International found that taking 1 gram (1,000 mg) of vitamin C per day reduced the duration of a cold by 8% in adults and 18% in children. And while it can’t necessarily prevent you from getting a cold, it may help your ability to fight it.
“Contrary to popular belief, it is unlikely that vitamin C will keep you from getting a cold but there is some limited evidence that high doses of vitamin C may decrease the length of cold symptoms,” Souffront says.
2. Leafy green vegetables
Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens are high in vitamin A, which is important for immune function. Men need a recommended 900 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A each day, while women need 700 mcg. Here’s how to get the recommended daily dose:
- One cup of raw spinach contains 469 mcg
- One cup of cooked kale contains 190 mcg
- One cup of collard greens contains 90 mcg
According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, scientists know that vitamin A is important for the immune system, but they don’t understand exactly why. They believe that vitamin A affects bone marrow production. Bone marrow produces immune cells like lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that can help fight off infections.
A 2019 study published in Nutrition Reviews found that leafy greens are also rich in dietary nitrate, an organic compound that has anti-inflammatory properties and can help regulate the immune system.
3. Red bell peppers
Red bell peppers are especially beneficial for immune health. The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a paper in April 2020 recommending red bell peppers as part of a healthy quarantine diet because of their content of vitamin A and C.
“Red bell peppers are good for the immune system because they have both vitamin A and C, and beta carotene,” Souffront says. “Vitamin C has important healing benefits and antioxidants. Beta carotene helps the body make Vitamin A, which protects against infections.”
Yogurt is a great source of protein, Souffront says, which can help keep your bones and skin healthy. “Healthy tissues are the first barrier against infections,” she says. When your skin is healthy, it keeps out harmful bacteria or viruses, for example.
In addition to providing protein, most yogurts contain live culture, which are bacteria that improve the health of your gut microbiome. A 2015 study published in the Annual Review of Immunology concluded that the health of the gut microbiome impacts immune function and contributes to a person’s ability to ward off infection.
“Yogurt and kefir are good sources of probiotics, which can also have a positive effect in the immune system by keeping up the ‘good’ bacteria and down the ‘bad’ bacteria in the intestinal tract,” Souffront says.
5. Green tea
“Green tea is very high in catechins and polyphenols, antioxidants that help prevent cell damage,” Souffront says. “Healthier cells in general will allow the body to have a better immune response.”
For example, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that green tea catechins can improve the response of t-cells, which are cells that attack viruses. Increased t-cells are associated with an improved immune response. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Immunology Research also found that polyphenols help the body signal when an immune response is needed.
Ginger has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. A 2013 study published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine found that ginger supports the immune system and may even be effective at preventing cancer.
A 2019 study published in the Journal of Nutrition & Intermediary Metabolism looked at the effect of 8.3 grams of ginger extract on smokers and non-smokers. Both groups had immune system improvements, though from different causes. The smokers experienced more lymphocytes. The non-smokers had increased immunoglobulin M, a type of antibody.
However, Souffront recommends sticking with fresh ginger. “The whole food source ginger is more effective than supplements,” she says. “For that reason, using fresh ginger in cooking or teas is best.”
“For centuries, people have touted the health benefits of garlic, with suggestions that it can help with heart disease, high cholesterol, and colds and flu,” Souffront says.
The health benefits of garlic are rooted in allicin, a compound that is released when garlic is chopped or crushed. “Allicin and the antioxidants inside garlic help fight off infection and support the immune system,” Souffront says.
A 2018 study published in Clinical Nutrition found that garlic extract boosted the immune system for obese adults. In the randomized, double-blind study, a group of 51 adults were given 3.6 grams of aged garlic extract or a placebo for 6 weeks. At the end of the six weeks, the garlic group had lower inflammation and better distribution of immune system cells.
In addition, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Nutrition examined a group of 120 healthy participants that were given 2.56 grams of aged garlic extract or a placebo for 90 days. The garlic and placebo groups reported the same amount of illnesses, but the garlic group reported fewer symptoms, reduced illness severity, and fewer days of school or work missed.
Turmeric’s immune benefits are linked to curcumin, the component that gives it its deep yellow color, Souffront says.
“Curcumin seems to have the ability to modulate the immune system by activating some of the immunity related cells and dampening the effect of some pro-inflammatory compounds,” Souffront says.
An August 2020 report published in Food and Science reports concluded that turmeric could be a helpful immune booster. It can be easily added to teas or incorporated into recipes like curry.