Foods rich in certain vitamins and nutrients can help strengthen your immune system—here’s what you need to know.   

By Corey Williams
March 12, 2020

A healthy diet is essential for a healthy immune system. Eating foods that are rich in certain vitamins and nutrients can help strengthen your immunity and fight the common cold, flu, coronavirus, and other infections. 

It's important to remember, however, that nutritious foods and drinks can only help boost immune system response. Diet is certainly not the only thing that determines whether you get sick—with the common cold or with the coronavirus. Protect yourself by washing your hands frequently, avoiding situations that may result in exposure, and follow CDC guidelines

Foods and Drinks That Strengthen Your Immune System

1. Water

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Water carries oxygen to your cells, so drinking enough of it is vital to keep every part of your body functioning properly. Adequate hydration also helps prevent toxins from building up, which could have a negative impact on your immune system.

2. Citrus Fruits

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Vitamin C-packed citrus fruits—like oranges, lemons, and grapefruits—are immune-boosting powerhouses. Loading up on citrus may not prevent illness, but it has been shown to reduce duration and severity of the common cold. 

Get the recipes: 60 Flavorful Citrus Appetizers, Dinners, and Desserts

3. Garlic

Garlic contains a compound called alliin. When chewed or crushed, alliin becomes a sulfur-rich compound called allicin. Combined with antioxidants in the herb, allicin may be able to fight some infections and boost overall immune function. 

4. Turmeric

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Turmeric, which is often lauded for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, may come in handy during cold and flu season. Curcumin, a compound in the spice, is thought to boost immune system response. 

5. Fermented Foods

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Research suggests that your body can detect metabolites found in fermented foods which trigger movement of immune cells. Fermented foods and drinks you might be familiar with are yogurt, kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha. 

6. Spinach

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Spinach is a triple threat: It’s packed with vitamin C, yes—but it’s also rich in vitamin D, an immune-boosting nutrient, and beta carotene, which is an important source of vitamin A.

Get the recipes: 30 Spinach Salads You’ll Love

7. Chicken Noodle Soup

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Your mom was right! The classic comfort food’s staple ingredients—protein-rich chicken and vitamin A-rich carrots—make chicken noodle soup an illness-fighting superstar.  

8. Red Bell Peppers

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Like spinach, red bell peppers are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and antioxidants. Red peppers contain at least 1.5 times more vitamin C and 8 times more vitamin A than their green counterparts. 

9. Nuts

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Not only are they full of immune-boosting vitamin A and antioxidants, nuts are also a rich source of zinc (a mineral that keeps your immune system strong, healthy, and functioning normally). 

10. Oysters

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Oysters and other shellfish are rich sources of selenium, a mineral that is known for its immune-boosting and antioxidant properties.  

11. Eggs

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The incredible, edible egg is packed with vitamin A, vitamin B-12, and selenium. It’s also a rich source of protein, which is essential to keeping your body strong and ready to fight diseases.

Read more: Are Hard-Boiled Eggs Good For You?

12. Apples

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Does an apple a day really keep the doctor away? Maybe! Antioxidant- and vitamin C-rich apples contain a flavonoid called quercetin, which may help regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation.

What Foods and Drinks Might Weaken the Immune System?  

1. Alcohol 

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Sorry to be a buzzkill, but alcohol probably isn’t the key to fighting illness. In fact, it’s long been observed that frequent drinking can lower your immune system and make you more susceptible to  infection. 

2. Excess Sugar

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Eating too much sugar can suppress immune function in some people. Consuming only (or mostly) sugary foods and drinks depletes your body’s nutrient balance, which leads to a host of other health issues.

3. Processed Foods

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Overconsumption of processed and fast foods can lead to increased inflammation and can lower your ability to fight infection. Instead of the drive-thru, opt for fresh fruits and veggies this cold and flu season. 

 

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