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foods to build immunity

21 Best Immunity Boosting Foods

Your immune system is vital: it’s what keeps you healthy and able to fight off disease, especially when it's augmented with immune boosting foods. However, like all aspects of the body, it needs proper maintenance and fuel to keep functioning properly. 

If you neglect your diet, you neglect your immune system, meaning you are vulnerable to disease. Fortunately, there are plenty of immune boosting foods out there that can provide a real improvement to your immune system when incorporated into your diet.

So, what foods boost immunity?  

Our immune systems are made up of a very diverse set of defences that all need different nutrients to be maintained. We’ve compiled this list of the best immune system boosting foods, providing a simple way to identify helpful foods that you can easily implement into your diet. 

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But, before we launch into our immune boosting foods list, have you ever considered a career in the fitness and nutrition industry? If so, then OriGym’s formally accredited personal training courses could be your next step. Or download our FREE in-depth prospectus, and learn more about what we offer, and how it could be exactly what you’ve been looking for!

And, as an added reward, we’ve put together a FREE food diary, so you can track exactly how beneficial our immune boosting foods really are!

What Is Your Immune System?

foods to build immunity

This may seem like a simple question, but as we’re going to be talking about the best immune boosting foods, it’s important to define what these foods that help the immune system will be “boosting”.

Our immune system is what protects our bodies, and essentially forms our last line of defence between the vulnerable cells of our bodies (such as our organs and muscles) and anything that would cause us harm, such as bacteria or viruses.

It’s intelligent, too - it records and keeps track of the microbes it comes into contact with so it’s better equipped to fight them off in future. This is what forms a vaccination, meaning it gives your body a weakened version of the virus so it’s aware of what it needs to do should it have to fight off that virus.

So, when we discuss immune boosting foods, we’re talking about foods that provide essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that have a positive effect on our body’s defences.

What Can Affect Our Immune System?

foods that boost immune system

A multitude of different things, unfortunately, which is why it’s important to be aware of all the best immune boosting foods and drinks available to us.

Essentially, our body produces “free radicals”, which are cells that our bodies produce naturally and can put to good use, but that can be hugely damaging if they aren’t dealt with. Our body uses antioxidants primarily to deal with these free radicals, which we predominantly get from the food we eat.

Certain lifestyles, such as smoking heavily or drinking alcohol to excess, can have a seriously detrimental effect on your immune system, reducing your body’s defences and leaving you more vulnerable to viruses and illness. 

Poor diet, or a lack of proper nutrition, is problematic, too. If your body lacks the nutrients it needs to maintain a healthy balance, serious issues can arise because your body isn’t properly equipped to deal with them.

Degenerative or long-term illnesses, such as cancers or HIV/AIDS, can reduce the effectiveness of the immune system, and make sufferers more vulnerable to illness.

So, how can we boost our immune systems? Our next section aims to explain a multitude of different foods that boost your immune system, and exactly how they do it.

Read on and find out about the superfoods that we’ve handpicked for our personal best immune boosting foods list!

The Best Immunity Boosting Foods


#1 - Yoghurt

foods to boost immune system

Yoghurt is a great option if you’re looking for foods to boost your immune system, along with providing a host of other health benefits. 

Yoghurt is also a fantastic immunity boosting food for children, as it comes in enticing, tasty flavours, and is also packed full of calcium, great for developing strong bones and teeth. This variety ensures that yoghurt is not only a great immunity boosting food for kids, but it also caters to other tastes and dietary requirements.

Many varieties of yoghurt with probiotic elements are particularly good at boosting the immune system. Probiotics are often also called live cultures or live bacteria, so keep an eye out for this when shopping for this immune boosting food! 

One form of probiotic - L casei - often found in yoghurts has proven to be a key component in the best immune boosting foods, in that it aids in digestion and overall stomach health.

It’s the probiotics in yoghurt that make it one of the key immune system boosting foods. Many people are aware of the benefits of probiotics for your gut’s health, but they really aid the immune system too. Probiotics increase the activity of the cells that fight off disease and illness. 

