Foods That Boost Immunity

It’s winter time, at least in the Northern hemisphere of the globe, and many people are coming down with the flu or the common cold and other viral diseases. A runny nose or nasal congestion, a sore throat, or coughing, and headaches have become synonymous with winter time, but this need not be the case. 

Some foods are easily accessible during this time of year, and what’s even better is that they give a boost to your immune system and keep you healthy and active.

In this article, I will list those foods and explain why they support your immune system.

Fruits and Vegetables Rich in Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an essential vitamin that our body always needs from external sources for growth and repair of tissues. It protects the body from free radical damage from tobacco smoke, poor food choices such as highly processed, sugar and chemical rich foods and from radiation. [1] This vitamin is not produced in the body, nor is it stored, which is why we need to eat foods that are rich vitamin C on a daily basis to meet our body’s daily requirements of vitamin C – which is between 65 to 90 mg for an adult. Consuming foods rich in vitamin C is preferable than taking vitamin C supplements, even though synthetic and food-derived vitamin C are chemically identical, fruit and vegetables are rich in numerous nutrients and phytochemicals which influence the vitamins’ bioavailability.

Foods with significant quantities of vitamin C include:

  • Fruits like cantaloupe, grapefruit, kiwis, berries, mangos, oranges, pineapple, strawberry, and lemons.
  • Vegetables like: broccoli, baked potato, tomato, cauliflower, peppers, spinach, Brussel sprouts and all green vegetables.
  • Thyme has more vitamin C than most other sages.

Aim to add these foods daily to your diet during the winter. The most wonderful thing is that these foods naturally ripen during the winter months and are typically available from the trees to fulfill our needs at the perfect timing.


Garlic is considered a natural antibiotic with infection-fighting properties. [2] Every cuisine in the world uses it, and almost all early civilizations recognize its benefits. Garlic provides a host of benefits for our health via internal ingestion as well as via use on the outer skin where we may have infections. Garlic’ immune boosting effects come from its very high concentrations of sulfur compounds like allicin which have a significant enhancing impact on the immune system. For the immune boosting benefits of garlic, aim to consume raw garlic 1-2 times a week during the winter months. Cooked garlic will not have the same effects as  cooking the garlic destroys the allicin.

Fermented Foods with Active Cultures

Fermented foods that have active cultures motivate the immune system. These foods stimulate healthy bacteria to support immune function through the reduction in the production of inflammatory compounds, increased synthesis of lymphocytes while also reducing the autoimmune responses in the body.

Plant-based naturally fermented unprocessed foods include homemade sauerkraut, fermented carrots, kombucha, kimchi, miso and tempeh made from fermented soybeans.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is also vital for our immune system and is known to help in immune system regulation. [4]. Research shows that vitamin D supplements reduce the risk of viral infection by about 10 percent in people who are not deficient in this vitamin, but for people who were deficient in this vitamin, the risk of infection was reduced by 50%! [3].

Certain mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light contain considerable amounts of vitamin D to supply us with this important vitamin when sunshine levels are low in the northern hemisphere.


Many people avoid nuts because of their high quantities of fat. However, nuts have a whole host of health benefits also due to their healthy fat content which support the immune system. 

Different nuts contain different minerals and vitamins that are vital for your immune system, including vitamin E, vitamin C, zinc and selenium. [5]

  • Nuts rich in vitamin E include almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pistachios. The vitamin E in these nuts acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from free radical damage. Also, vitamin E  boosts immune function helping the body fight off bacteria and viruses invading the body.
  • Nuts rich in vitamin C include hazelnuts and pistachios.
  • Nuts with larger quantities of zinc include almonds, cashews, pumpkin and sesame seeds, and brazil nuts. The zinc in these nuts is crucial for healthy development and function of immune cells including neutrophils, NK cells, and macrophages. Phagocytosis, an immune process of intracellular killing, and cytokine production are affected by zinc deficiency.
  • Nuts rich in selenium include almonds, walnuts, and brazil nuts. The antioxidant selenium in these nuts helps reduce oxidative stress in the body, which reduces inflammation and enhances immunity.

Other Foods That Boost Immunity

Many other foods have either moderate or low amounts of substances which also boost immunity, these foods include:

  • Turmeric
  • Green tea
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Ginger
  • Wheat Germ

If you include at least a few of these foods every day into your diet, you’ll be well on your way to having a robust immune system that’s highly efficient at fighting off the flu and other common diseases. You will feel better and also look better.

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Galit Goldfarb


  • [1] Vitamin C and Infections, Harri Hemilä. Published online 2017 Mar 29. doi: [10.3390/nu9040339]
  • [2] Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects, Leyla Bayan, Peir Hossain Koulivand, and Ali Gorji. 2014 Jan-Feb; 4(1): 1–14.
  • [3] Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. BMJ 2017; 356:i6583 doi:
  • [4] Vitamin D and the Immune System, Cynthia Aranow, MD. Published in final edited form as: J Investig Med. 2011 Aug; 59(6): 881–886. doi:  [10.231/JIM.0b013e31821b8755]
  • [5] Health Benefits of Nut Consumption, Emilio Ros. Published online 2010 Jun 24. doi: [10.3390/nu2070652]
  • [6] Prasad AS. Zinc in human health: effect of zinc on immune cells. Mol Med. 2008;14(5-6):353-7.