20 foods that are good—and good for your immune system

Health & Fitness

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Staying healthy, especially in winter months, means doing everything you can to keep your immune system functioning optimally. What you eat can significantly impact how your immune system operates. And while your immune system doesn’t necessarily keep your mouth healthier, nutrient-rich foods can ensure both your overall and dental health don’t suffer.

So how do you ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need? There are always mineral supplements and multivitamins to help fill in the gaps, but the best way to make sure your immune system has a fighting chance is to incorporate the right foods into your daily diet.

From specific fruits and vegetables to nuts, fatty fishes, seeds, teas and more, your body’s immune system will thank you for all the goodies it’s going to get. These foods have everything you need.

Many foods contain nutrients that can help your body fight off viruses, including the following.


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1. Broccoli

Broccoli is filled with vitamins A, C and E. It’s also a great source of antioxidants, fiber, zinc and selenium. Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine that can ease symptoms related to the common cold. Just eating one cup of broccoli has great immune-boosting benefits.

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2. Spinach

Spinach is also rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants. Like broccoli, it’s best when raw or cooked very lightly to retain as many nutrients as possible.

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3. Oily Fish

Oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines contain docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Omega 3 fatty acids, also found in fish, can help in producing immunity-regulating compounds.

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4. Oysters

Shellfish like oysters are packed with zinc, something we need for a healthy immune system to function correctly. But don’t overindulge. Adult men should only consume 11 mg of zinc per day, and adult women should restrict their consumption to 8 mg. Just three oysters can contain as much as 16.5 mg of zinc.

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5. Elderberries

Both the fruit and the flowers of this tree contain many antioxidants and vitamins essential for a healthy immune system. Elderberries contain plenty of vitamin B, vitamin B6 and vitamin E. Elderberries are also shown to offer anti-inflammatory properties that can ease flu and cold symptoms or help prevent them altogether.

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6. Garlic

Garlic has a sulfur-containing compound called allicin. That’s what makes garlic so fragrant! The compounds in garlic can enhance some white blood cells’ ability to fight viruses. It’s one of those ingredients that can easily be incorporated into breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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7. Ginger

Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory that contains gingerol, which is related to capsaicin — that’s the stuff that makes peppers like jalapenos and ghost peppers hot. Ginger is a beloved ingredient in dishes across many cultures, is popular in teas and desserts and can even aid upset stomach and nausea.

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8. Miso

Miso is a fermented condiment, a delicious product that originated in Asia. Most Westerners have tried it in Japanese miso soups. Miso contains probiotics that support and strengthen gut flora, which battles bad bacteria.

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9. Nuts and seeds

Nuts like almonds contain large amounts of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that supports a healthy immune system. You only need about half a cup to reach 15 mg of vitamin E, the recommended daily dose. Seeds, like sunflower seeds, contain a high amount of selenium. You only need about an ounce of seeds to meet your daily requirement.

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10. Onions

Phytochemicals in onions serve as stimulants for vitamin C. In other words, onions maximize the positive effects of vitamin C. Onions are also filled with other immune-boosting nutrients like zinc, selenium and sulfur compounds.

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11. Sweet potato

Beta-carotene is a compound that turns into vitamin A, and sweet potatoes are bursting with it! Pump up the amount of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes in your diet as a delicious way to help the body fight viruses.

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12. White Button Mushrooms

White button mushrooms can help promote the production of antiviral proteins. These proteins are released by cells that are trying to protect tissue in the body. Plus, white button mushrooms go great with everything from pasta to eggs. Versatile and antiviral!

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13. Yogurt

Yogurt contains probiotics that support the gastrointestinal tract. Greek yogurts that indicate they contain “live and active cultures” are great options. Yogurt cultures boost the immune system designed to fight little invaders like bacteria. Yogurt also has plenty of Vitamin D, which helps to support immune system functionality.

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Best foods to eat when sick

Here are the best foods to have if you’re sick.

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14. Berries

Not only are berries beautiful and delicious, but they’re also chock full of polyphenols, which contain antioxidants. Polyphenols are known to interact positively with gut bacteria, which is key to boosting immunity. There are so many delicious options to choose from, including blackberries, blueberries, cranberries and strawberries.

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15. Citrus fruits

Vitamin C is the hero of immune-boosting vitamins. And that’s what citrus fruits are all about. Lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits and tangerines are excellent sources of vitamin C. 

Like other immune-boosting foods, vitamin C increases the production of white blood cells — and those are the tiny soldiers that fight viruses. 

Fun fact: Your body can’t produce it or even store vitamin C. That’s why you need a daily dose to help keep your immune system operating efficiently.

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16. Honey

Raw honey has antibacterial and antiviral properties that are very well known to help immune systems function optimally. And the best way to take it is once a day in a hot cup of soothing herbal tea.

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Which fruit is good for immunity?

These foods are good for your immunity.

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17. Kiwi

Kiwis are vibrant little packages of vitamin goodness. Packed with nutrients, you’ll benefit from vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, folate and potassium. While vitamin C supports white cell production, kiwi’s nutrients are perfect as snacks, breakfast or salads.

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18. Papaya

Papayas contain anti-inflammatory papain, a digestive enzyme, as well as magnesium and folate. Like most fruits, papayas are full of, you guessed it, vitamin C. The daily recommended amount of vitamin C is present in the size of one medium fruit. Papaya is perfect!

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19. Pomegranate

Considered a fruit of the gods, pomegranates and pomegranate juice have powerful healing properties. Studies show that punicalagin, a flavonoid compound in pomegranates, is antiviral. Plus, its tangy sweetness is a delightful ingredient in cooking or eaten raw.

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20. Tomatoes

Yes, for this list, tomatoes are fruits. One of the most versatile and popular fruits in nature’s pantry tomatoes are a celebrated immune booster packed with antioxidants like vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta-carotene. These protect the body from free radicals that can harm your immune system. Also, spaghetti sauce!

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What should you not eat when you have a cold?

The types of food and drink you should avoid when you have a cold follow closely with what you should avoid if you’re trying to maintain a healthy diet. Anything you consume that compromises your overall health essentially weakens the immune system and the body’s ability to fight off viruses.

So, here are some common-sense foods and drinks to avoid for optimal health and, by proxy, a robust immune system.

  • Alcohol
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Caffeinated drinks like coffee and soft drinks
  • Fatty foods
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Sour, pickled or brined foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Sugary sweets

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What can I eat to prevent a cold?

The key to preventing a cold is to maintain a healthy immune system. A regular diet of any of the immune-boosting foods listed above can fortify the body and prepare it for possible invaders. Other cold-preventing foods to add to your healthy diet include:

  • Apples
  • Dark chocolate
  • Eggs
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

In addition to foods that ward off sneezes and coughs, enjoy a wide variety of green, black and herbal teas. Black and green teas include flavonoids, an antioxidant. Green tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that may help the production of compounds that fight germs.

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Foods to eat when sick with flu or cold

Life can be pretty miserable when you’re constantly coughing, sneezing, fighting a fever, or trying to soothe a sore throat. There’s a good reason that generations have turned to hot drinks and soups to ease discomfort. The steam and heat from hot fluids can have a decongestant effect that loosens mucus. So, break out the broth, chicken soup and hot teas.

In addition to the tried and true foods, don’t forget foods and drinks containing ginger. Ginger has potent medicinal properties. Ginger can help soothe sore throats and reduce inflammation and congestion. Ginger can even soothe an aching tummy or calm nausea. 

And ginger has all the great “anti” qualities that are a must for treating colds and touches of flu, including antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

This article originally appeared on BrightTiger.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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