Yoghurt also has significant amounts of Vitamin D in it, which further bolsters your immune system. The immunity boosting food can also be topped with other treats that improve the immune system, like nuts and berries. This adaptability ensures you can increase your intake of other vitamins and minerals, too. 

And if you’re looking for a serious boost to your protein intake, OriGym’s full report on the best high protein yoghurts has options for all tastes! 

 

#2 - Walnuts

immune system boosting foods

Perhaps this tree nut isn’t the most obvious choice when it comes to foods to improve your immunity: we might be more accustomed to seeing walnuts as part of rich, sweet desserts! 

However, walnuts are an important food that boosts our immune system. They’re absolutely packed with Vitamin E, which is crucial when it comes to finding foods that help the immune system. 

This vital vitamin is an antioxidant, and it is particularly useful in helping the body fight off harmful bacteria and viruses.

If you are lacking in Vitamin E, the T cells, which are a key aspect of the immune system, can start to work less effectively. This sometimes happens with age too, so eating foods that are high in vitamin E is a great way to avoid slowing down your immunity as you get older. 

This particular immunity boosting food is also full of polyphenols, which have a whole host of benefits, including improving heart health, helping to control blood sugar levels (which in turn reduces your risk of developing diabetes), and even mitigating your risk of cancer.

Furthermore, a study conducted by the National Library of Medicine concluded that regularly consuming walnuts reduced the levels of LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol in the body, and improved overall bloodstream health. In fact, nuts in general have been proven to be incredibly effective in many areas, and our exploration of the healthiest nuts covers these aspects, plus many more.

Walnuts are incredibly versatile - you can eat them as a snack, use them as a topping on something else, or add them to a dish for an earthy flavour.

#3 - Oranges (& Citrus Fruits)

foods that help immune system

As we all probably know, these citric superstars are a fantastic source of Vitamin C. Whether that’s from a glass of fresh orange juice, or a ripened blood orange, these fruits are one of our primary sources of Vitamin C.

Vitamin C is crucial in keeping your immune system functioning effectively. Our bodies don’t produce Vitamin C naturally, so the more we can take in from external sources (such as oranges), the better. 

Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which means it combats harmful cells called “free radicals”. These free radicals have been linked to numerous harmful issues, including heart disease and certain types of cancer. 

By maintaining a healthy balance of these antioxidants and free radicals (which your body is always producing, but puts to use in combating illness), we can ensure that our body is kept in optimal condition, and can continue to fight off illness.

We’ve already touched upon the versatility of oranges - they’re a good option if you want a varied, but consistent source of Vitamin C. 

OriGym’s thorough guide to the best vitamins for health explores other avenues for achieving your vitamin intake, too.

But, as a general rule, all citrus fruits have very high Vitamin C content, so if you do decide that oranges aren’t your cup of tea, you could instead get your Vitamin C boost from:

  • Lemons
  • Grapefruit
  • Limes
  • Clementines
  • Tangerines

Vitamin C boosts the body’s ability to communicate issues around the immune system, leading to a speedy and effective response, as well as multiplying the amount of T cells in the blood. 

Oranges are an excellent example of an immunity boosting food for cancer patients. Cancer, either through the disease itself or through treatments like chemotherapy, can often lead to a weakened immune system, and oranges will help improve your immune system, largely through vitamin C’s ability to boost antibodies and fight free radicals. 

#4 - Red Peppers

best immune boosting foods

Now, this might come as a bit of a surprise, but if you’re searching for foods to help immunity, red bell peppers actually have more Vitamin C in them than citrus fruits like oranges. 

This is great news if you’re looking for an alternative to oranges for your Vitamin C boost. Eating just one of these peppers will be enough to fulfil your recommended daily allowance of vitamin C! 

We’ve already discussed some of the great benefits for your immune system Vitamin C has, including fighting free radicals and increasing the amount of T cells and antibodies in the bloodstream. 

However, the benefits of red peppers for your immune system don’t stop there! 

Bell peppers are also rich in Vitamin A, which also aids immunity. Vitamin A is hugely important for the effective production of white blood cells, which are a big part of the immune system.

White blood cells are the cells in our body that are responsible for fighting off invasive cells that would otherwise cause an issue. Consuming good sources of Vitamin A (such as red peppers) means that these cells continue to be produced and can therefore be effective in what they do.

