Recipes and Cooking Healthy Recipes Healthy Eating 10 Best Immune-Boosting Foods to Help Combat Colds, Flu, and More Bolster your body's natural defenses with these doctor and dietitian-recommended foods that boost immunity and keep your body safe from germs. By Karla Walsh Updated on November 17, 2022 Reviewed by Jessica Jones, MS, RD Reviewed by Jessica Jones, MS, RD Jessica is a nationally-recognized Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, Writer, Speaker, and Digital Content Strategist. As the co-founder of the wellness content media company, Food Heaven, Jessica creates engaging food and nutrition content for over 80 global corporations, food companies, and media outlets including American Heart Association, Blue Apron, Adobe, Dove, and KitchenAid. Jessica also co-hosts the top 50 nutrition Food Heaven Podcast, which explores the intersections of nutrition, health, and wellness through a social justice lens. With over 3 million downloads to date, the Food Heaven podcast has been a pillar for accessible and inclusive health and wellness insights since 2015. In addition to being a go-to nutrition expert, writer, and columnist for SELF magazine, Jessica is the co-author of the 28-Day Plant-Powered Health Reboot and A Diabetes Guide to Enjoying the Foods of the World. Learn about BHG's Nutrition Review Board Share Tweet Pin Email We all know when cold and flu season comes around, washing your hands is especially important. But so is what you put on your plate. What you eat can also boost your immunity to help you fight off bugs and stay healthy. "The immune system isn't a single entity," says Rachel Swanson, R.D., L.D.N., a registered dietitian nutritionist and the founder of the nutrition consulting firm Rachel's Rx in Los Angeles, California. "It's an exquisitely intricate, interconnected system. Our daily habits (including diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management) have a much greater impact than any one single intervention alone." In other words, having healthy habits and stress management practices will be your best bet in boosting immunity. "We can really boost our immunity through diet alone. Consistent intake of the micronutrients that help our bodies fight disease, is a natural solution to infection prevention," says Cassie Majestic, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, California. "Micronutrients, or vitamins and minerals, are vital to disease-prevention and health development." Cassie Majestic, M.D. We can really boost our immunity through diet alone. Consistent intake of the micronutrients that help our bodies fight disease, is a natural solution to infection prevention. — Cassie Majestic, M.D. Your body only needs small amounts of these nutrients (hence the "micro" in the name), but since the body does not make them on its own, we must include them in our diets. The best foods for the immune system are often full of: Vitamin CVitamin EVitamin B6 Vitamin AVitamin D3Zinc MagnesiumProbiotics 10 of the Best Immune-Boosting Foods "Without adequate nutrition, the immune system is deprived of essential components that generate an effective immune response and resistance to infection," Swanson says. So fill your cart with these foods to strengthen immune systems (listed in no particular order). All come recommended by Swanson, Majestic, and Rachel Fine, R.D., a registered dietitian and owner of the nutrition counseling firm To The Pointe Nutrition in New York City. Blaine Moats 1. Citrus Fruit One of the strongest sources of vitamin C, lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit may support your body in its natural immunity process. For a bonus dose of the best foods for the immune system that are high in C, add strawberries and avocados to your shopping list, too. Citrus Salad Recipe That Will Brighten Your Menu 2. Fermented Foods Kimchi, tempeh, miso, and even kombucha are killer when it comes to combating germs. "Fermented foods, and the probiotics they contain, are beneficial for the gut ecosystem," Swanson says. "The majority (about 80% ) of immune cells are housed within the gut, which reflects the importance of our diet in maintaining proper functioning." Here's How to Make Fermented Pickles 3. Chicken Soup It's good for the soul and strengthening your immune system. "There's a reason why chicken soup makes its debut a lot during cold and flu season: Poultry, such as chicken, is high in B6, which helps with formation of new red blood cells," Swanson says. And if you can stir in a handful of kale or chard, even better. "Dark leafy greens are high in magnesium and vitamin E, a potent antioxidant," Swanson adds. 4. Yogurt Probiotics are good for your gut and your immune defenses. "Yogurt [with live active cultures] will boost your intake of probiotics to support a strong microbiome, and as a result, a strong immune system," Fine says. (What can your gut do for you? Turns out, a whole lot: here 5 gut health facts you need to know.) 5. Mushrooms Among the most diverse and versatile veggies around (just look at all the types you can shop, chop, and savor!), mushrooms are one of the top 10 immune-boosting foods. The caps and stems offer beta-glucans, Swanson says, which are soluble fibers that research suggests may lower cholesterol, improve blood sugar control, and strengthen immunity. Reishi, shiitake, and maitake are especially rich in beta-glucans. 6. Matcha Tea It's not just foods that help your immune system, drinks can too. The antioxidant EGCG, found in green teas (including matcha), inhibits the production of pro-inflammatory molecules, and is "shown to have multiple actions on immune cell function," Swanson says. How to Make a Matcha Green Tea Latte 7. Sunflower Seeds However you use this food that helps your immune system (whether tossed into trail mix or for topping your morning bowl of oats or yogurt) you'll be getting a potent dose of vitamin E. If you're not in the mood to get seedy, "this powerful antioxidant can also be found in peanut butter and almonds," Fine says. 8. Sweet Potatoes Roasted, toasted (yes, sweet potato toast is totally a thing!), or mashed, there are dozens of delicious ways to get your fix of this immune-boosting food. (Might we suggest starting with one of these 19 creative sweet potato recipes?) Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin B6, which has been shown to play a role in the development of healthy immune system function. Dean Schoeppner 9. Microgreens Go small for big immune-boosting food benefits of microgreens. "The nutrient density of microgreens far outweighs that of their mature counterparts, providing higher concentrations of micronutrients like Vitamin C," Swanson says. Among other important wellness tasks, vitamin C stimulates the production and function of white blood cells that protect the body from foreign invaders and infections. 10. Salmon Add salmon to your diet for lots of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Two PUFAs in particular (DHA and EPA), are known to keep cells functioning properly and promote normal inflammatory responses. High amounts of DHA and EPA (two of the three main Omega 3s) make salmon one of the top immune-boosting foods. Bonus Immunity Tips: Foods to Skip It's also vital to steer clear of immune-weakening foods, too. The dietitians recommend limiting inflammatory foods, including: Added sugarsHighly-processed items, including processed meats and refined carbohydratesExcessive alcohol "These foods and drinks can cause the body to act as if it were fighting a bacterial infection, increasing the release of inflammatory cells and in turn causing chronic, unnecessary inflammation," Majestic says, which puts your entire system at risk for attack by bacteria and viruses. 8 Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Add to Your Diet Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources Better Homes & Gardens is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources—including peer-reviewed studies—to support the facts in our articles. Read about our editorial policies and standards to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy. "CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21" U.S. FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION. 2022.