Updated: Nov 20, 2020
Keeping your immune system healthy doesn't mean you have to eat boring meals or a lot of oranges. There are plenty of natural ways to boost the immune system. Eating a lot of different foods can help keep your immune system strong.
Let's take a look at the best vitamins to boost the immune system and keep it strong enough to fight illness, viruses and flu's. Within each vitamin and nutrient, I list the best foods for immune system.
A lot of people don't think about Vitamin A when thinking about the immune system. However, it is a crucial nutrient to fight pathogens. Vitamin A helps support the respiratory system and may stimulate the immune system. Carrots and sweet potatoes are well known for their vitamin A content. But did you know Vitamin A is also found in spinach, kale, winter squash and asparagus?
A major nutrient that is needed not only by the immune system but most of the systems in the body us Vitamin C. vitamin C is what most of us think about when we think about boosting our immune system. Vitamin C is anti-viral which is why it is so well known for keeping your immune system healthy. There have been several studies on Vitamin C showing that by taking Vitamin C daily, your chances of developing a cold are reduced by 50%. Vitamin C is found not only in citrus but also in bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, romaine lettuce and tomatoes.
Vitamin D can reduce the frequency of upper respiratory infections and protect against viral and bacterial respiratory infections. Unfortunately, vitamin D is not readily available in a lot of foods. It is only found in shrimp, sardines, cod, milk, and eggs. Regardless of what type of lifestyle you are following, it would be difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone. Vitamins that boost the immune system must have at least 400 IU of Vitamin D to keep the immune system healthy.
Vitamin E helps immune cells respond to pathogens. Vitamin E is found in sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, kale, olives, blueberries and kiwi.
B vitamins are necessary for ensuring the right amount of antibodies are produced. Most of us are deficient in B vitamins especially as we get older. If you eat a lot of protein, drink alcohol or use oral contraceptives, you are deficient in B Vitamins. Not having enough B vitamins means our bodies have reduced responses to antibodies. B Vitamins are difficult to get in large quantities through food so taking a B Complex everyday is a good idea.
Selenium is a critical nutrient for the immune system. It affects all parts of the immune system. Lack of selenium results in a depressed immune system. This nutrient is difficult to get from a wide variety of foods. As far as plant based foods go, Brazil Nuts have the highest levels of selenium. I recommend taking a supplement of 500mg daily to ensure you are supporting your immune system.
Zinc is found throughout the body and helps the immune system fight off pathogens. A question I get quite often is how much zinc should you take in a day? The answer is: that depends. Are you currently sick or are you looking to prevent getting sick? A normal dose for prevention can be 11 mg - 40 mg. However, if you are suffering from another condition or taking medications, you may need a higher dose. Working with a Certified Holistic Nutritionist or a Functional Medicine Doctor can help you figure out the right dose for your situation. Foods high in zinc are: legumes, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, peanuts, cashews, almonds, quinoa, rice and oats.
While this will sound unconventional, a great product for boosting the immune system is Cordyceps mushrooms. That's right! Cordyceps mushrooms.
Cordyceps mushrooms help support the immune system and provides heart health benefits as well. I buy MicroIngredients Organic Cordyceps on amazon. The serving size is 1 scoop which is equivalent to a really tiny spoon that comes in the bag. There are 113 servings per bag. It is really economical, only about 20 cents per serving and tastes good.
If you are leery about drinking mushrooms, a small scoop of cordyceps powder can be put in soup as an immune booster or added to a cup of hot tea. You'll never know it is in there. I drink cordyceps mushrooms 5 days a week mixed with some warmed dairy free milk steeped with a mixture of chai spices (without the black tea). Sometimes I add a little honey for sweetness. It makes a really yummy morning drink.
Below are 6 additional benefits of Cordyceps mushrooms from Healthline.
They improve the way your body uses oxygen.
The high antioxidant content may produce anti-aging benefits.
The potential to slow down tumor growth
May keep blood sugars in the healthy range.
May decrease LDL - the bad cholesterol.
Foods that contain the best vitamins to boost the immune system are also good for the gut. Good thing plant based foods are good for the gut because that is where 70% of our immune system lives! How do you know if your immune system is strong? Your gut will tell you. You just need to pay attention to the symptoms.
Does any of the below sound like you?
👉Diarrhea and/or constipation
👉Congestion, coughing, wheezing
👉Brain fog, difficulty recalling words, short term memory issues
👉Headaches and migraines
👉Hives and itchy skin
👉Acne or eczema
👉Tired all the time
👉Can't stand to smell fragrances and chemicals
If you said yes to even one of the above, your gut is unhealthy which means your immune system is not strong. Learning how to make your gut healthy so you can avoid colds, viruses and illness is hard!
I am a Certified Holistic Nutritionist obsessed with teaching people just like you how to heal their gut so you can stay healthy and enjoy your life!
I offer a FREE 30 minute call where we will talk about your specific symptoms and start how the Simply Great Health program can help.
How would getting to the root cause of how you are feeling improve your life? You could:
✅Be more present with your children
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✅Lose weight and feel better about yourself
✅Be able to cook healthy meals for you and your family
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If we determine it’s not a fit, we’ll go our separate ways for now.
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One way to keep both your gut and immune system healthy is to make healthy meals. The recipes below take into consideration the best vitamins to boost the immune system. I recommend eating an immune boosting meal at least once a day, which is the bare minimum. It is better if you can eat immune boosting meals at least twice a day.
The immune system needs to be strong when you come into contact with others who may be carrying a virus or getting a cold and they aren't showing any symptoms. Below are immunity boosting recipes to try. Simply click on the name of the recipe to see it.
SMOOTHIES: Smoothies are a great option to start your day with an immune boost. I make them as economical as possible by relying on frozen fruits and veggies. Here are some recipes that contain veggies and fruits that support the immune system.
SALADS: While you may not think salad when you think immune system, it is easy to create one that has the key nutrients mentioned above. A lot of vegetables that support the immune system lend themselves well to salads. Vegetables like spinach, carrots, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and mushrooms to name just a few. Try some of the below for lunch!
MAIN DISHES: Dinner may be the easiest to plan for immune boosting meals. A little planning, meal-prepping and even cooking dishes ahead of time creates delicious dinners. Some of the dishes will even have left-overs for lunch. If you feel the main dish is a little light for dinner, add an immune boosting side salad made with spinach, romaine lettuce, tomatoes and mushrooms.
I hope this blog post inspired you to make immune boosting meals. Remember, key nutrients beyond vitamin C or vitamin D for a healthy immune system are: Vitamin A, Vitamin E, B Vitamins, Selenium, Zinc and even medicinal mushrooms like Cordyceps. Eating at least two meals a day that contain these immune boosting meals will keep your immune system strong.
Do you think you will try any of the recipes I shared? Let me know by leaving a comment below.