This versatile vitamin also contributes towards maintaining your eyesight, ensuring your cornea (one of the key parts of the eyeball) is kept clear. 

And not only are red peppers one of the best immune boosting foods, they’re also a prominent feature in OriGym’s report on the best foods for lung health!

#5 - Broccoli

foods good for immune system

Broccoli is one of the most universally recognised “superfoods”, and for good reason - it has benefits for the entire body.

However, it’s perhaps most known for being one of the best foods to boost your immune system.

Broccoli is one of the best foods to boost the immune system - it’s even been suggested that broccoli is the only vegetable necessary to boost your health! While we maybe wouldn’t go that far, as it’s always suggested that you stick to a varied, balanced diet, broccoli really is a wonderful choice if you’re looking for foods to boost your immune system.

Firstly, broccoli is fantastic for your gut’s health, which is one of the first lines of defence for your immune system - it even featured in our list of the best metabolism boosting foods, too. 

Broccoli has a high fibre content, meaning it promotes the development of good bacteria in the gut. Fibrous fruits and vegetables such as broccoli play a huge role in maintaining stomach and intestinal health.

Broccoli is also jam-packed with sulforaphane, a compound that is found in most green, leafy vegetables. Sulforaphane is a really effective antioxidant, meaning it fights harmful free radicals and inflammation in the body. 

Studies have even identified sulforaphane as having anti-cancer properties that can inhibit and possibly stop cancerous cells. 

Furthermore, broccoli has really good levels of vitamin C, and as we’ve just discussed in our section on citrus fruits, Vitamin C is beneficial for the immune system. One serving of broccoli (approximately 10 florets) has around 80% of the vitamin C you need to be consuming each day.

#6 - Spinach

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You may already be familiar with the high iron content of spinach, but it’s also packed full of other extra nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants that help boost your immunity. 

Iron is a key mineral used in our bodies - it’s used in the production of hemoglobin, the protein in our red blood cells that allows oxygen to be transported all over the body. 

Spinach is also brimming with nutrients, with vitamins A, B, C and K being present in abundance. 

We’ve already explored the benefits of Vitamins A (crucial in the production of white blood cells) and C (vital for keeping the immune system healthy), but what about Vitamins B and K?

Vitamin B (of which spinach is an excellent source) helps to keep the body healthy in a range of different areas, ranging from cardiovascular health to brain functionality and cognitive clarity.

Vitamin K is immensely effective at maintaining the immune system, as it fights inflammation and stimulates the T cells that make up such a big part of your body’s defences.

Spinach’s high levels of antioxidants and vitamins is one of its main selling points - OriGym’s selection of the best antioxidant foods explores more of these superfoods, and how they benefit our bodies.

Spinach also has high levels of some other, less well known nutrients. Lutein is incredibly beneficial, as it enhances the T cells, which are the cells that provide immunity to certain foreign bodies. 

Folate is also present in spinach. This vitamin (also known as Vitamin B-9) aids in antibody production, which are essential defences against disease and illness, as well as improving overall heart health. 

Finally, one of the more understated plus points of spinach is that it’s also really tasty and versatile. It can be added to a whole range of dishes, from pastas and curries to salads, and it goes really well with chicken too, meaning you can pair it effectively with other nutrients to get the most out of each meal.

#7 - Almonds

best foods to boost immune system

Almonds are next on our selection of foods that boost the immune system. They have a whole range of health benefits, and have a lot more flavour and variety than some other, more mundane health foods.

They’re notable for being a plant-based option that’s full of protein, but they are also among the best foods to strengthen the immune system. 

Almonds can reduce inflammation, which is actually part of the body’s immune response: it’s a protective reaction that usually disappears on its own. However, sometimes the inflammation can remain, and won’t reduce naturally - this is where antioxidant foods like almonds come in handy. 

Almonds are also effective at increasing the body’s production white blood cells, which are one of the most important aspects of the immune system. White blood cells are what fight infection in our bodies, so as you can imagine, it’s important to keep these cells healthy.

Furthermore, almonds contain copper and manganese, which are minerals you may not necessarily consider when planning your meals, but that are really important for the immune system. 

Copper in particular contributes to your body’s defences, and a copper deficiency can lead to weakened responses to infections, while manganese is used by the body to form connective tissue (such as in muscles and around joints) and aid in bone repair.

#8 - Green Tea

foods that build up your immune system

The first liquid on our list of immune system boosting foods, and for good reason - green tea is a really delicious yet simple way to boost your immune system.

Traditionally associated with Asian countries, green tea has a slightly herbaceous flavour and, unlike a regular cup of tea, tends not to be consumed with milk! 

Green tea is perhaps best known for its high levels of Vitamin C in it which, as we’ve already explored in our section on citrus fruits, is a crucial part of caring for your immune system and keeping our T cells and white blood cells healthy. 

The immunity boosting beverage also has significant amounts of amino acids, which can enhance immunity and reduce inflammation. 

Green tea is also a great source of catechin, a form of antioxidant. Catechin is what’s known as an antimicrobial: this means that it attacks unwanted microbes in the body, like harmful bacteria or fungi. 

Catechin will provide a real boost to the body’s ability to fight off these unpleasant complications.

Not only does green tea boost the immune system, it provides a whole new way to attack antigens. 

Green tea’s benefits go beyond boosting your immune system and fighting off microbes, it also proven effective in improving your metabolism and reducing your risk of diabetes. OriGym’s full report on green tea’s benefits, side effects and dosage delves deeper into the delicious drink.

#9 - Chicken Soup

foods to boost immune system naturally

This one may not come as a surprise - many of us will have been recommended a bowl of chicken soup and plenty of bed rest when we’ve felt under the weather.

However, let’s learn about the science behind why this hearty soup actually works, and how this is a delicious food that boosts your immunity. 

First off, we’re likely all aware of chicken’s health benefits, such as its high protein content. Our bodies use protein to repair, rebuild and grow our muscles all across our body - you can even boost your protein intake with our handy guide to the best high protein vegan snacks.

It’s important to note that lean chicken breast is probably the best option for your soup if you are trying to stay healthy: it’s got a lower fat content than chicken thigh or leg. 

But chicken soup has its own array of benefits, and warrants its place on our list as one of the best foods to eat to boost your immune system.

Chicken has high levels of selenium, which is an antioxidant that has particular benefits for the cells, keeping them healthy and functional. It does through naturally reducing the inflammation in your body, and promoting immunity.

But, the broth of chicken soup is ideal for vegetables to be mixed in. Mixing root vegetables (such as carrots or onions) provides an extra helping of fibre (which promotes good digestive health) meaning you can compound some of the effects we’ve just discussed!

A study from the National Library of Medicine confirmed this idea - the broth of chicken soup contains a mild anti-inflammatory, meaning it’s one of the better high immunity foods.

#10 - Oysters

foods to improve immunity

While they may be unappealing to some, oysters offer a surprising amount of benefits when it comes to boosting your immune system.

But just how beneficial can this salty shellfish be?

First of all, oysters are rich in zinc, which is an essential part of the production of proteins and DNA, the makeup of all the cells in our bodies. It also aids in producing white blood cells, which fight off infections and illness as it enters our body.

In fact, studies have found that low zinc levels can lead to reduced production of the necessary white blood cells and T cells we need to defend our bodies.

Oysters are rich in antioxidants, which you may remember are a crucial part of fighting off illness and maintaining a healthy body. These are predominantly found as Vitamin C (which combats harmful free radicals in our immune system) and Vitamin E.

Vitamin E is a vital player in the body’s defences - it maintains the cells that we use to combat any harmful cells or viruses that enter our bodies. By maintaining a healthy balance of vitamins including Vitamin E, we can ensure our cells thrive and grow as best they can. 

It’s also important to note that oysters are low calorie, especially when considered in relation to chicken, with oysters having half the calories of an average chicken breast. And if you are watching your weight, OriGym’s dive into the best healthy cereal bars has options for all your snacking needs.

#11 - Garlic

natural foods to increase immunity

Garlic’s aromatic and flavourful profile means that it's a staple in many dishes and  cuisines across the world, but its immunity benefits are much less considered.

