13 Foods to Boost Your Immune System

Clinically reviewed by our Board of Advisors

Fit woman putting fresh vegetables on the kitchen table

If you’re looking to improve your health, your diet is always one of the best places to start. After all, the vitamins and minerals we consume influence how we feel and what we can achieve.

Food dictates how our immune system responds to the world around it. In other words, what we put inside our body can help protect us from the viruses and bacteria outside of it. One of the most effective ways to deliver immune-boosting vitamins and compounds to our system is by eating them. Therefore, nutrition and immunity go hand in hand. 

To help you stay healthy and perform at peak levels, we’ll be examining 13 of the best foods to boost immune system strength.

Vegetables

It’s no surprise that vegetables are on our list. Many vegetables are rich in essential vitamins and minerals, and eating greens is a surefire way to give your body what it needs.

When it comes to boosting your immunity, however, there are a few vegetables that stand out from the crowd.

#1 Mushrooms

Fried, sautéed, or eaten raw, mushrooms have plenty to offer. Along with high levels of dietary fiber, minerals, and amino acids, mushrooms contain bioactive compounds linked to immune system functionality, such as:1 

  • Terpenes
  • Polysaccharides 

When it comes to cooking with mushrooms, there are dozens of colors, textures, and tastes to satisfy even the pickiest eater. If you want to start experimenting with more mushrooms in your diet plan, start shopping (or foraging) for choices such as:

  • Oyster mushrooms
  • Morel mushrooms
  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Portobello mushrooms
  • Maitake mushrooms (also known as “Hen of the Woods”)
  • Enoki mushrooms
  • Chanterelle mushrooms
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#2 Bell Peppers

Whether you prefer orange, yellow, green or red bell peppers, they are a fantastic addition to your plate. Along with their immunomodulatory effects, bell peppers are also:2

  • Rich in vitamins A, C, and E
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Full of bioactive compounds, like carotenoids and phenolic compounds
  • Hydrating

Combine all of these properties, and you have a sweet, crunchy superfood that will stave off those telltale signs of a weak immune system.

#3 Garlic

If you have a garlic obsession, you’re not alone—this tasty bulb is an essential part of many cuisines. In addition to its tantalizing flavor, garlic boasts several disease-preventing properties thanks to the presence of allicin and ajoene.

In fact, clinical studies of garlic consumption have shown boosted immune system functions and enhanced immune cell activity.3 Other benefits include powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as positive effects on blood pressure, metabolism, and the cardiovascular system.

#4 Ginger

The sweet and spicy flavor of ginger root makes it the star of many dishes. Meanwhile, its bioactive compounds make it a top contender for the best immunity-boosting food.

Ginger has long been an anti-nausea aid, but its health benefits go far beyond managing a current illness. While more studies are needed to understand the full potential of ginger, one fact is clear: ginger is good for you and your immune system.

Fruits

Delicious and nutritious, fruits are one of life’s simple pleasures. The next time you head to the supermarket, be sure to stock up on these immunity powerhouses.

#5 Citrus Fruits

From the tiniest kumquat to the largest grapefruit, any citrus fruit is a treasure trove of immune boosting nutrients. The benefit most commonly associated with oranges and limes is vitamin C, which is important for maintaining a healthy immune system.

Citrus fruits are also high in folate (an essential ingredient in immune system function) and flavonoids that may protect against viruses.4

If in-season citrus fruits are hard to find, a vitamin C supplement can ensure that your immune system stays in peak shape.

#6 Apples

Boosting your immune system is all about protecting your body from bacteria, illness, and disease—and apples do it all. 

The phytochemicals in apples are powerful antioxidants that can protect your cells from free radicals. These phytochemicals include:

  • Quercetin
  • Phloridzin
  • Catechin
  • Chlorogenic acid

Lastly, important vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, are present in apples.

#7 Elderberries

Often dried or cooked, elderberries have a history of use in traditional medicine for treating and preventing illness. Today, elderberries and elderflower (the dried leaf of the fruit) have been proven to offer various health benefits.

The anthocyanidins present in elderberries stimulate the immune system and may even reduce inflammation.5 Additionally, the fruit is known for its antiviral properties and high vitamin A content, protecting you from respiratory illnesses. You can even rely on elderberries for skincare.

Looking for an easy way to get your daily dose of elderberries? Try mixing a tablespoon of our Elderberry Defense Oil into your water, juice, or breakfast smoothie. 

Nuts and Seeds

A diet full of different nuts and seeds can keep you feeling your best. While all nuts and seeds provide protein, fats, and fiber, some are known best for their immunity benefits.

#8 Brazil Nuts

These large brown nuts are chock-full of selenium. Selenium deficiency is linked to impaired thyroid function and poor immune defense,6 so eating just a single Brazil nut each day can help improve your immune system.7

On top of their high selenium content, Brazil nuts are packed with protein, copper, vitamin B6,  and magnesium. Toss a few into your trail mix and dig in.

