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10 Foods that Boost Immunity

Adequately feeding your immune system boosts its fighting power. Immune boosters work in many ways. They increase the number of white cells in the immune system army, train them to fight better, and help them form an overall better battle plan. Combine as many of these foods together and you have a powerful boost on your immune system for the winter season.

1. Vitamin C. Vitamin C tops the list of immune boosters for many reasons. There has been more research about the immune-boosting effects of Vitamin C than perhaps any other nutrient. Vitamin C increases the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies and increases levels of interferon, the antibody that coats cell surfaces, preventing the entry of viruses. Excellent food sources of vitamin C include broccoli, bell peppers, kale, cauliflower, strawberries, lemons, mustard and turnip greens, Brussels sprouts, papaya, chard, cabbage, spinach, kiwifruit, snow peas, cantaloupe, oranges, grapefruit, limes, tomatoes, zucchini, raspberries, asparagus, celery, pineapples, lettuce, watermelon, fennel, peppermint and parsley.

2. Bioflavenoids. Bioflavonoids are essential for the absorption of vitamin C, and the two should be taken together. A group of phytonutrients called bioflavenoids aids the immune system by protecting the cells of the body against environmental pollutants. The term bioflavonoids refers to many different ingredients and include hesperin, hesperidin, eriodictyol, quercetin, quercertrin, rutin etc. A diet that contains a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, at least six servings per day, will help you get the bioflavenoids needed to help your immune system work in top form. Bioflavonoids are found in fruits and vegetables. Quercetin, for example, can be found in onions, apples, raspberries, green tea, red grapes, citrus fruit, cherries, broccoli, peppers, buckwheat, and black currants. Smaller amounts are found in leafy green vegetables and beans.

3. Carotenoids. Beta carotene increases the number of infection-fighting cells, natural killer cells, and helper T-cells, as well as being a powerful antioxidant that mops up excess free radicals that accelerate aging. The body converts beta carotene to vitamin A, as it’s needed therefore it’s hard to overdose on beta-carotene. Vitamin A has anticancer properties and immune-boosting functions. Best sources of beta-carotene can be found in concentrated amounts in a variety of foods including sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, turnip greens, yams/sweet potato, winter squash, collard greens, cilantro, fresh thyme, cantaloupe, romaine lettuce and broccoli.

4. Vitamin E. This important antioxidant and immune booster doesn't get as much press as vitamin C, yet it's important to a healthy immune system. Vitamin E stimulates the production of natural killer cells, those that seek out and destroy germs and cancer cells. Vitamin E enhances the production of B-cells, the immune cells that produce antibodies that destroy bacteria. Excellent sources of vitamin E include mustard greens, turnip greens, chard, and sunflower seeds. Very good sources of vitamin E include almonds and spinach. Good sources of vitamin E include collard greens, parsley, kale, papaya, olives, bell pepper, brussels sprouts, kiwifruit, tomato, blueberries, and broccoli.

5. Zinc. This valuable mineral increases the production of white blood cells that fight infection and helps them fight more aggressively. It also increases killer cells that fight against cancer and helps white cells release more antibodies. Zinc supplements have been shown to slow the growth of cancer.

A word of caution: too much zinc in the form of supplements (more than 75 milligrams a day) can inhibit immune function. It's safest to stick to getting zinc from your diet and aim for 15 to 25 milligrams a day. Calf's liver, cremini mushrooms and spinach are very good sources of zinc.

Good sources include: sea vegetables (Dulce/Nori/Kombu), spinach, pumpkin seeds, yeast, beef, lamb, summer squash, asparagus, venison, chard, oysters, crab, dark meat turkey, beans, collard greens, miso, shrimp, maple syrup, broccoli, peas, yogurt, raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas), raw sesame seeds and mustard greens.

6. Garlic. This flavourful member of the onion family is a powerful immune booster that stimulates the multiplication of infection-fighting white cells, boosts natural killer cell activity, and increases the efficiency of antibody production. The immune-boosting properties of garlic seem to be due to its sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin and sulfides. Garlic can also act as an antioxidant that reduces the build-up of free radicals in the bloodstream.

7. Selenium. This mineral increases natural killer cells and mobilizes cancer-fighting cells. Also helps us retain the elasticity in our arteries and veins to keep our blood pumping efficiently. Best food sources of selenium are tuna, red snapper, lobster, shrimp, whole grains, vegetables (depending on the selenium content of the soil they're grown in), brown rice, egg yolks, cottage cheese, chicken (white meat), sunflower seeds, garlic, Brazil nuts, and lamb chops.

