Foods That Can Boost Your Immune System

by Isadora Baum, CHC
A woman having a drink in a warm and festively decorated sofa
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Sure, you might get the common cold when weather changes or after a few nights in a row with little sleep, but if you're always getting sick, it could mean something's off with your health. Luckily, there are certain foods that can boost your immunity, so you can fight germs and infections easier and have a faster recovery. That means less time in bed, running through tissue boxes, and more time being active and comfortable in your own skin.

As a certified health coach, I work with clients on feeling healthy and strong, and that extends across diet, activity level, self-care, and other ways to love and nourish the body. When you're taking on too much (like crazy work deadlines or projects, perhaps), or you're feeling stressed out, it can lead to a bad case of the sniffles, for sure. Likewise, if you don't ensure that your body receives enough foods that are meant to boost the immune system, you're lowering your body's ability to fend off toxins, which can put you at risk of falling under the weather. Instead, by sleeping and taking care of yourself, as well as choosing a balanced diet, you'll benefit your body and health, overall. Here are a few foods that can instantly improve your immune system and could be great staples to the diet.

1. Hot Water & Squeezed Lemon


"Something so simple has the ability to detoxify the liver, increase the metabolic rate, help digestion, minimize depression and anxiety, and reduce risk of cancer," says Rebecca Gahan, Kick@55 Fitness Owner and Founder, over email with Bustle. "Make sure to drink within 15 minutes of waking up," Gahan says.

2. Citrus

Here's more reason to love grapefruit or orange juice in the a.m. "Citrus contains Vitamin C which increases the production of white blood cells," says Gahan. When there's more of these cells, your body can better defend against diseases and bacterial intruders.

3. Green Tea

There's nothing wrong with having decaf green tea to unwind before bedtime. "It’s packed with the antioxidant, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)," says Gahan. What's more, don't switch to black tea, if you're not a green tea fan. "Black tea is not a great alternative because it goes through a fermentation process, which kills many of the antioxidants," says Gahan.

4. Yogurt

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"Gut health coincides directly with the immune system. Thus, its important we include foods in our diet that help support the micro biome, too," says ​Elizabeth Ann Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT over email with Bustle. These foods can range from a variety of options, including probiotics like yogurt, kefir, kimchee, and sauerkraut," Shaw says.

5. Walnuts

"These nuts are packed with antioxidants and help your skin fight off free-radical damage. They also are one of the best sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, acting as an anti-inflammatory to fight off auto-immune disorders like eczema and psoriasis," says Gahan. Add walnuts to a Greek yogurt or oatmeal, or just snack on them, as is.

6. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are not only tasty, but they're also great for your immune system, says Isabel K Smith, MS RD CDN over email with Bustle. Because of their high selenium content, it keeps the body in tip-top shape, Smith says. