The immune system consists of organs, cells, tissues, and proteins. Together, these carry out bodily processes that fight off pathogens, which are the viruses, bacteria, and foreign bodies that cause infection or disease.
When the immune system comes into contact with a pathogen, it triggers an immune response. The immune system releases antibodies, which attach to antigens on the pathogens and kill them.
Incorporating specific foods into the diet may strengthen a person’s immune response. Feeding your body certain fruits may help keep your immune system strong.
Food and fruits is an overlooked but powerful tool to boost your immune system and keep it strong all year long. So instead of stressing about the prospect of getting sick, add these ten foods and fruits to your regular lineup. You can rest a little bit easier knowing that you’re giving your body the tools it needs to stay healthy.
Apples are great sources of fiber and natural sugars—but you knew that already. What you might not know is that apple skins contain quercetin, a type of plant pigment flavonoid that helps boost your immune system and reduce inflammation. An apple a day really can keep the doctor away! Make sure to keep eat it with the peel and all its phytonutrients.
Most people turn straight to vitamin C after they’ve caught a cold. That’s because it helps build up your immune system.
Vitamin C is thought to increase the production of white blood cells, which are key to fighting infections.
Almost all citrus fruits are high in vitamin C. With such a variety to choose from, it’s easy to add a squeeze of this vitamin to any meal.
Popular citrus fruits include:
Because your body doesn’t produce or store it, you need daily vitamin C for continued health. The recommended daily amount for most adults is:
- 75 mg for women
- 90 mg for men
Low in calories and delicious to eat by the handful—blueberries have natural antihistamines, which can help reduce inflammation and minimize symptoms, including the runny or stuffy nose that can plague you during the cold season. They’re loaded with antioxidants that keep you healthy—including flavonoids—that boost your general health and can keep you feeling spry during these chilly winter months.
Blueberries contain a type of flavonoid called anthocyanin, which has antioxidant properties that can help boost a person’s immune system. A 2016 study trusted Source noted that flavonoids play an essential role in the respiratory tract’s immune defense system.
Researchers found that people who ate foods rich in flavonoids were less likely to get an upper respiratory tract infection, or common cold, than those who did not.
Look for yogurts that have the phrase “live and active cultures” printed on the label, like Greek yogurt. These cultures may stimulate your immune system to help fight diseases.
Try to get plain yogurts rather than the kind that are flavored and loaded with sugar. You can sweeten plain yogurt yourself with healthy fruits and a drizzle of honey instead.
Yogurt can also be a great source of vitamin D, so try to select brands fortified with this vitamin. Vitamin D helps regulate the immune system and is thought to boost our body’s natural defenses against diseases.
You may know turmeric as a key ingredient in many curries. This bright yellow, bitter spice has also been used for years as an anti-inflammatory in treating both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
ResearchTrusted Source shows that high concentrations of curcumin, which gives turmeric its distinctive color, can help decrease exercise-induced muscle damage. Curcumin has promise as an immune booster (based on findings from animal studies) and an antiviral. More research is needed.
Garlic is a common home remedy for the prevention of colds and other illness.
One reviewTrusted Source looked at whether taking garlic supplements containing allicin reduced the risk of getting a cold.
The group of participants taking a placebo had more than double the number of colds between them than those taking the garlic supplements. However, the researchers concluded that more research is necessary to determine whether or not garlic can help to prevent colds.
Both green and black teas are packed with flavonoids, a type of antioxidant. Where green tea really excels is in its levels of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), another powerful antioxidant.
In studies, EGCG has been shown to enhance immune function. The fermentation process black tea goes through destroys a lot of the EGCG. Green tea, on the other hand, is steamed and not fermented, so the EGCG is preserved.
Green tea is also a good source of the amino acid L-theanine. L-theanine may aid in the production of germ-fighting compounds in your T cells.
Papaya is another fruit loaded with vitamin C. You can find doubleTrusted Source the daily recommended amount of vitamin C in a single medium fruit. Papayas also have a digestive enzyme called papain that has anti-inflammatory effects.
Papayas have decent amounts of potassium, magnesium, and folate, all of which are beneficial to your overall health.
When you’re sick and you reach for chicken soup, it’s more than just the placebo effect that makes you feel better. The soup may help lower inflammation, which could improve symptoms of a cold.
Poultry, such as chicken and turkey, is high in vitamin B-6. About 3 ounces of light turkey or chicken meat contains nearly one-third of your daily recommended amount of B-6.
Vitamin B-6 is an important player in many of the chemical reactions that happen in the body. It’s also vital to the formation of new and healthy red blood cells.
Stock or broth made by boiling chicken bones contains gelatin, chondroitin, and other nutrients helpful for gut healing and immunity.
Shellfish isn’t what jumps to mind for many who are trying to boost their immune system, but some types of shellfish are packed with zinc.
Zinc doesn’t get as much attention as many other vitamins and minerals, but our bodies need it so that our immune cells can function as intended.
Varieties of shellfish that are high in zinc include:
Keep in mind that you don’t want to have more than the daily recommended amount of zinc in your diet:
- 11 mg for adult men
- 8 mg for most adult women
Too much zinc can actually inhibit immune system function.
Enjoying the Top 10 Fruits and Food That Boosts the Immune System covered in this article may strengthen people’s immune system and improve their ability to fight off infections.
That said, it is important to remember that the immune system is complex. Eating a healthful, balanced diet is just one way to support immune health.
It is also essential to be mindful of the other lifestyle factors that may affect immune system health, such as exercising and not smoking.
Anyone who gets frequent colds or other illnesses and is concerned about their immune system should speak to a doctor.
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