You may be surprised to hear that it’s fantastic for fighting off infections, and supporting the immune system. But why is that?

Well, garlic is full of compounds that boost the immune system, allowing the body to fight off infection. In particular, garlic has high levels of a substance called allicin, which boosts the body’s white blood cells in terms of their effectiveness. 

Allicin is particularly effective at fighting the symptoms of the common cold and flu, which means it’s an ideal ingredient to add to your winter dishes. White blood cells are a key aspect of the immune system, as they fight off antigens, so boosting them is always a good idea. Garlic is a great way to boost the immune system, as it is already so heavily incorporated into so many people’s diets. 

Garlic also actively reduces blood pressure, and minimises your risk of cardiovascular disease or heart attacks. It’s even been shown to benefit the collagen in our bodies, too - learn more in OriGym’s article on collagen’s benefits, side effects and dosage.

#12 - Mushrooms

high immunity foods

This might be more of an immunity boosting food for adults, rather than kids - some children are slightly wary of mushrooms, with their strange, occasionally rubbery texture when cooked. 

However, we’d recommend mushrooms for any age, especially given their nutritional value, and their position on our list of the best foods to boost your immune system. 

There are hundreds of different types of edible mushroom, all with different benefits and attributes. This is great news for the immune system, which is made up of lots of different defence systems, and so needs lots of different forms of maintenance. 

Chaga mushrooms, for example, are jam-packed with antioxidants, which boosts the immune system by soothing unnecessary inflammation. They contain significant amounts of Vitamin D (amongst other essential vitamins and minerals) which helps to produce calcium in the body.

Turkey tail mushrooms have serious immunity benefits, as it contains substances that have amazing advantages for the immune system. It’s a great option for people whose immune system might be compromised by a treatment or disease. 

However, these mushrooms are called medicinal mushrooms, which means they’re a little more specialised and you don’t tend to cook with them. They're often available as supplements or powders, though, so they are commercially available.

If supplements aren’t your thing, more regular mushroom varieties like shiitake have great immune boosting properties and make for a great addition to a meal! A recent study found that shiitake mushrooms had a notable effect on immunity and the participants’ immune systems.

White mushrooms, too, offer benefits that range from improved gut and intestinal health, to lowering cholesterol and reducing your risk of cancer. 

So if you’re looking to incorporate foods that are good for the immune system, but also diverse and flavourful, then mushrooms may just top your personal list of the best immune boosting foods!

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Enjoying this list of the best immune boosting foods? Here’s 3 articles we think you might find interesting:

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#13 - Ginger

foods that build immunity

Many people are aware of this immune boosting food’s use as a treatment for sickness, and for good reason. 

Similar to garlic, ginger is a good immunity regulator when you’re ill with a cold or flu: it inhibits the body’s overproduction of mucus, which is what leaves you feeling bunged up with a blocked nose.

Ginger is an especially effective anti-inflammatory, because it contains an active ingredient called gingerol. This active compound has been proven to reduce the amount of free radicals that can cause serious harm to the body.

Studies have shown that gingerol (the active ingredient in ginger) possesses anticancer properties in addition to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory traits, too.

The fragrant root is also a potent antibacterial food. It’s even been shown to be effective against e-coli bacteria in the body, which is an incredibly harmful bacteria! 

Ginger’s availability is another of its benefits - you can purchase it in lots of different sources and forms, so it is easy to incorporate into your diet without getting tired of it. 

Finally, ginger is also great for digestive and intestinal health, and eating a little bit of ginger will ease symptoms of nausea.

#14 - Sweet Potato

immune boosting foods

There’s been an undoubted surge in the popularity of the sweet potato in recent years, and for good reason. 

It provides an interesting and tasty alternative to other forms of potatoes, as well as being healthier, on average, than your average spud. No wonder it’s been featured on so many of our top nutrition blogs!

It also has some great benefits for your immune system.

Like many of the options on this immune system boosting foods list, sweet potatoes are really rich in vitamins and minerals, many of which have antioxidant properties. 