#9 Flax Seeds

Flax is a food that has stood the test of time—and for good reason. The seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help with autoimmune disease management.8 In short: flax supports your immune system.

Best of all, flax seeds are small and have a mild flavor, so you can add them to almost any dish and reap the benefits. You can also grind them up or incorporate flaxseed oil instead.

Fermented Foods

If you eat dairy, cultured products like yogurt, kefir, and paneer are some of the highlights of an immune-boosting diet. But vegans can also enjoy the benefits of fermented food with these delicious delicacies.

#10 Kimchi

Kimchi is a blend of salted, fermented vegetables (most often cabbage) that originated in Korea. The tangy taste of kimchi is a side effect of the fermentation process that bestows it with many of its health benefits. It is full of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, beta carotene, and many more vitamins. 

Plus, considering how stress affects the immune system, it is helpful to consume food that helps control stress levels. Since kimchi is high in antioxidants, it can help reduce the oxidative stress in the body.9 

Kimchi’s most important contribution to your immune system is lactic acid-producing bacteria (LAB). These bacteria help you maintain a healthy gut composition, which improves local and systemic immunity.10

Kimchi is usually fermented with other healthy foods included on this list:

  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Red peppers
  • Onions

Note: Kimchi often contains fish sauce, so look out for vegan or vegetarian versions if you have dietary restrictions.

#11 Tempeh

Originally from Indonesia, tempeh—a firm, cakey blend of fermented soybeans—is a versatile meat substitute with immunity-enhancing effects. Tempeh is a phenomenal food for a healthy lifestyle, thanks to high levels of:10

  • Protein
  • Probiotics
  • Phytonutrients
  • Isoflavones

Additionally, tempeh helps inhibit the production of free radicals and improve gut microbiota. Try it in a stir fry, or even fried as a bacon alternative.

Spices and Herbs

Most herbs and spices do far more than improve the taste of our food—they also come with significant health benefits. If you’re looking for immunity-boosting effects, don’t skimp out on these seasonings when making your next dish.

#12 Turmeric

The mild, earthy flavor of turmeric graces many of your favorite curries, rice bowls, and smoothies. Turmeric is packed with curcumin, and it alleviates inflammation and exhibits antioxidant activities—all of which can keep you feeling your best.

#13 Cinnamon

A staple of baked goods and pumpkin-spiced drinks, cinnamon is renowned for its positive health effects. Cinnamon boosts the immune system by promoting:11

  • Antimicrobial activity
  • Anti-inflammatory activity
  • Antioxidant activity

While cinnamon is a common ingredient in desserts and sweet drinks, it’s also fantastic in savory dishes, so don’t hesitate to experiment!

Give Your Immune System a Boost With Cymbiotika

Eating a varied, balanced diet is one of the many ways to maintain a strong immune system. But in our busy modern world, making sure you eat all of the right foods for immunity can be easier said than done.

Whether you’re constantly on the go or looking for ways to supercharge your immune response, sometimes you need a helping hand.

At Cymbiotika, we make sure that immune system upkeep is as easy as possible. Our full range of immunity defense supplements can help you stay happy and healthy — especially when you can’t eat all 13 foods on this list every day. So, if you want to unlock your immune system’s full potential, start with Cymbiotika.


Sources: 

  1. NCBI. Immunomodulatory Effects of Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms and Their Bioactive Immunoregulatory Products. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7712035/ 
  2. NCBI. Bell Peppers (Capsicum annum L.) Losses and Wastes: Source for Food and Pharmaceutical Applications. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8434037/ 
  3. NCBI. Potential Health Benefit of Garlic Based on Human Intervention Studies: A Brief Overview. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7402177/ 
  4. Frontiers in Immunology. Effects of Citrus Fruit Juices and Their Bioactive Components on Inflammation and Immunity: A Narrative Review. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2021.712608/full 
  5. NCBI. Elderberry for prevention and treatment of viral respiratory illnesses: a systematic review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8026097/ 
  6. NCBI. Selenium Accumulation, Speciation and Localization in Brazil Nuts (Bertholletia excelsa H.B.K.). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6724122/ 
  7. NCBI. Nuts and Human Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5748761/ 
  8. NCBI. Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient medicine & modern functional food. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4152533/ 
  9. The American Institute of Stress. The Best Foods to Relieve Stress (and Some to Avoid). https://www.stress.org/the-best-foods-to-relieve-stress-and-some-to-avoid
  10. NCBI. Anti-Inflammatory and Immunomodulatory Properties of Fermented Plant Foods. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8147091/ 
  11. NCBI. Cinnamon: A Multifaceted Medicinal Plant. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4003790/ 
  12. NCBI. Immune Modulation From Five Major Mushrooms: Application to Integrative Oncology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684115/ 
  13. NCBI. Bioactive Compounds and Bioactivities of Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6616534/ 
  14. NCBI. Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC442131/ 
  15. NCBI. Immunomodulators Inspired by Nature: A Review on Curcumin and Echinacea. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6278270/ 

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