Red or Pink Grapefruit
Grapefruit is packed with vitamin C, making it an immune-boosting essential. The red and pink varieties are especially good choices because, as their rosy color indicates, they’re packed with bioflavonoids, which are phytonutrients. These naturally-occurring compounds cause beneficial reactions in the body, including an added immunity boost, Craggs-Dino says. Halve a grapefruit, broil it for just a minute or two, and dust it with cinnamon, another immunity booster
Cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are all cruciferous vegetables, which means they’re not only rich in antioxidant vitamins that give an immune system boost, but they also contain choline, a nutrient essential to a healthy diet. Choline keeps your cells functioning properly and also helps support a healthy gastrointestinal barrier, keeping bacteria safely confined in the gut. Cauliflower, in particular, is a beneficial food to eat when you’re sick because it’s also rich in glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that helps fight off infection. Dip raw cauliflower florets in low-fat yogurt, drizzle them with vinaigrette, or add them to your favorite vegetable soup recipe.
Carrots are an excellent source of beta carotene, which gives them their bright color. One of beta carotene’s jobs is to support the body’s mucus membrane, which lines the respiratory and intestinal tracts, making it harder for bacteria to enter the bloodstream and cause trouble. For a healthy diet, enjoy raw carrots along with cauliflower, broccoli, and other veggies as an appetizer. You can also pickle them or steam and puree them with some broth for a rich soup — a soothing meal when you’re sick.
Eggs have gotten a bad rap because their yolks are high in cholesterol, but the yolks are also a rich source of protein, which can help immune-related problems. Egg yolks also contain zinc and selenium, which are important minerals that help boost the immune system. If cholesterol is a problem in your healthy diet, make your scrambled eggs with two whites, but only one yolk.
Cinnamon is an antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial machine, so it does more than just boost the immune system — it actually fights the pathogens that cause illness. Cinnamon is extremely versatile, making it easy to add to your healthy diet. You can mix it into your coffee grinds for an immunity-fighting brew, add it to tea, sprinkle it on oatmeal, stir it into hot chocolate, or dust it onto fresh fruit.
When you’re thinking about a healthy diet, mushrooms may not be the first thing to come to mind, but they’re a major source of the immune system-boosting mineral, zinc. People who don’t have enough zinc in their diet tend to have fewer white blood cells to help fight off disease, which can lead to a reduced immune response. Start thinking of mushrooms as a great immune-boosting food. A grilled, beefy-tasting portabella makes a great burger substitute. Sauté shiitakes with onion and garlic as a side dish or use button mushrooms to enrich tomato sauce.
Greens such as kale, spinach, and Swiss chard are immune-boosting foods that contain high levels of vitamin C, which not only packs a powerful antioxidant punch, it helps fight off infection and regenerate other antioxidants in the body, including vitamin E. They also contain folate, another immune booster. Sautée kale, spinach, or Swiss chard with garlic and olive oil, or use fresh spinach to make an nutrient-rich salad — top it with fresh mushrooms to pack an extra immune-boosting punch.
Once considered only a summertime treat, this immune-boosting food may also help ward off winter’s ills. Like other fruits, watermelon is packed with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, but what makes it a super food is its large concentration of lycopene. Lycopene gives watermelon flesh its red color and offers an array of health-building benefits, including reducing respiratory inflammation, which helps prevent infection. If possible, make watermelon part of your healthy diet year round.
One of your immune system’s key jobs is to patrol the gastrointestinal tract and prevent germs, bacteria, and other pathogens from entering the bloodstream and making you sick. So to keep your gut happy, eat yogurt as part of your healthy diet. Not only is yogurt packed with vitamins and protein, it’s also a source of lactobacillus, a probiotic (or beneficial type of bacteria) that helps fight off the bad guys and also gives your immune system a boost. Choose the low-fat or fat-free kind to reap the benefits without extra saturated fat.
Wheat germ is a key source of fiber — a dietary essential that keeps your digestive system on track. It’s also packed with protein and vitamins, including vitamin E, and is a great source of choline and zinc, which also help boost immunity. Add wheat germ to your bread, muffin, and cookie recipes, dust it on fish instead of bread crumbs, or sprinkle it over yogurt and fresh fruit or your breakfast cereal.