8. Omega-3 fatty acids. A study found that children taking a half teaspoon of fish oils a day experienced fewer and less severe respiratory infections and fewer days of being absent from school. The omega 3 fatty acids in flax oil and fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) act as immune boosters by increasing the activity of phagocytes, the white blood cells that eat up bacteria. Essential fatty acids also protect the body against damage from over-reactions to infection. When taking essential fatty acid supplements, such as flax/hemp or fish oils- herring, mackerel, sardines are the best sources of EFAs and offer the highest EPA/DHA ratio to help us fight off infection.

9. B complex. Although not extreme immune boosters it helps us maintain our body’s functions and supports us through stressful times and events. It’s essential to eat these kids of foods everyday and combine them as much as possible with the above nutrients to support our bodies in daily living. Food sources are: whole-grain cereals, bread, red meat, fish, egg yolks, oats, amaranth, dairy, green leafy vegetables, legumes, sweet corn, brown rice, berries, dark green vegetables, legumes, poultry (dark meat best), potatoes, peanuts, liver, brown rice, butter, wheat germ, soybeans and brewers yeast. 10. Probiotics. Last but never least, probiotics, often called friendly bacteria, are live organisms similar to those found naturally in the human colon. Having a healthy gut helps us digest and utilize nutrients more efficiently, reduces toxins, recirculation of waste products by increasing elimination. The common formulation you should be taking has the following probiotics: Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium Animalis, Escherichia coli, Lactococcus Lactis. Great sources are human strain formulas as these latch onto our gut the best: Seroyal or Douglas Labs/Pure Encapsulations. Dairy forms from BioK, Kefir in the dairy section. (Sugar increases bad bacteria in the gut so having a high sugar yogurt with some probiotics is counterproductive to maintaining healthy gut flora – look for unsweetened yogurt).

You will notice a lot of repetition of foods that contain our essential nutrients, this reinforces how smart mother nature was at giving us everything we need in balance to help us live and grow healthy. Eating a balanced diet that is rich in all of these nutrients is the best defence against illness and is preventative medicine at it’s finest.

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Protein rich foods help us in repair of tissue so make sure you’re getting enough good, cleans (free range/hormones free) protein: chicken, turkey, fish. Limit the use of: pork, lamb and beef as these are inflammatory foods. Other sources of protein comes from legumes, nuts, seeds and grains- combining them makes a complete vegetarian protein. Great grain source is Quinoa, as it’s almost a perfect food, gluten free, high in calcium and protein it’s perfect when combines with beans to help sustain you for long periods. Soy is good in limited doses for children and women until menopause then it can be increased to help with the issues of hot flashes.

Avg. adult needs 1.25g/pound of ideal body weight. (ie 140lb woman needs 6.17ounces of protein/day, but needs to increase if she’s active to aid tissue repair.)


Certain foods and environmental influences can keep the immune system army from doing a good job. Watch out for these threats to your body's defenses.

1. Overdosing on sugar. Eating or drinking 100 grams (8 tbsp.) of sugar, the equivalent of about two cans of soda, can reduce the ability of white blood cells to kill germs by forty percent. The immune-suppressing effect of sugar starts less than thirty minutes after ingestion and may last for five hours. In contrast, the ingestion of complex carbohydrates, or starches, has no effect on the immune system.

2. Excess alcohol. Excessive alcohol intake can harm the body's immune system in two ways. First, it produces an overall nutritional deficiency, depriving the body of valuable immune boosting nutrients. Second, alcohol, like sugar, consumed in excess can reduce the ability of white cells to kill germs. High doses of alcohol suppress the ability of the white blood cells to multiply, inhibit the action of killer white cells on cancer cells, and lessen the ability of macrophages to produce tumor necrosis factors. One drink (the equivalent of 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 ounces of hard liquor) does not appear to bother the immune system, but three or more drinks do. Damage to the immune system increases in proportion to the quantity of alcohol consumed. Amounts of alcohol that are enough to cause intoxication are also enough to suppress immunity.

3. Food allergens. Due to a genetic quirk, some divisions of the immune army recognize an otherwise harmless substance (such as milk) as a foreign invader and attack it, causing an allergic reaction. Before the battle, the intestinal lining was like a wall impenetrable to foreign invaders. After many encounters with food allergens, the wall is damaged, enabling invaders and other potentially toxic substances in the food to get into the bloodstream and make the body feel miserable. This condition is known as the leaky gut syndrome.

4. Being overweight. Obesity can lead to a depressed immune system. It can affect the ability of white blood cells to multiply, produce antibodies, and rush to the site of an infection.

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