How to Boost Your Immune System With Nutrition: Immune System Booster Foods

article by Maria Perinic
April 12, 2020
With coronavirus wreaking havoc worldwide, this is the best time to boost your immune system. Whether to protect yourself of loved ones that might be at a higher risk of developing serious complications, immune system booster foods will help in the fight to stay healthy.
Scientists around the world are working around the clock in creating a vaccine for the coronavirus, but it hasn’t yet been discovered. In saying that, there are some simple and natural steps that you can take in order to strengthen your immune system to fight coronavirus and other illnesses. Want to know how to boost your immune system? Follow these steps and introduce new superfoods into your diet for better health.

How to Strengthen Your Immune System

These are the essential ways on how to strengthen your immune system for your own better health and to protect your loved ones in fighting illnesses.

Consume Vitamins for Your Immune System

How does nutrition affect the immune system? Nutrition is the primary source of protection when battling an infection.

Key nutrients that you should be looking at taking vitamins for your immune system like vitamins A, C, D, E, and B6, as well as minerals like iron, zinc, and selenium. One of the many reasons these vitamins are important factors in strengthening your immune system is that they are also antioxidants, which counteract the damage caused by free radicals in your body and help your immune system preventing viral activity.

‘Sheena Cruickshank, a professor of immunology at the University of Manchester says that vitamin D has become a hot topic in immunology:

“It is used by our macrophages, and is something that people in Britain can get quite low on in the winter.”

Necking extra vitamin C, however, is probably a waste of time for well-fed westerners. It’s not that vitamin C isn’t crucial to immune function (and other things, such as bone structure). “All the vitamins are important,” says Cruickshank, “but vitamin C is water-soluble, it’s not one that your body stores.” Eating your five a day of fruits and vegetables is the best way to maintain necessary levels.’

Of course, no foods will be able to keep you 100% safe against any virus, but it will allow your body to fight off the illness much more easily.

Reduce Stress

Whenever you’re stressed your body produces stress hormones. These hormones are particularly taxing to your immune system and can increase your chances of getting sick. Ways to reduce stress include limiting and reducing your intake of caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. Alcohol in particular acts as a stimulant when taken in smaller quantities, however in large quantities it acts as a depressant. Additionally, nicotine and caffeine are stimulants which means that they actually increase your level of stress rather than reducing it.

If you have noticed an increase in stress over time, you should consider keeping a stress diary. Each time you feel stressed about any given situation write down the date, time, and place that it happened. Also, note what you were doing at the time and who you were with. Give your stress a rating from one to ten and over time you will be able to better understand your stress triggers allowing you to develop better coping mechanisms.

Drink Bone Broth

It turns out that your gut wall houses 70% of the cells that make up your immune system. Bone broth is a superfood that boosts your immune system, with benefits including sealing openings in the gut. One cup of bone broth has 10 grams of protein, amino acids, gelatin, collagen, glycosaminoglycans and a wide range of trace minerals. Traditionally, bone broth has been used to heal sick people in numerous cultures all over the world. It is also highly likely that it’s the reason we associate chicken soup with healing and nourishment when fighting colds and flu.

 Make Sure to Get Enough Sleep

Lack of sleep is another significant cause of stress, but when you’re stressed it also affects your sleeping habits. Rather than depending on the medication, you should try to relax as much as possible prior to going to sleep. Don’t do anything mentally demanding before bed, and remember to go to sleep around the same time each night so your body and mind get used to a predictable bedtime.

“Our bodies need sleep to rest and recharge. Without a sufficient amount of sleep, we increase our risk of developing serious health problems—like heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and obesity. Inadequate sleep has also been linked to suppressed immune function. One study found that those who sleep fewer than five hours per night are more likely to have recently suffered a recent cold compared with those who sleep more.”

Exercise

This is one of the best ways to boost your immune system. Not only does exercise keep your body functioning well, research shows that it also does wonders in reducing inflammation as well as supports infection-fighting cells.

According to Prof Arne Akbar, the president of the British Society for Immunology and a professor at University College, London:

‘To be immunologically fit, you need to be physically fit. “White blood cells can be quite sedentary. “Exercise mobilizes them by increasing your blood flow, so they can do their surveillance jobs and seek and destroy in other parts of the body.”

The NHS says adults should be physically active in some way every day and do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity (hiking, gardening, cycling) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (running, swimming fast, an aerobics class).

The advice for older people, who are more vulnerable to infection, is to do whatever exercise is possible. “Anything’s better than nothing,” says Akbar. But a lifetime’s exercise could significantly slow your immune system declining with age. In 2018, a study by the University of Birmingham and King’s College London found that 125 non-smoking amateur cyclists aged 55 to 79 still had the immune systems of young people.

The other side of the coin, says Akbar,

“is elite athletes who become very susceptible to infections because you can exercise to a point where it has a negative impact on your immune system.” This problem is unlikely to affect most of us unless, says Cruickshank, “you’re a couch potato and suddenly try and run a marathon, this could introduce stress hormones and be quite bad for your immune system”.

Wash Your Hands

When it comes to staying healthy, one of the most important actions you can take is to keep on top of your hygiene. In order to prevent the spread of coronavirus and other similar viruses, you need to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least twenty seconds.

‘“In terms of coronavirus,” says Cruickshank, “it’s mostly spread by droplet transmission, as far as we can tell, so the biggest thing is hygiene.” So wash your hands, and sneeze and cough into tissues, she suggests, between sniffles. No one can completely avoid getting sick, not even top immunologists.

Immune System Booster Foods

Want to know how to boost your immune system naturally? The following is a list of immune system booster foods that will help build your immune system.

The Best Foods for Your Immune System

#1 Citrus Fruits

As you might be aware, vitamin C is synonymous with fighting off the common cold. Some evidence even suggests that vitamin C can increase your body’s production of white blood cells which is the primary way your body fights off infections.

Citrus fruits include oranges, lemons, tangerines, limes, and grapefruits. They’re definitely some of the best foods for your immune system. They’re also a great source of fiber and good for your heart, reducing the risk of heart disease. While citrus will not prevent colds, research suggests that it will reduce the duration as well as the severity.

Citrus Fruits

#2 Mushrooms

These are packed with selenium as well as B vitamins such as niacin and riboflavin. Mushrooms are also high in sugar-like molecules that boost your immune system. You can easily incorporate mushrooms into many meals including sautéing, roasting, and grilling them, adding them to eggs or omelets, as well as using them in various sauces for pasta dishes.

Mashrooms

#3 Oysters

This is one of the biggest superfoods to come from the sea. Just one 3-ounce service of Pacific oysters will see you with 190% of your daily selenium needs, as well as 45% of your daily iron serving and 20% of vitamin C. Oysters are also rich in protein, zinc, and vitamin A all of which are critical to build your immune system.

Oysters

#4 Acai Berry

Acai berry is found in the acai palm tree originating from Thailand, Brazil, and other parts of South America. This antioxidant-packed food for your immune system helps combat oxidative stress within your body. Consuming acai berries is one of the best ways to boost your immune system and it is being used in research to treat various ailments including lower rectum cancer, constipation, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome.

Acai Berry

#5 Dark Chocolate

It’s not like we need another reason to eat chocolate, but we’ll take it. Dark chocolate is rich in an antioxidant called theobromine that helps strengthen your immune system. Even though it has its benefits, chocolate is high in calories and saturated fats as well. It’s one of the best foods that boost your immune system, but remember to eat it in moderation.

Dark Chocolate

#6 Spinach

Spinach is another superfood for your immune system as it is high in folate, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and fiber. If you’re showing signs of a weak immune system, the nutrients in spinach are able to provide your body with the right nutrients for both cell division and DNA repair. You can eat it raw or lightly cooked in order to preserve as many nutrients as possible.

Prepare spinach in a salad, spinach lasagne or make spinach and cheese stuffed pasta shells.

Spinach

#7 Tea

In addition to foods, there are also drinks to boost your immune system. Approximately half of the population of the US drinks tea on a regular basis. Tea is full of antioxidants such as polyphenols and flavonoids which boost your immune system. If you were wondering how to increase immunity with home remedies, a nice cup of warm tea will do it for you.

Tea

#8 Sweet Potatoes

When it comes to nutrition and your immune system, sweet potatoes hit the spot. One medium-sized sweet potato comes with 120% of your daily vitamin A needs and 30% of your daily vitamin C. They are cholesterol-free and fat-free which means you get to enjoy a strong immune system without any guilt. You can throw them in a roast, make savory sweet potato fries or a sweet potato casserole.

Sweet Potatoes

#9 Broccoli

We cannot discuss how to boost your immune system without mentioning broccoli. This vegetable is packed with nutrients including potassium, beta-carotene, magnesium, iron, vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B6. While some people love broccoli, others hate it, but thankfully there are plenty of recipes to find online that will make eating broccoli a breeze. Add it to a creamy pasta sauce, broccoli salad, roasted broccoli rabe, lemon braised broccoli or make a creamy broccoli and cheese soup.

Broccoli

#10 Herbs

There are plenty of herbs to boost your immune system, and chances are you already consume them regularly. Things like garlic, astragalus, ginseng, green tea, milk thistle, black cumin, and licorice are just a few popular herbs that are included in foods that boost your immune system.

Before introducing supplements and herbs to boost your immune system into your diet, you should speak to your doctor or pharmacist as they might produce side effects, particularly when you combine them with other herbs or medications.

If you’ve been wondering, “how can I boost my immune system quickly,” getting your hands on these items in the grocery store as well as following the above suggestions will fast track you into strengthening your immune system.

Herbs

What Foods Weaken the Immune System?

Just as there are immune system booster foods, there are also foods that weaken your immune system.

“Consuming too much sugar can affect the cells in your immune system that target bacteria. … Sugar affects the way your white blood cells attack bacteria.” explained board-certified internist and gastroenterologist Niket Sonpal. “Nutrient deficiencies can increase your risk level when warding off infection, and food items with high levels of refined sugar are usually nutritionally obsolete. Sugar triggers low-grade inflammation in the body and also increases the mass. This can contribute to diseases that are chronic in nature, things as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.”

According to research, consuming 75 to 100 grams of a sugar solution can hinder your body’s immune functions. While 75 grams might sound like a lot, it is the equivalent of two cans of soda.

According to HuffPost:‘Nate Favini, medical lead at Forward, added that it would be misleading to say that we fully understand the relationship between sugar and our immune system.

“What we do know is that diabetes appears to be common in people confirmed to have COVID-19,” he noted. “This suggests that having higher levels of sugars in your blood could make it easier to contract COVID-19.”

Therefore, if you are looking to boost your immune system you should definitely reduce or avoid foods that weaken your immune system including:

  • Soda
  • Foods or drinks that are high in sugar
  • Processed foods
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Alcoholic beverages

What are the Signs of a Weak Immune System?

  • You suffer from high-stress levels
  • you’re constantly suffering from a cold
  • You suffer from diarrhea, gas or constipation frequently
  • Your wounds take a long time to heal
  • You suffer from frequent infections
  • You’re always tired
  • Dry eyes
  • You have two or more sinus infections per year
  • Patchy hair loss

How to Easily Stick to a Well Balanced Diet to Boost Your Immune System

Now that you know which immune system booster foods to look out for you will be able to incorporate them into your daily meals.

If you’re one of those people that are constantly on the go and cannot see a viable way to set aside a few hours to complete your grocery shopping and then prepare your meals, your stress levels might already be through the roof.

There is no need to worry. For those of us that just cannot find the time or those that are stuck in their homes due to self-isolation and social distancing, home delivery meal kits are the answer.

#1 Sun Basket

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When it comes to boosting your immune system, Sun Basked makes sure you can do so but also goes a step further in committing to providing users with organic, sustainably and responsibly raised products that are non-GMO. The packaging is 100% recyclable and all dishes are approved by nutritionists.

Meals take around twenty minutes to prepare and have around 500-800 calories per serving. Prepare to enjoy meals like Spicy Chinese Zhejiang Noodles with Pork and Shiitake Mushrooms or Mediterranean Garlic Shrimp with Spanish Rice. You can order various meals including breakfast, lunch, dinners, and snacks.

If you are low on time you can choose new oven-ready meals which means no slicing or peeling is involved, with meals ready in as little as five minutes. Meals start from $9.99 per week.

To learn more about how you can boost your immune system with Sun Basket, read our expert review.

#2 Home Chef

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This meal kit delivery service offers various recipes to choose from on a weekly basis with as many as 38 choices every week. They are priced from $6.99 per meal and you can choose your meals depending on your preferences. There are recipes including Chipotle Chimichurri Mini Pork Meatloaves with Roasted Sweet Potato or Garlic Peppercorn Salmon Scampi with Garlic Cream Gemelli and Broccolini.

You can also choose to double your protein without doubling your portion which is great for those big on fitness and also has the option of choosing an antibiotic-free protein for your meals. These oven-ready meals are perfect for those that do not have time to prepare meals every night and you can even take them to the office for a healthy lunch.

To learn more about how you can boost your immune system with Home Chef, read our expert review.

#3 Green Chef

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Another meal plan company that offers organic, non-GMO ingredients is Green Chef. Subscribing to this meal kit company means that you can stick to your daily food requirements whilst boosting your immune system at the same time. You have the choice of keto, paleo, vegetarian, omnivore, carnivore, vegan, and gluten-free recipes.

Restaurant-quality meals are delivered to your doorstep on a weekly basis with simple recipes that are ready in as little as thirty minutes. Prices start at $10.49 per meal with an additional fee of $9 for shipping.

To learn more about how you can boost your immune system with Green Chef, read our expert review.

#4 Purple Carrot

Purple Carrot Meal Delivery Logo

Those following a plant-based diet will be happy to know that Purple Carrot curates simple to make dishes including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Dinners include recipes such as potato malai kofta, eggplant parmesan with garlicky tomato sauce and lemon basil couscous, and black bean burrito bowls.

If you are vegetarian or wish to include more plant-based recipes in your weekly meals, Purple Carrot is the best place to start. This is also a prime choice for diabetics that are restricted in their food consumption. Dishes start at $9.99 and all boxes are delivered with free shipping.

To learn more about how you can boost your immune system with Purple Carrot, read our expert review.

#5 Balance

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Balance will help you get your immune system in order with a choice of specialty diets that it caters to. This includes heart healthy, gluten free, diabetic, low sodium, low carb, menopause, dairy-free, Mediterranean, and vegetarian. You can choose from breakfast, lunch and dinner meals as well as snacks.

You can choose from as many as 1450 meals each week that you can prepare in five minutes or less. This meal plan will set you back around $145 for a five-day weekly plan or $180 for a seven-day plan, including those yummy snacks.

To learn more about how you can boost your immune system with Balance, read our expert review.

Key Takeaways: How to Boost Your Immune System

Working immune system booster foods into your diet and reducing stress levels is a guaranteed way to build your immune system. If you have too little time on your hands in your busy daily schedule to fit in a few hours of grocery shopping and cannot make time to prepare your meals, there are great options available in the form of weekly delivery meal kits. They can help keep your nutrition levels and immune system in tip-top shape.

Coronavirus is forcing us all to take a hard look at our daily eating habits, and with some of us unable to leave our homes due to self-isolation, your weekly meal kits could be the best way to boost your immune system.