The question of how to boost the immune system naturally is only answered using immune system-boosting foods. A weak immune system is commonly referred to as lowered resistance. Fundamentally, two functions of the immune system are vital to the survival of any living organism:
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- Identification of all types of microorganisms and foreign substances that are potentially dangerous (chemical products, dust, other living cells, and the body’s cells that have deteriorated by a genetic mutation that could lead to cancer if allowed to develop).
- Destruction of these organisms, substances, or foreign cells.
The immune system-boosting foods described in this article contribute in special ways to properly functioning this complex defense system.
Contributors to a weakened immune system: These vary widely and, in some cases, are unknown. These are some of the most common:
- Under or malnourishment. Lack of essential nutrients, particularly the vitamins and trace elements noted here, can reduce the body’s immune capabilities.
- Stress, either physical or psychological.
- Chemotherapy (anti-cancer medication).
- Infectious diseases.
- Various congenital or hereditary disorders.
- Aids: Immune system deficiency caused by a viral attack on the body’s defense mechanisms.
Manifestations of a weakened immune system: frequent infections, particularly viral, cancer.
Immune System Boosting Foods
ANTIOXIDANTS: The body requires antioxidants to neutralize the free radicals generated due to infections, stress, pollution, and metabolic processes. Free radicals reduce the body’s resistance capacity. Provitamins A, C, and E, as well as flavonoids, are the most powerful antioxidants. Plant-based foods are the only source of these nutrients, which are essential to the proper functioning of the immune system.
PROTEINS: The body’s antibodies to combat microorganisms and foreign substances are formed of proteins. A protein-poor diet weakens the immune system. There is a myth that only animal-based proteins can strengthen the system. Nevertheless, adequately combined vegetable proteins also provide the amino acids the body requires to synthesize antibodies and other proteins.
TRACE ELEMENTS: Zinc, selenium, copper, and other trace elements are essential to activate the enzyme synthesizing antibodies. Molasses, sesame, and wheat germ are good sources of trace elements, which makes them essential among the list of immune system-boosting foods.
CITRUS FRUITS: Citrus fruits provide vitamin C and flavonoid phytochemicals, increasing the leukocytes’ defensive capacity (white blood cells). Citrus fruits are amazing immunity-boosting foods for kids.
Garlic Helps Boost Immune System
OILS: Seed oils contain linoleic acid, which is necessary to form antibodies. They also supply vitamin E, which also improves immunity.
PROPOLIS: This antibiotic substance bees produce reinforces the body’s resistance to infection.
ROYAL JELLY: This general tonic stimulates all body functions, including the immune system.
YOGURT: Biotic yogurts that contain live bacterial cultures protect the intestinal mucosa and increase resistance to infection. They also strengthen the body’s general immune response.
ACEROLA: The American acerola is among the most vitamin C-rich fruits that boost the immune system; it contains up to 50 times more than lemons, which makes it superior to the other immune system-boosting foods on this list. The azarole, or Mediterranean variety, which belongs to a different species, is also rich in vitamin C, but not to the same extent. Vitamin C reinforces the immune system by increasing the capabilities of the white blood cells and promoting the production of interferon (an antiviral protein).
KIWI: Because of their vitamin C and trace element content, kiwis stimulate the body’s disease-resistance mechanisms.
ALFALFA: Alfalfa sprouts are rich in minerals and trace elements that stimulate the synthesis of antibodies.
Foods That Weaken Immune Systems
ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES: Alcohol depresses many body functions, including the immune function. Regular consumption of alcoholic beverages diminishes the body’s ability to resist disease.
WHITE SUGAR: A diet rich in refined sugar and products made with it reduces the body’s capacity to resist infection. Sugar is one of the main foods that weaken immune systems.
SHELLFISH: Shellfish often contain toxins, bacteria, and viruses that threaten the immune system. Shellfish consumption is extremely dangerous when the immune system is compromised and can result in very serious infections. Although they provide zinc and other trace elements, using other, safer sources such as molasses, sesame, squash, and nuts are preferable.
TOTAL FAT: The defensive action of the immune system is compromised when there is excess fat in the diet, more than 30% of total caloric intake.
COFFEE: There is a suspicion that coffee is among the foods that weaken immune systems. It should be eliminated in cases of lowered resistance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I “supercharge” my immune system with just diet?
While a healthy diet is crucial to immune function, it’s not a magic bullet. It’s best to think of diet as supporting your immune system’s existing capabilities, not creating a superhero version. Other factors like sleep, stress management, and exercise also play significant parts.
What are the critical nutrients for immune health?
Several vitamins and minerals are vital for your immune system:
Vitamin C: Found in citrus fruits, bell peppers, and strawberries, it aids white blood cell function.
Vitamin A: In orange and red vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes, it supports skin and tissue health, which is crucial for immune defense.
Vitamin D: Sourced via sun exposure, fatty fish, and fortified meals, it is critical in controlling the immunological response.
Zinc: Important for wound healing and immune cell development, it’s found in meat, beans, nuts, and seeds.
What foods should I prioritize for a robust immune system?
Focus on a diverse, plant-based diet rich in:
Fruits and vegetables: Get a range of vitamins and antioxidants by aiming for a rainbow of hues.
Whole grains: Use brown rice, quinoa, and whole-wheat bread for sustained energy and fiber.
Healthy fats: Choose nuts, seeds, avocado, and fatty fish for essential fatty acids and inflammation reduction.
Fermented foods: Yogurt, kimchi, and kombucha contain probiotics, which may support gut health and immune function.
Should I avoid certain foods to boost immunity?
Limit processed foods, sugary drinks, and excessive saturated and unhealthy fats. These can contribute to inflammation and hinder immune function.
Are there any dietary “superfoods” for immunity?
While certain foods are rich in immune-supporting nutrients, no single food is a miracle cure. Pay more attention to eating patterns as a whole than to specific superfoods.
Can I take supplements to boost immunity?
Generally, a balanced diet should provide enough nutrients. But suppose you have any medical problem or dietary limitation. In that case, you must talk to your doctor before taking supplements.
Does my diet change with specific immune challenges?
Consult a registered dietitian or healthcare professional for personalized dietary advice if you have specific immune concerns.
DISCLAIMER: All content on this website is presented solely for educational and informational objectives. You should not rely on the information provided as a replacement for advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified medical expert. If you are pregnant, nursing, or have any preexisting medical concerns, you should talk to your doctor before using any herbal or natural medicines.
- George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Foods and Their Healing Power.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Foods and Their Healing Power. Trans. Annette Melgosa. Vol. 2. Chai Wan: Editorial Safeliz, 2005. 350-351.[immune system boosting foods]
- National Institutes of Health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279396/
- Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/swollen-lymph-nodes/multimedia/lymphatic-system/img-20007995
- Cleveland Clinic: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/21196-immune-system
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/nutrition-and-immunity/
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: https://www.eatright.org/
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health
- Vitamin C: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29099763/
- Vitamin A: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6162863/
- Vitamin D: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3166406/
- Zinc: https://www.fredhutch.org/en/news/center-news/2022/03/dudakov-zinc-thymus-regeneration.html
- World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
Last update on 2024-02-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API