18 Foods that Boost the Immune System

There is no one magic bullet when it comes to boosting our immune system. Like optimal health in general it takes a synergy of processes, and in this case, foods to help our bodies fend off sickness, disease, early signs of aging—and to promote a strong immune defense, high energy and clarity. Here are 18 foods to plan your meals around for their immune boosting properties.

Shitake mushrooms a bowl on natural wood table

Good to Know

A key component in boosting our immune system is through antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules that boosts the immune system by helping to fight off excess harmful free radicals and increase disease-fighting cells in the body.

As with any measure we take to improve our health, it works over time. One can not expect to suddenly take one walk and restore health. Nor can we expect to eat one or ten oranges at breakfast tomorrow morning and suddenly be able to stave off any virus or infection that comes our way (as we pack in the sugar and processed food at lunch). It is with a sustained healthy lifestyle these implementations make the most benefit. So, get started! (1,2)

What to Look For

The three powerhouse antioxidant vitamins are vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene. These are found in colorful fruits and vegetables, especially those with purple, blue, red, orange, and yellow hues.

The primary antioxidant minerals include copper, zinc and selenium. Bare in mind, It is not just these select anti-oxidants working their magic, it is the complex combination of the antioxidant, as well as other beneficial micronutrients and macronutrients present in our foods that work together to provide benefits. (3,4,5,6)

The List:

1. Citrus Fruits

The most obvious and widely acclaimed on the list of immune boosting foods is citrus fruits. Specifically, we tend to think of the orange. But, coming in around the same range is also strawberries, papaya and pink grapefruit. Read on to the next on the list for one that packs and even higher punch of Vitamin C than the orange.

2 - 4. Red bell Peppers, Broccoli & Brussel Sprouts

Did you know red bell peppers out pace the orange in vitamin C by more than double? That’s 1 cup of raw red bell pepper to one large orange. Add those peppers to salads, in stir fries, omelets, on their own or dip in hummus. Broccoli and Brussels sprouts come in a close 2nd to the orange with their vitamin C content. And, their benefits do not stop with vitamin C. They are also rich in vitamin K, folate and numerous other nutrients. (7)

5 - 6. Spinach & Kale

Both are rich in vitamin C, E and beta carotene, and numerous other antioxidants and fiber. They retain the most nutrient density when cooked very lightly. You can also add them to smoothies, salads and soups.

7 - 8. Sunflower & Pumpkin Seeds

Seeds are full of nutrients. An ounce of sunflower seeds supplies roughly half of the daily recommended vitamin E and a good source of selenium and copper. Pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc (highest source next to meats) and magnesium. Eat as a snack and add to salads, egg dishes and anything where a little crunch is needed.

9 - 10. Almonds & Brazil nuts

Almonds are one of the highest sources of vitamin E and magnesium. While Brazil nuts are the highest source of selenium. Eating just 2 Brazil nuts per day meets the daily requirement of selenium.

11 - 12. Sweet Potato & Carrot

Both of these orange colored veggies are rich in the powerful antioxidant beta-carotene. They also pack in vitamin C, B6, potassium and fiber. Think outside the box with uses for these yummy powerhouses. Make both of these into “fries” in the oven, make into hash to accompany eggs or add to a wrap.


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13 - 16. Oysters, Sardines, Salmon & Tuna

Oysters are known for their high level of zinc. They are also a high source of copper, vitamin C, D and protein. Sardines are one of the most nutrient-dense foods we can eat. They are high in omega-3s, protein, selenium, B12 and vitamin D as well as decent amounts of copper, vitamin E and Zinc. Salmon is loaded with selenium and contains the antioxidant astaxanthin (from the carotenoid family and is said to be more powerful even than betacarotene, vitamin C and E). Tuna is rich in zinc, vitamin C and selenium. All of these are also excellent sources of omega 3 fatty acids. (8)

17. Fermented Foods (kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, kombucha, apple cider vinegar)

Fermenting foods has long been used as a way to preserve foods. Fermented foods are rich in probiotics which aid the good bacteria in your gut that can boost immunity, reduce inflammation and chronic diseases. (9,10)

18. Mushrooms

Mushrooms have a long history of being used for their medicinal properties. They are a source of many nutrients, fiber, protein, selenium, vitamins C, D, E and Bs to name a few benefits. They are known for their prebiotic and immune-stimulating properties. Culinary mushrooms such as maitake and shiitake are powerhouse antioxidant that may also have cancer fighting properties. They can be used in all sorts of dishes from soups and stews, to omelets, salads, stir-fries and pastas. (11,12)


The important take-away is a colorful plate adds a variety of the needed vitamins and minerals needed for the body to operate at its peek. The varying colors represent different vitamins and minerals our body needs. Look to your meal plan to see how you can add these foods to your weekly meal prep and routine.


Grab my free Healthy Pantry Checklist

for exactly what I stock for healthy eating.

(complete with clickable links for shopping)



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