Eating a balanced diet is one of the best ways to keep your immune system strong. Healthy foods help the body fight off infections including the flu, viruses, colds, etc. Fruits and vegetables, for example, are filled with the nutrients linked to a stronger immune system. Supplements also offer the same vitamins and minerals. The most quality sources, however, come directly from food. Be sure to listen to your doctor and follow their recommendations.
Here’s a list of immune-boosting nutrients and their food sources:
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. Try to eat vitamin A-rich protein sources with a healthy fat like olive oil. Vitamin A helps maintain strong eye vision and promotes growth and development. It is also anti-inflammatory.
Sources: sweet potatoes, kale, collards, winter squash, carrots, red peppers, spinach, cantaloupe, grapefruit
The B vitamin complex consists of eight different vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12. Unlike vitamin A, B vitamins are water-soluble. This means that the body does not store them. You must consume water-soluble vitamins daily to avoid becoming deficient. B vitamin deficiencies are linked to a decrease in various cells that help support healthy immunity.
Sources: fish, leafy greens, eggs, beef, seafood, liver/organ meats, legumes, yogurt
Vitamin C boosts the immune system by attacking foreign invaders. It is water-soluble and should be consumed daily. Additionally, vitamin C assists in iron absorption and wound healing. It’s also linked to reducing common cold symptoms.
Sources: citrus fruits like navel oranges, grapefruit and lemons, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, strawberries, kiwifruit
This vitamin plays an important role in immune response and regulation. It supports bone, heart, and muscle protection. Vitamin D also helps with calcium absorption. Although found in many foods, the human body produces this vitamin naturally when skin is exposed to sunlight.
Sources: sunlight, wild mushrooms, eggs, foods fortified with vitamin D (milk, orange juice, cereal, oatmeal)
Vitamin E allows several organs to function properly. It acts as an antioxidant to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Vitamin E offers cell protection and helps regulate immune functions.
Sources: vegetable oils (sunflower and safflower are best sources), nuts, green vegetables (spinach and broccoli), cereals
Zinc plays a role in cell growth and wound healing. It is also needed for a healthy immune system. Correcting zinc deficiencies is linked to reducing, respiratory and skin infections. Consuming enough zinc may also shorten the duration of the common cold.
Sources: lean meats, seafood, legumes, cereals, chicken (dark meat), yogurt
Selenium deficiencies may increase infections. It is an antioxidant that reduces inflammation in the body and boosts immunity.
Sources: seafood, cereals, grains, brazil nuts, lentils, spinach, potato, oatmeal
Copper is essential to the immune system and is found in all the body tissues. It has antimicrobial properties and helps form hemoglobin. Hemoglobin assists in red blood cell production.
Sources: seafood, cereals, dark leafy greens, seeds, nuts, shiitake mushrooms, leafy greens
An iron deficiency (anemia) can lead to illness and infection. Additionally, low iron levels may lower your immune system.
Sources: meat, seafood, beans, dark leafy greens, cereals, grains
Article Sources: National Library of Medicine, Harvard School of Public Health, National Institute of Health