Following a healthy diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and nuts and seeds can significantly improve your overall well-being. However, if you want to boost your immunity and prevent colds and the flu, consume more of these five types of foods rich in various nutrients.
Foods high in carotenoids
Carotenoids are a type of antioxidant, and they belong to a class of pigments found naturally in various plants. When you consume these fruits and vegetables, your body converts the carotenoids into vitamin A, which helps regulate your immune system.
These foods are rich in carotenoids:
Foods full of omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of essential fatty acid that can help reduce inflammation and keep the immune system in check. Studies have yet to determine if omega-3s can help prevent infections (like the common cold), but research suggests that omega-3s can protect against immune system disorders like Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and ulcerative colitis.
Oily fish (e.g., herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout, and tuna)
Foods full of zinc
Zinc is an essential mineral that is needed for the production of certain immune cells. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), having mildly low levels of zinc can affect your immune function.
Nuts (e.g., almonds, cashews, peanuts, and pine nuts)
Seeds (e.g., pumpkin, sesame, and squash seeds)
Vitamin C-rich foods
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that also functions as an antioxidant.
Antioxidants help fight free radicals, and these unstable molecules can damage your immune system. Scientific data suggest that vitamin C can significantly strengthen your immune system if you are under major stress.
Boost your vitamin C intake by adding the following foods to your diet:
Acerola cherries – Half a cup of acerola cherries has a whopping 822 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C, which is 913 percent of the Daily Value (DV). This fruit may also possess cancer-fighting properties.
Broccoli – This cruciferous vegetable can also help lower the risk of inflammatory diseases. One-half cup of cooked broccoli has 51 mg of vitamin C, or 57 percent of the DV.
Kakadu plums – This Australian superfood has 100 times more vitamin C than oranges. A plum has 481 mg of vitamin C, or 530 percent of the DV.
Kiwi fruit – Studies show that kiwis can help boost immunity, lower cholesterol, and reduce oxidative stress. A medium-sized kiwi has about 71 mg of vitamin C, or 79 percent of the DV.
Natural citrus fruits and juices – This includes grapefruits and oranges. A medium-sized orange has 70 mg of vitamin C, or 78 percent of the DV.
Papayas/pawpaws – A 145-gram cup of papaya has 87 mg of vitamin C.
Red, green, and yellow peppers – Yellow peppers have twice the amount of vitamin C in green peppers. A half cup (75 grams) of yellow peppers has 137 mg of vitamin C, or 152 percent of the DV.
Strawberries – A cup of strawberry halves (152 grams) has 89 mg of vitamin C, or 99 percent of the DV. Aside from vitamin C, strawberries also contain flavonoids, folate, manganese, and other beneficial antioxidants.
You can boost your vitamin E intake by adding these foods to your diet:
Wheat germ oil
You can also strengthen your immune system by getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and managing stress levels. Other foods that can help boost your immune system include foods rich in probiotics (e.g., kefir and yogurt), garlic, and green tea.