10 Foods That Boost Your Immune System

A healthy and balanced diet is essential for the correct function of the immune system.

A healthy and balanced diet is essential for the correct function of the immune system. Some dietary factors have been found to have immune-regulatory properties, including micronutrients such as vitamin D or macronutrients such as fatty acids. Including immune boosting foods in your daily diet will help to keep your immune system strong for better health.​

Here are 10 foods that boost your immunity:

  • Salmon
  • Eggs
  • Green Tea
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Cultured Yoghurt
  • Manuka Honey
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Seaweed
  • Bone Broth

1. Salmon

Salmon is a fantastic source of omega-3, a type of essential fatty acid needed for a normal immune response. In western cultures, our diets are typically lacking in this essential macronutrient and this effects the balanced of omega 3:6. When we have low omega-3 and high omega-6 (found heavily in processed foods and seed oils) we are more prone to an inflammatory response which reduces the capability of our immune defences [1].

You should aim to include salmon, or other types of oily fish such as sardines, mackerel and herring in your diet 2-3 times a week to maintain good omega-3 levels.

2. Eggs

Eggs are little powerhouses of nutrition. While egg whites contain protein, the yolk contains a rich source of both vitamin D and A, two essential nutrients for the immune system. While most of our vitamin D comes from skin exposure to UV rays through sunlight, during winter months it can be difficult to keep our vitamin D levels in check. Adding in dietary sources of vitamin D from eggs, as well as fish and cod liver oil is a good way to ensure adequate vitamin D levels for immune health.

3. Green Tea

Swapping your afternoon coffee for a green tea is a great way to improve your health and immune system. Green tea contains polyphenols, which are a type of antioxidant that not only protect our cells from oxidative damage, they help to feed the good bacteria in our gut which are involved in making our immune cells [2,3].

4. Kiwi Fruit

Rich in vitamin C, adding kiwi fruit to your daily routine will ensure you’re meeting the RDI for vitamin C, which is 64mg per day for adults. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for the formation and functioning of our immune cells, as well for collagen formation in the skin, which our body’s first line of defence against pathogens [4]. Kiwi fruit also contains enzymes that help to reduce inflammation and promote good digestion.

5. Cultured Yoghurt

Yoghurt provides beneficial bacteria that are needed to keep your digestive system healthy by managing the balance of microflora in the gut. It’s important to include cultured and fermented foods in the diet to help maintain your good gut bugs that are needed for the immune system to function [5].  

6. Manuka Honey

Maunka honey comes from bees that collect pollen specifically from the Manuka Tree, native to Australia and New Zealand. The honey produced from the manuka tree is rich in antibacterial properties and is a natural way to help the body fight off illnesses [6].

When using manuka honey, never use a metal spoon as this can damage the antibacterial properties of the honey. Always use either plastic, wood or bamboo to scoop out the honey which can be taken straight off the spoon for best results.

7. Turmeric

Often referred to as ‘liquid gold’, turmeric root is indigenous to Southern Asia and belongs to the ginger family. Turmeric has amazing anti-inflammatory, tissue healing and immune stimulating properties [7] and is beneficial to include in the diet by using freshly ground turmeric, incorporating into meals such as curries and soups, or following the recent trend for turmeric lattes.

8. Ginger

This energetically warming spice is ideal to include during the winter months to stimulate circulation and improve blood flow. Ginger comes from the rhizome (root) of the ginger plant (Zingiber officinale) and offers anti-inflammatory and circulatory stimulating properties which are beneficial for the immune system [8].

9. Seaweed

While it’s not a common staple food in the west, seaweed is eaten regularly in Asian cultures, and is often attributed to the health and longevity of the Okinawan people of Japan. Seaweed contains a special active constituent called fucoidan, which has been shown in many clinical studies to reduce influenza infection and promote immune system function, as well as serving as a potent antioxidant to prevent cell damage [9-11].

10. Bone Broth

Last on our list but certainly not least, bone broth is rich in essential vitamins and minerals as well as collagen which helps to heal and repair the gut lining. A healthy digestive tract is essential for good nutrient absorption and to ensure correct functioning of the immune system [12].

References

  1. Gutiérrez S er al. Int J Mol Sci. 2019;20(20):5028. Published 2019 Oct 11.
  2. Kumar Singh A et al. Nutrients. 2019;11(9):2216. Published 2019 Sep 13
  3. Filosa S et al. Neural Regen Res. 2018;13(12):2055-2059.
  4. Carr AC et al. Nutrients. 2017;9(11):1211. Published 2017 Nov 3.
  5. Wu HJ et al. Microbes. 2012;3(1):4-14.
  6. Johnston M et al. AIMS Microbiol. 2018;4(4):655-664. Published 2018 Nov 27.
  7. Gautam SC et al. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2007;595:321-41.
  8. Berthe Ahui et al. Inter Immuno. 2008;8(12):1626-1632
  9. Irhimeh, M.R et al. Exp Hematol., 2007. 35(6): p. 989-94
  10. Myers, S.P et al. Biologics, 2011. 5:45-60.
  11. Negishi, H et al. J Nutr., 2013. 143(11): p. 1794-8.
  12. Paray BA et al. Int J Mol Sci. 2020;21(24):9770. Published 2020 Dec 21.

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