8 Foods to Boost Your Immune System

By Michelle Cemental

It’s that time of year again when we all start spending a bit more time indoors due to the chilly weather. Unfortunately, the fall and winter months are a time when viruses and illness spread. That’s why it’s important to keep your immune system healthy and fueled so it can fight off infections and help you stay healthy. To boost your immune system, try incorporating these foods into your diet. Hopefully, with a little extra help from these healthy foods, your body can fight off a cold, the flu, COVID-19, and other infections that might spread this year.  

1. Oranges 

Oranges are high in vitamin C, which can help build your immune system. While other citrus fruits — like grapefruit, lemons, limes, etc. — are also high in vitamin C, oranges have the highest concentration of this powerful vitamin. The recommended dietary allowance of vitamin C is 90 mg for adult men and 75 mg for adult women. However, this recommendation can change based on your unique health circumstances. 

Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid, and it is a micronutrient that your body cannot produce on its own. So, you need to get it from the food you eat. Studies have shown that vitamin C plays an important role in repairing tissue in the body; it can help heal wounds and maintain healthy bones. It can help keep your skin healthy, which is the body’s first barrier against infections. Plus, vitamin C has been shown to help with your immune system’s defense response, helping you fight off infection more effectively.  

2. Blueberries 

Blueberries might be small, but they can pack a punch! They are high in flavonoids, which are antioxidants that can help boost your immune system. Flavonoids help keep your blood vessels healthy, enhance the benefits of vitamin C, protect cells from damage, and prevent inflammation. Research has also shown that flavonoids help the immune system fight upper respiratory tract infections, including the common cold.  

In addition to being high in flavonoids, blueberries are also a source of vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber, and manganese. They also contain pterostilbene, a compound that helps combat bacterial infections, further boosting your immune system when you need it most.  

3. Red Bell Peppers 

Fruits aren’t the only source of vitamin C. Red bell peppers are also high in vitamin C, so you can add these veggies to your diet to help you reach your daily allowance. But you should actually eat these veggies raw to get the full benefit because roasting red bell peppers reduces their vitamin C content by up to 25%. 

Red bell peppers are also a great source of beta-carotene and vitamin A. Vitamin A is known to help heal wounds, support white blood cell growth, and support your skin cells. Likewise, beta-carotene has been shown to increase cells in your immune system and promote their activity in fighting infection. 

4. Broccoli 

Broccoli is another vegetable that is rich in vitamin C. But it’s also packed with other vitamins and minerals to help keep your immune system strong. It contains vitamins A and E, and broccoli is a great source of fiber and antioxidants. Vitamin A helps reduce inflammation in the body and helps with the development and regulation of the immune system.  

Like red bell peppers, broccoli loses some of its nutritional content when cooked. If you don’t like to eat raw broccoli, then try steaming it. This method of cooking helps preserve the nutrients.  

5. Dark Chocolate 

If you thought all chocolate was bad for you, think again! Dark chocolate is actually known to provide some health benefits to the body — in moderation, of course. Dark chocolate with 50% to 70% cacao contains the antioxidant theobromine, which helps absorb free radicals in the body. Free radicals are unstable oxygen atoms that can damage tissues in the body. Antioxidants also help reduce inflammation in the body. 

Cacao in dark chocolate is also a great source of fiber, magnesium, arginine (an amino acid), and potassium. So, you can have your chocolate and eat it too!  

6. Yogurt 

Certain types of yogurts contain probiotics, which are great for your body. When shopping for yogurt, look for labels that say “live and active cultures.” That’s how you know you’re getting the probiotics that your body needs. Also, try to avoid yogurts with lots of added sugar and flavorings. 

Probiotics are known as the “good” bacteria that help keep your digestive system running smoothly. You might be wondering what effect that has on the immune system. Well, probiotics in the gut help stimulate the immune system and help regulate its response to fighting infections. 

7. Almonds 

Almonds are a great source of vitamin E, another antioxidant. Vitamin E helps the immune system fight off infections and also plays a role in circulatory health as it prevents clots by widening blood vessels. This type of vitamin is fat soluble, meaning it requires some fat to be absorbed properly in the body. Luckily, almonds have plenty of healthy fats so your body can get all the benefits of vitamin E.  

In addition, almonds are a great source of other nutrients, including vitamin C, calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and copper. But not all nuts are this nutrient dense, which is why we’ve only included almonds in our list of immune-boosting foods.  

8. Green Tea 

While not a food, green tea has been used for its health benefits for years. It has high levels of flavonoids, particularly catechins, which are a family of flavonoids. The catechins found in green tea have shown antimicrobial properties in research and can help prevent and treat infections.  

You might wonder why black tea isn’t on our list as well. Because black tea goes through a fermentation process, it loses much of its flavonoids. But green tea is steamed, and the flavonoids are preserved. So, if you’re looking to boost your immune system, try a nice drink of green tea.  

These are just a few of the many foods that can help boost your immune system and keep you healthy to fight off infection this season. If you’re looking for other healthy foods, check out our post on superfoods for seniors! 

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Tags: Senior Health