In particular, sweet potatoes are incredibly rich in a substance called beta-carotene. The body uses this to naturally produce Vitamin A, which as we’ve explored as part of our previous immune boosting foods, is essential for the production of white blood cells. 

This abundance of beta-carotene is also hugely beneficial for your eyesight, too - Vitamin A contributes towards the construction of new cells in your eyes that detect light, and therefore help with vision, especially at nighttime. 

Another benefit of sweet potatoes is their fibrous content - of course, all root vegetables have good fibre content, but sweet potatoes’ additional benefits mean that it offers more than your average potato.

#15 - Papaya

foods to help immunity

Next on our list of foods to boost your immune system naturally is a delicious fruit that has boomed in popularity in Europe in recent years.

Papaya has a reasonably sweet flavour, with a creamy, buttery texture: it’s delicious, as well as being really good for you, meaning it’s a great option when it comes to immunity foods for healthy kids! Some have even compared its texture to ice cream - we’re not so sure, so we’ve put together a comprehensive list of the best healthy ice creams.

The tropical fruit is full of antioxidants, which are key to regulating the immune system, and reducing inflammation. 

One of the more novel things about this exotic addition to our list of foods that build up your immune system is that they have a unique enzyme known as papain. This enzyme helps to break down larger protein chains, and aids in digestion and the processing of essential amino acids found in protein. 

It’s also a great source of Vitamin C, which can really boost the immune system too. Vitamin C is great for boosting the protective T cells in the body. 

As one of the essential vitamins that we need to maintain our immune systems, Vitamin C is an antioxidant, meaning it combats the free radicals. This vitamin intake is especially important given that our body doesn’t naturally produce Vitamin C, and so relies upon our intake from food.

Thanks to the levels of antioxidants like beta carotene, papayas are also hugely beneficial when you’re battling a cold or flu. This antioxidant is a decongestant, meaning it will clear your airways of mucus and allow you to breathe a little more easily!

#16 - Chickpeas

best immunity boosting foods

Chickpeas are a fantastic and versatile way to boost your immune system!

Chickpeas are a great source of zinc and copper, two minerals that we need to keep our immune system healthy and functioning well. Just one portion of chickpeas will provide you with around 30% of the zinc you need per day, and around 20% of the copper you require.

Zinc helps to keep the immune system strong, and effective: it helps to break down harmful viruses and bacteria, and also allows cuts and grazes to heal quickly! Zinc is also part of the process your body goes through to produce protein and DNA, which are the building blocks of our body itself.

Copper is used in conjunction with iron in the body to produce red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. 

Chickpeas are also a great immunity boosting food for diabetics. This is because chickpeas are low in sugar, but still high in fibre. Fibre is great if you’re trying to reduce blood sugar levels, which is an aim for many people suffering from type-2 diabetes.

Chickpeas also score highly on the satiety index, meaning they will leave you satisfied and feeling full, and thus less likely to snack throughout the day! Although, if you simply must snack, we’d recommend blueberries - OriGym’s examination of the benefits of blueberries will show you exactly why we’d suggest them!

#17 - Oily Fish

what foods boost immunity

So, while this entry on our list of the best immunity boosting foods is a little general, it’s important to know exactly what we mean, and how these benefits can be grouped together. 

Don’t worry though, we’ll break down which ones are best for supporting the immune system, and how exactly they do this.

Oily fish is generally packed with nutrients, and in particular Omega-3, a fatty acid which helps soothe inflammation. Fish like salmon and herring tend to have the highest levels of Omega-3. These fish are also high in protein, which the immune system needs to repair and maintain its defences. 

Protein is vital to all cell functions in the body. Fish like sardines and trout are high in potassium, which the immune system uses to communicate its orders and directions all around the body, so it’s important to maintain your levels of potassium. 

Proteins such as fish also offer a complete amino acids package, which is essential for muscle growth - our thorough report on amino acid benefits, structure and foods takes a deep dive into the essential nutrient.

Oily fish also have high levels of Vitamins A (which is integral in producing white blood cells) and D (crucial in maintaining strong bones), as well as a variety of B vitamins, all of which are important to the function of the immune system! 

Oily fish are a great dish to incorporate into your diet, as they offer great variety, which is important both to your immune system, and your tastebuds!

#18 - Kiwi

foods that increase immunity

Kiwi, also sometimes called kiwifruit, are a fantastic, delicious way to boost your immunity.

These small, tropical fruits are immensely rich in nutrients, as well as fibre. Fibre, as we’ve touched on already in this article, is crucial in maintaining good digestive and intestinal health.

In terms of the specific nutrients we can find in kiwis, Vitamin C is incredibly prevalent. In fact, one kiwi contains up to 230% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin C! 

Just to refresh, Vitamin C is essential for the body, in that it combats free radicals, which (if left unchecked) can cause serious issues. Your body doesn’t produce its own Vitamin C, so it’s of the utmost importance that you get it from external sources, such as kiwis or citrus fruits.

Kiwis are also particularly high in Vitamin K, which fights inflammation and activates T cells, as well as regulating the levels of calcium in the blood, and ensuring your blood clots properly and effectively.

Both of these vitamins are essential for maintaining energy levels, too - they feature prominently in OriGym’s selection of the best vitamins to combat tiredness and fatigue.

Scientific evidence points towards kiwis having significant antioxidant content, too, which means that they help prevent or mitigate damage to key cells found in our bodies, and contribute towards building immunity. 

#19 - Pomegranate

foods that boost immunity system

This Mediterranean superfood is one of the best natural foods to increase immunity, as it’s incredibly rich in nutrients and health-giving properties, as well as being delicious. 

Firstly, pomegranates are incredibly rich in phytochemicals, which are powerful antioxidants. Just to recap, antioxidants are a crucial part of our bodies, as they help to fight off “free radicals”, which are potentially harmful molecules that your body produces naturally.

Pomegranates are also particularly useful for the immune system if you suffer from a condition like rheumatic arthritis, where the immune system is overly-responsive, which can cause really uncomfortable swelling and inflammation. Studies have shown that, due to their abundance of antioxidants, pomegranates will target these symptoms effectively.

Pomegranates also have high levels of Vitamin C, which helps your body to produce strong numbers of antibodies when attacked by a virus or bacteria. Our bodies don’t produce Vitamin C naturally, and so it’s incredibly important that we get this vital vitamin from sources such as pomegranate.

Finally, this rich red fruit is also overflowing with fibre. As we’ve already mentioned, fibre is used by our bodies to promote good digestive and intestinal health.

#20 - Turmeric

foods to eat to boost immune system

This brightly coloured spice is what normally gives vibrant curries and spicy dishes their orange hue, but did you know that it also has some incredibly useful hidden immunity benefits?

Turmeric has an active ingredient called curcumin, which has been linked to a whole host of immunity boosting benefits. 

First in this array of immunity boosting benefits is how turmeric (and it’s main component curcumin) can drastically increase the body’s capacity for antioxidants (which as we’ve already covered are used in fighting off free radicals). This means that the body can fight off infection and illness more effectively, and curcumin reinforces these defences by increasing production of our antioxidants.

Curcumin has also been shown to be an effective anti-inflammatory, reducing the inflammation associated with the body’s protection against illness and injury. This is a natural reaction, but our won’t always revert back to it’s usual, non-inflamed state. This is where turmeric (with its high curcumin content) is invaluable.

Studies have even discovered that turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties make it ideal for muscle recovery following intense exercise, meaning it could be ideal if incorporated into your post-workout routines!

Turmeric’s antiviral properties are yet another benefit of this superb spice. A study conducted by the Microbiology Society concluded that the active ingredient curcumin has been shown to have antivirus capabilities, and promotes good gut health. Having good digestive and intestinal health is a crucial part of maintaining a good immune system, and turmeric’s antivirus traits means that it warrants a spot on our best immune boosting foods list.

And to top it all off, it’s been documented that turmeric plays a role in helping people to lose weight - our pick of the best herbs for weight loss has turmeric, ginger, and many others!

#21 - Dark Chocolate

immunity boosting foods

A bit of a treat to end our list of the best immunity boosting foods on! 

Unfortunately, not all chocolate will boost your immune system. In fact, only dark chocolate, which is generally referred to as the most healthy type of chocolate, will help to boost your immunity. 

