16 Foods That Boost and Improve Your Immune System

In Winter we are more vulnerable to many illnesses, so best to give yourself a healthy boost from your diet.


This is the ‘flu’ season and this year hospitals are treating 8 times more cases than last year.

A healthy diet is a good help in preventing illness taking hold so see which of these might be useful for you.


Elderberrry is a shrub that has been used medicinally for centuries. Sambucus nigra, or black elderberry bush, is the version most commonly used to make syrup and lozenges.

Extracts of elderberry have antiviral, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory properties. Elderberry is also high in flavonoids. People take elderberry syrup as a remedy for colds, flus, and bacterial sinus infections.

The plant medicine works by reducing swelling in mucus membranes. Some studies suggest elderberry extract reduces the duration of the flu.


Elderberry may interact with certain prescription medications. These include diuretics, laxatives, steroids and other medications designed to suppress the immune system. Not recommended also with chemotherapy, diabetes medications and theophylline prescribed to treat asthma and respiratory conditions.

Always check with your doctor or pharmacist for interactions with your specific medication.


Wondering how to boost your immune system? Eat more mushrooms. They are high in selenium and B vitamins like riboflavin and niacin.

These minerals and vitamins are necessary for the immune system to work in tip top form. Mushrooms are also high in polysaccharides, sugar-like molecules that boost immune function.

Acai Berry

Acai berry is a black-purple fruit that is derived from the acai palm tree in Brazil, Trinidad, and certain parts of South America.

The fruit is high in anthocyanins and these flavonoid molecules are very potent antioxidants. They combat oxidative stress in the body by mopping up free radicals.

Antioxidants are credited with boosting immunity and lowering inflammation in the body. Researchers are studying it as a potential treatment for increasing prostate specific antigen (PSA), cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome, lower rectum cancer and constipation.


Oysters are a nutritional powerhouse and one 3-ounce serving provides 190% of the daily value of selenium, 45% of the daily value of iron, and 20% of the daily value of vitamin C, all for just 140 calories.

That serving also contains 16 grams of high-quality protein and zinc and vitamin A. These vitamins and minerals are critical for proper immune function.


Watermelon is an immune-boosting fruit. One 2-cup serving of watermelon has 270 mg of potassium, 30% of the daily value of vitamin A, and 25% of the value of vitamin C.

Calories in watermelon aren’t much at all as that 2-cup serving has just 80 calories.

It also provides vitamin B6 and glutathione. The body needs these vitamins, nutrients, and compounds like glutathione for proper immune function.

Wheat Germ  

Wheat germ is the innermost part of the wheat kernel. It is the most nutrient rich part of the grain. It is rich in B vitamins, zinc, and vitamin E.

Sprinkle on top of yogurt or cereal or add it to a shake. It makes an easy addition to bump up the nutrition in your baking too.

Substitute wheat germ for a bit of white flour in recipes to get some extra vitamins and minerals.


Nutrition guidelines recommend adults consume 3 servings of dairy products per day.

Low-fat yogurt provides 11 grams of protein, 250 calories, and almost 400 mg of calcium per 8-ounce serving. Low-fat yogurt can also help meet your daily requirement for vitamin B12, vitamin D, and vitamin B2 (riboflavin).

Adequate levels of vitamin D and other nutrients are necessary for robust immune function. It is also rich in probiotics, including Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, and Bifidus.

These strains boost immune function and may even help reduce both the length and severity of colds. Beneficial gut flora are needed for proper digestion, detoxification, and immune function.


Spinach gets top billing as a superfood thanks to its high content of folate, vitamin A, vitamin C, fibre, magnesium, and iron.

The nutrients in spinach boost immune function and provide the body with necessary nutrients for cell division and DNA repair.

You will get most benefit if you eat it raw or lightly cooked to preserve nutrients.


About half of the UK drinks tea regularly, and this gives us antioxidants, called polyphenols, and flavonoids are these credited with boosting immune function.

These compounds may also reduce the risk of heart disease. Drinking green tea favourably affects blood lipids, increasing good HDL cholesterol and decreasing LDL bad cholesterol, triglycerides, and total cholesterol.

Sweet potato

One medium sweet potato packs a whopping 120% of the daily value of vitamin A and 30% of the daily value of vitamin C, all for just 100 calories.

These vitamins are crucial for immune function and great for your skin. Sweet potatoes are a cholesterol-free and fat-free food and a healthy portion of fibre too.


Broccoli is a nutrient-packed powerhouse and one cup provides as much vitamin C as an orange.

It is also high in beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron. Broccoli supplies an array of B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, and B6).

Another healthy compound offered up by broccoli is glutathione, the master antioxidant in the body.


People have praised garlic for ages for its immune boosting properties as it has antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties.

The bulbs are rich in antioxidants that quench free radicals that play a role in Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, cancers, and other conditions.

In one study, people who took garlic supplements during cold season caught fewer colds than those who took placebo pills. If you do catch a cold, garlic can shorten the duration of it.

If you do try garlic supplements, be mindful that the one you choose contains the active ingredients contained in real garlic.


Miso is a salty paste made from fermented soybeans and miso soup has been a staple in Japanese cuisine for centuries.

It is rich in probiotics that are beneficial for gastrointestinal health and boosting the immune system. A lack of beneficial bacteria or an imbalance of bacteria in the GI tract is associated with a variety of medical conditions including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), food allergies, gastroenteritis, inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease), and even certain kinds of cancers.

Beneficial microorganisms found in miso soup and other fermented foods perform a variety of necessary functions in the GI tract. They synthesize vitamins and amino acids and produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that the cells lining the GI tract use for fuel.

The probiotics establish a healthy balance of flora in the gastrointestinal tract, protecting against pathogenic strains that try to take hold. About 70% of the immune system lies in the gut. Healthy, balanced gut flora makes for a strong immune system.

Sipping a cup of miso soup is a great way to introduce beneficial food-based probiotics into the GI tract. You can find it in sachets in health food shops to just add water for a quick boost.

Chicken soup

A very old-established custom when ill is to have a pot of homemade chicken soup when you get sick.

Known as ‘Jewish Penicillin’ in my house, it turns out there are very real, scientific reasons chicken soup helps you get over a cold more quickly.

When cold viruses invade tissues of the upper respiratory tract, the body responds by triggering inflammation. This inflammation signals white blood cells to move to the area and stimulates the production of mucus. Ingredients in chicken soup appear to halt the movement of white blood cells, thereby decreasing mucus associated with colds.

If cooking is not your thing then a good quality canned chicken soup can ease cold symptoms, too.

Pomegranate juice

Beneficial compounds in pomegranate extract have been found in lab studies to inhibit the growth of harmful types of bacteria including E coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Yersinia, Shigella, Listeria, Clostridium, Staphylococcus aureus, and other organisms.

There’s also evidence pomegranate compounds inhibit the growth of bacteria in the mouth that contribute to periodontal disease, plaque buildup, and gingivitis.

Pomegranate extracts have antiviral properties against the flu, herpes, and other viruses.

In addition to fighting bad viruses and bacteria, there is evidence that pomegranate extracts promote the growth of beneficial gut flora that boosts the immune system including Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.


Ginger has proven antibacterial and antiviral properties and the antioxidant compounds in ginger root also have potent anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties.

Normal metabolic processes in the body, infections, and toxins all contribute to the production of free radicals resulting in oxidative stress.

Antioxidants in foods like ginger quench free radicals and help guard against arthritis, cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, and may other conditions.

Grate some fresh ginger and steep it in hot water to make tea to help with a cold and add a little honey for your throat as well.