More than 23 million people fall ill each year just by eating contaminated food, according to WHO. And as per another report, there are as many different viruses as there are stars in the sky. To keep our bodies from becoming sick, the best solution is to build up our immunity from within. Thankfully, it’s actually easy to achieve.
The foods you eat can help support your immune system and keep you healthy.
“What we eat is really central to our overall health, and that includes the immune system,” says Janine Souffront, RDN, a registered dietitian and supervisor of Health Education for L.A. Care Health Plan. “Eating healthy, nutrient-rich foods, can help your body fight off illness.”
Of course, you won’t be able to rely on these foods or nutrients as a miracle cure for sickness. But on top of preventative behaviors — like washing your hands often and getting a flu shot — these healthy foods may help reduce your risk of contracting illness.
has put together a list of 10 foods you can consume to boost your immune system naturally. And at the end, you’ll find a bonus section about a superfood that does wonders for your body.
Aside from an ounce of almonds having the same calcium value as 1/4 cup of milk, these wonderful nutrients can help keep your body fit. According to researchers, almonds boost the immune system, especially against viruses. High in vitamin E and fiber, they can also keep your blood sugar in check.
2. Sunflower seeds
A perfectly healthy snack, sunflower seeds can also prove to be your savior when it comes to immunity. They reduce the risk of various chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s, they keep your heart healthy, and they also prevent sickness. It also works wonders for expecting mothers and helps the fetus to healthily develop.
Rich in antioxidants, the papaya is a tasty choice loaded with benefits. Some of these include fighting inflammation, reducing the risk of cancer, and keeping digestion in check.
With vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin E, kiwis can help with asthma and strengthen the immune system. They also can prevent conditions like the common cold and the flu. Additionally, kiwis can aid in digestion and serve as protection against vision loss.
5. Green tea
“Green tea is very high in catechins and polyphenols, antioxidants that help prevent cell damage,” Souffront says. “Healthier cells in general will allow the body to have a better immune response.”
For example, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that green tea catechins can improve the response of t-cells, which are cells that attack viruses. Increased t-cells are associated with an improved immune response. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Immunology Research also found that polyphenols help the body signal when an immune response is needed.
Ginger has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. A 2013 study published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine found that ginger supports the immune system and may even be effective at preventing cancer.
A 2019 study published in the Journal of Nutrition & Intermediary Metabolism looked at the effect of 8.3 grams of ginger extract on smokers and non-smokers. Both groups had immune system improvements, though from different causes. The smokers experienced more lymphocytes. The non-smokers had increased immunoglobulin M, a type of antibody.
However, Souffront recommends sticking with fresh ginger. “The whole food source ginger is more effective than supplements,” she says. “For that reason, using fresh ginger in cooking or teas is best.”
“For centuries, people have touted the health benefits of garlic, with suggestions that it can help with heart disease, high cholesterol, and colds and flu,” Souffront says.
The health benefits of garlic are rooted in allicin, a compound that is released when garlic is chopped or crushed. “Allicin and the antioxidants inside garlic help fight off infection and support the immune system,” Souffront says.
A 2018 study published in Clinical Nutrition found that garlic extract boosted the immune system for obese adults. In the randomized, double-blind study, a group of 51 adults were given 3.6 grams of aged garlic extract or a placebo for 6 weeks. At the end of the six weeks, the garlic group had lower inflammation and better distribution of immune system cells.
In addition, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Nutrition examined a group of 120 healthy participants that were given 2.56 grams of aged garlic extract or a placebo for 90 days. The garlic and placebo groups reported the same amount of illnesses, but the garlic group reported fewer symptoms, reduced illness severity, and fewer days of school or work missed.
It’s no mystery that spinach is good for your health, but apparently, this nutrient powerhouse is also great for your immunity. Spinach is a great source of magnesium which is needed to maintain nerve function, a healthy heart, good blood pressure, and strong muscles.
Not only can watermelon keep your skin and hair healthy, but it can also improve your digestion and reduce inflammation in your body.
10. Fruits rich in vitamin C
According to a report, vitamin C can give your immune system a boost in 20 ways! To name a few, it can keep your white blood cells healthy, kill unwanted or bad cells, and increase the production of antibodies.