Best foods to boost the immune system

Exercise and nutrition are both essential parts of a healthy lifestyle, but many people don’t get the necessary vitamins and minerals they need in their diet.

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It’s easy to grab whatever’s convenient without thinking about whether it’s good for you. Unfortunately, this often leads to imbalanced nutrition and a weaker immune system, which can increase the risk of disease and infection.

Luckily, there are many foods that give the immune system a boost. A balanced diet of seafood, grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and more can contribute to a healthy body and a strong immune system.

Healthy foods for the immune system


Many types of shellfish, such as oysters, mussels and crab, are rich in zinc, an essential nutrient that promotes metabolic function, supports the immune system in fighting infection and aids in healing wounds. The average adult man should take 11 milligrams of zinc daily, while the average adult woman should take 8 milligrams daily. A raw oyster contains approximately 5.5 milligrams of zinc. As an alternative, consider an oral zinc supplement or a topical ointment to help with rashes or sunburns.

Related: Diabetes Diet: The Good and Bad


Not only are most nuts chock full of protein and fiber, they’re also rich in vitamin E, magnesium, zinc and antioxidants. Nuts have antioxidant properties, contribute to lower cholesterol and heart health and support the body on a cellular level. Almonds especially contain high amounts of vitamin E, which plays a major role in regulating the immune system. The body needs 15 milligrams of vitamin E daily, or half a cup of raw almonds.


Raspberries, blueberries and other berries contain flavonoids, which support the immune system by reducing inflammation and aiding against cell damage. Most berries also contain large amounts of dietary fiber, potassium, vitamins A and C and antioxidants that lower cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.


A whole grain commonly found in many meals, an ear of corn a day could reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, obesity and Type 2 diabetes. More research is needed, but corn may also lower the risk of vision problems such as cataracts, as well as fight against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. A great alternative to gluten, corn is rich in antioxidants and supports the body against inflammation.

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A type of winter squash, pumpkin has many essential vitamins and minerals that boost the immune system. Among these is vitamin A, which has anti-inflammatory properties and helps support immune system function. Low in calories and great for hydration, pumpkin also contains iron, fiber and potassium. Pumpkin may reduce the risk of certain chronic illnesses and heart disease. It may also neutralize free radicals that damage healthy blood cells, which aids in overall immunity. Other squash such as butternut squash provide many of these same benefits.

Whole grains

Whole grains like barley and brown rice are excellent sources of fiber, which the body needs to lower blood sugar levels and aid in weight loss. The average adult needs between 15 and 30 grams of fiber a day. One cup of barley contains around 32 grams of fiber. One cup of brown rice has around 3.5 grams.

Because they’re rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, barley and brown rice have been shown to support the immune system, boost kidney function, lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels and aid in red blood cell development. They also support bone development and help with iron absorption, which prevents fatigue and anemia.


Rich in antioxidants, fiber and vitamin C, spinach is great for fighting infection and supporting a healthy immune system. It also contains folate, which is used to produce cells and repair DNA. For the most benefit, consume spinach raw or lightly cooked.

Related: Healthy Foods That Fight Aging Diseases


According to Healthline, garlic and garlic supplements may be used to lower cholesterol, fight against common illnesses, improve blood pressure and fight infection. This is because garlic has been shown to have antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. Garlic is also high in certain vitamins such as vitamin C and vitamin B6. It’s possible that high amounts of garlic could negate organ damage caused by metal toxicity. Ultimately, more research is still needed.

Sweet potatoes

Rich in vitamins, fiber, antioxidants and minerals, sweet potatoes are a healthy addition to most balanced diets. They have been shown to protect the body against free radicals, which are unstable molecules that cause inflammation and can damage DNA. In addition, sweet potatoes support a healthy gut. More research is needed, but sweet potatoes may also protect the body from certain cancers and boost the immune system.


Found primarily in Caribbean, Indian and southern American cuisine, okra is rich in vitamin C, vitamin A and flavonoids. Okra may also support the body by fighting against harmful free radicals, lowering blood sugar and supporting heart health.


Watermelon is rich in many vitamins, including vitamin C, which boosts the immune system, vitamin B6, which breaks down protein and supports immune system and nervous system function and vitamin A, which helps with skin and eye health. According to Mayo Clinic, watermelon also contains high amounts of lycopene, an antioxidant shown to lower the risk of cancer, heart disease and age-related macular degeneration. Plus, this fruit is 92% water, so it’s great for hydration.


Raw apples contain a flavonoid called quercetin, which boosts immune system function. Most of the health benefits are found in the peel, but the fruit contains plenty of soluble fiber, water, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that regulate the immune system. Apples may also lower the risk of heart disease, fight cancer and increase bone density.


This root vegetable is chock full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that support a healthy body. Carrots are known for having a lot of vitamin A, which is associated with healthy vision, but they can also promote heart health and help the immune system fight against infections.

Related: A Nutritionist On The Power Of Rainbow Foods

Black-eyed peas

Contrary to their name, black-eyed peas (or cowpeas) are a legume that contains protein, soluble fiber and micronutrients the body needs to function properly. Black-eyed peas also support digestive health, a healthy gut and heart health.


A cereal grain used since ancient times, sorghum is as versatile as it is healthy. It can be cooked like rice, used as popcorn or milled into flour. Just like other whole grains, sorghum is best when eaten in its natural form. This grain has been shown to aid in bone formation, energy production, protein absorption and heart health. It also has antioxidants that can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.


Often used as a spice in Asian cuisines, turmeric may support the immune system in various ways. It has anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties, can be used to counter the effects of muscle damage caused by exercise and can treat rheumatoid arthritis. Many people add turmeric to their meals or smoothies as a dietary supplement.

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Citrus fruits

Citrus fruits (grapefruit, lime, lemon, orange, etc.) have well-known health benefits, especially when consumed raw. Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C, which supports white blood cell production and helps the body fight infection. An average adult should have between 75 and 90 milligrams of vitamin C daily, which can be found in one large or two small oranges. Other health benefits of citrus fruits include improved digestion, lowered cholesterol, healthy skin and the decreased risk of kidney stones.

Benefits of a balanced diet

Having a balanced diet can help boost the immune system and contribute to overall health. Besides that, getting the right amount of nutrients can help the body fight against infection and various diseases. In addition to eating healthy, consider adding a daily multivitamin to supplement your vitamin intake.

Angela Watson is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Probably about five months ago, a friend recommended that I start using Turmeric to help reduce the inflammation in my right foot. That was the BEST advice because the swelling has gone down A LOT! Yes, I still have to get to the root of the problem, but for now, the pain has gone away.

Have you recently started, or are you thinking about adding any of these foods to your meal planning? We’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comment below. Thanks!

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