One important piece of advice before we launch into the immunity boosting benefits of dark chocolate is that, generally, the higher the percentage of cocoa in the chocolate, the more beneficial it will be. Most dark chocolate will be between 50% and 95%, with some even as high as 100%. However, the higher you go, the more bitter (and some may say unpalatable) the bar will be.

The high levels of cacao, which give dark chocolate its distinctive, slightly bitter taste, are great contributors to the immune system. Strong concentrations of caco (such as those found in high percentage dark chocolate) have been shown to reduce high blood pressure, as well as aiding in forming blood clots.

Strong dark chocolate also has a high amount of antioxidants. We’ve already discussed how beneficial these are for the body (in that they fight off free radicals, which can cause serious harm), but dark chocolate’s concentration of polyphenols  means it’s far more beneficial than most people expect. 

Dark chocolate is also high in zinc, which the body uses to fight off infections, as well as being a key component in building DNA and protein cells, which are the building blocks of our entire bodies.

Before You Go! 

Our sincere hope is that you’ve found this best immunity boosting foods list useful, and that you’ve now got some clarity on how you can incorporate these superfoods into your diet. 

Fitness, nutrition and health are our passion at OriGym, and immune boosting foods are an integral part to all three of those passions. We’re firm believers in living a healthy lifestyle, and strive to find anything that can promote a healthier way of life.

But if you’re already at the peak of your fitness journey, then perhaps your next step is a career in exercise, and OriGym offers just. Our REPS and CIMSPA recognised personal training courses offer everything you need to launch a successful career in personal training.

Download our FREE prospectus, and learn more about what we offer, and how it may be exactly what you’ve been seeking. And, as a thank you for reading through our list of the best foods that boost your immune system, enter your name and email address below to receive a free food diary!

References

  1. Balbir-Gurman A, Fuhrman B, Braun-Moscovici Y, Markovits D, Aviram M. Consumption of pomegranate decreases serum oxidative stress and reduces disease activity in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis: a pilot study. Isr Med Assoc J. 2011 Aug;13(8):474-9. PMID: 21910371.
  2. Dai X, Stanilka JM, Rowe CA, Esteves EA, Nieves C Jr, Spaiser SJ, Christman MC, Langkamp-Henken B, Percival SS. Consuming Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A Randomized Dietary Intervention in Healthy Young Adults. J Am Coll Nutr. 2015;34(6):478-87. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2014.950391. Epub 2015 Apr 11. PMID: 25866155.
  3. Del Gobbo LC, Falk MC, Feldman R, Lewis K, Mozaffarian D. Effects of tree nuts on blood lipids, apolipoproteins, and blood pressure: systematic review, meta-analysis, and dose-response of 61 controlled intervention trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Dec;102(6):1347-56. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.110965. Epub 2015 Nov 11. PMID: 26561616; PMCID: PMC4658458.
  4. Collins BH, Horská A, Hotten PM, Riddoch C, Collins AR. Kiwifruit protects against oxidative DNA damage in human cells and in vitro. Nutr Cancer. 2001;39(1):148-53. doi: 10.1207/S15327914nc391_20. PMID: 11588897.
  5. John D. Clarke, Roderick H. Dashwood, Emily Ho, Multi-targeted prevention of cancer by sulforaphane, Cancer Letters, Volume 269, Issue 2, 2008, Pages 291-304, ISSN 0304-3835, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.canlet.2008.04.018.
  6. Li, Y., Wang, J., Liu, Y., Luo, X., Lei, W. and Xie, L., 2020. Antiviral and virucidal effects of curcumin on transmissible gastroenteritis virus in vitro. Journal of General Virology, 101(10), pp.1079-1084.

Written by Chris Allsobrook

Editor

Chris is a former English teacher, turned content editor. He holds a first-class honours degree in English Language and Creative Writing from the University of Central Lancashire, before going on to complete his teacher training, and obtain a PGCE at Liverpool John Moore’s.

Chris is a keen runner and is currently undertaking both his fitness instructing and personal training qualifications here at OriGym. 

Outside of fitness, you’ll often find him gaming, watching the football, cooking, or spending time with his family.

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