Food choices easily influence our immune system. In this study, researchers took all fruits and vegetables out of the diet which resulted in decreasing immune function within two weeks. The study also showed that it matters which fruits and vegetables we are eating.
In general, high intake and variety of fruits and vegetables as well as lower stress levels and regular exercise correlates with better immune system function. Today, I would like to focus on the evidence we have for certain foods and their immunity boosting properties.
Make sure to drink lots of water and healthy teas, include as many immunity boosting foods as you can in your daily diet, and eat a healthy diet filled with anti-inflammatory foods.
10 Immunity Boosting Foods
Below are plenty of immunity boosting foods you can incorporate into your diet. For anti-inflammatory and immunity boosting recipes, check out the orange banana smoothie, the immunity boosting smoothie, and the vegan golden milk recipe.
You can add ginger to a soup or a green smoothie.
Cashews are an immunity boosting food due to high zinc content. “Zinc appears to be effective in reducing the number of colds per year, at least in children.” (source).
Cashews turned out to have the highest amount of zinc (1.7 mg, 16% DV) per serving size (FDA serving size) compared to :
- Oats (1.5 mg, 13% DV)
- Chickpeas (1.4 mg, 13% DV)
- Lentils (1.1 mg, 10% DV)
- Almonds (0.9 mg, 9% DV)
- Walnuts (0.9 mg, 8% DV)
- Black beans (0.9 mg, 8% DV)
Internet sources also state yogurt or poultry to be a great zinc source, but cashews are still the winner. You can use cashews to make dips, sauces, and gravy, or eat them as a snack.
Curcumin found in turmeric is a powerful spice that you should add to any smoothie or meal.
“[…]. This suggests that curcumin’s reported beneficial effects in arthritis, allergy, asthma, atherosclerosis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and cancer might be due in part to its ability to modulate the immune system. Together, these findings warrant further consideration of curcumin as a therapy for immune disorders.” (source)
Whenever you use turmeric, add a small dash of black pepper as this will boost the bioavailability of curcumin.
#4 Yellow Bell Pepper
Vitamin C has been used to boost your immunity for a long time. But which food contains the highest amount of vitamin C?
- 1 medium yellow bell pepper: 218.4 mg (291% DV)
- 1 medium red bell pepper: 152 mg (203% DV)
- 1 medium green bell pepper: 95.7 mg (128% DV)
- 1 cup raw broccoli: 81.2 mg (108% DV)
- 1 medium grapefruit: 79.9 mg (103% DV)
- 1 medium orange: 69.7 mg (93% DV)
It is a surprise to many that the yellow bell pepper contains the highest amount of vitamin C.
- Green Tea
#6 Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and so on. In a study on broccoli they found that “sulforaphane, a chemical in broccoli, switches on a set of antioxidant genes and enzymes in specific immune cells which then combat the injurious effects of molecules known as free radicals that can damage cells and lead to disease”(source).
This simply means broccoli may help to restore a body’s immunity which gets weaker, naturally, as we age.
Herbs have anti-inflammatory properties, they are able to scavenge free radicals, and they improve immune response and our defense system.
This statement, made by the Department of Food Sciences, mentions the following herbs (consumable as herbal tea)(source):
- garlic (Allium sativum),
- green tea (Camellia sinensis),
- ginger (Zingiber officinale),
- purple coneflower (Echinacea),
- black cumin (Nigella sativa),
- licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra),
- Astragalus and St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum)
As mentioned above, garlic is known as a cold and flu preventative. There is some scientific evidence to support this claim, but it should be mentioned that the studies are limited.
Either way, there are also other health benefits in garlic (anti-inflammatory) and it is a good idea to add fresh garlic to your recipes.
#9 Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a fermented product and contains probiotics. Probiotics keep your gut healthy and help your immune system (source). Furthermore, ACV is a great weight loss food. The best way to consume ACV is to drizzle it over your salad.
The two foods that are highest in antioxidants per dollar (always looking for budget friendly superfoods) are red cabbage and cinnamon. Red cabbage is high in vitamin B6, C, and K. Cinnamon is known for other health benefits as well, but make sure you get the “real” ceylon cinnamon.