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Immune Boosting Foods

By: Dr. Christine Weidemann, PT, DPT, OCS

In addition to staying healthy with exercise, sleep, washing hands, and managing stress, it is also important to eat healthy with a well-balanced diet. Some foods have been shown to potentially help boost your immune system. While research is varied whether certain foods can actually help boost your immune system, in a time when all of us are trying to stay particularly aware of health, some studies have shown potential positive effects in the information below. Although it is not a guarantee that following these guidelines or suggestions will keep your immune system better on track, it is something to consider when picking out certain foods next time you are looking for a snack or meal.

According to the Harvard Medical School and Publishing, a healthy lifestyle includes:

  • Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables

  • Exercise regularly – promotes good circulation allowing the immune system cells/substances to move more efficiently

  • Maintain a healthy weight

  • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation

  • Get adequate sleep

  • Take steps to avoid infection such as washing hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly

  • Try to minimize stress

  • Avoid smoking

Vitamins, minerals, fiber, and probiotics are some of the immune-enhancing ingredients suggested. In particular, Vitamins C and E, zinc, and selenium are emphasized.

Vitamin C – recommended to eat about 200 mg/day

Ex. orange -70 mg, grapefruit-90 mg, raw red bell pepper -150mg

Ex. spinach – “superfood”; also good in folate, fiber, antioxidants

Ex. green vegetables- include vitamins C and A, folate

Vitamin E-

Ex. sunflower seeds and almonds (quarter cup provides approximately 50% of your daily recommended amount of Vit E)

Ex. walnuts - contain several nutrients including Vitamins E and B6, copper, folate


Ex. baked beans – one cup provides approximately 50% of your daily zinc intake

Ex. pumpkin seeds-an ounce of pumpkin seeds is approximately 20% of daily zinc intake

Ex. oysters

Ex. wheat germ; also good in antioxidants, B vitamins, fiber, protein)


Ex. Brazil nuts – one ounce provides approximately 1,000% of daily value of selenium

Ex. Sardines- three ounces provide over 80%

Ex. Button Mushrooms (also good in B Vitamins)

Other recommendations include:


Ex. Yogurt and cultured drinks

Vitamin A/Beta Carotene (which is a precursor to Vit A)-

Ex. Sweet potato-over 150% of daily Vit A recommendation

Ex. Carrots – a cup of raw carrots over 100% of daily Vit A recommendation

Tumeric/Curcumin – helps with anti-inflammation

Ex. can combine turmeric with black pepper for seasoning

Garlic-may also help with boosting your immune system

Other Anti-oxidants-

Ex. dried tart cherries- also help with sleep with a natural melatonin component

Ex. pomegranate juice-flavonoid antioxidants

Ex. elderberry

Ex. Acai Berry

Ex. watermelon

Ex. broccoli

Ex. ginger

Ex. tea (white, green, or black)

It is difficult to know exactly how to boost your immune system and research is still occurring to what extent we can actually affect our immune system. However, another aspect of research that should be noted is ‘micronutrient malnutrition’ in the elderly which affects the immune system (Harvard Medical School and Publishing). Micronutrient malnutrition is when there is a deficiency in some essential vitamins and trace minerals such as zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E (the elderly may not eat as much and/or have less variety in their diets which makes them more prone to this). Therefore, discuss options with your physician whether a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement would be beneficial.

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