Approved Foods to Support a Healthy Immune System
Having a strong immune system can be a major plus during cold and flu season and the current COVID-19 pandemic. While quality sleep, regular exercise, proper hand-washing and social distancing are all important factors that contribute to a healthy immune system, the foods you eat can also play a key role.
In particular, you’ll want to eat foods containing important vitamins and minerals that help strengthen the immune system such as vitamins A, C and D, as well as zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.
Adding beans to your meals, like black beans, garbanzo beans, white beans or lentils, can offer several benefits. One cup of fiber-rich beans offers 13% of the daily recommendation of zinc. Consuming sufficient amounts of zinc can help shorten the duration of a cold. Beans also offer micronutrients, like iron, magnesium, phosphorus, B-vitamins and folate, as well as plant-based protein.
Try it: Use them in soups, dips, sauces or mixed with meat for a budget-friendly protein boost.
Berries, including blueberries, strawberries and raspberries, contain vitamin C and a variety of flavonoids and antioxidants, compounds that help neutralize damaging free radicals in the body and can lower the risk of chronic disease. Flavonoids can be helpful for reducing the incidence of upper respiratory infections.
Try it: Add berries to your salads, smoothies, oatmeal, toast or yogurt.
Broccoli is a nutrient-dense cruciferous veggie rich in vitamins A, C and E. Consuming raw broccoli yields a higher vitamin C content, though cooking it slightly releases more vitamin A.
Try it: Add broccoli to pasta, breakfast hash or egg muffins or snack on it raw with a healthy dip like hummus.
Eggs (including the yolk) are a nutritious, immune system-fueling food to add to your diet. Most nutrients are found in the yolk, like vitamins A, D, zinc and selenium. Eggs are a great protein-rich snack and can be great for any meal from breakfast to dinner.
Try it: From scrambled eggs to avocado toast and quiche, there are countless ways to enjoy eggs.
Fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel and herring, are fabulous sources of omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA, which can help with the activation of certain immune cells and decrease inflammation. Fatty fish are also natural sources of vitamin D and zinc; one serving of wild salmon meets the daily recommendation forvitamin D.
Try it: Make a quick sheet-pan dinner or use smoked salmon instead of deli meat.
Ginger is known for its many medicinal properties, some of which include helping reduce sore throats and inflammation, and helping to optimize immune function. Ginger may also help decrease inflammation in respiratory infections.
Try it: Grate fresh ginger to add to soups or use it in tea.
Greek yogurt is an excellent source of probiotics, bacteria that can help keep your gut healthy. Having a proper balance of “good” bacteria is important for a healthy immune system to help fight off invaders. Look for Greek yogurt or other types of yogurt with “live and active cultures” that contain a variety of probiotic strains and several billion CFU’s (colony forming units). Yogurt is also one of few food sources offering vitamin D, which can help improve the immune response to infections and boost mood levels.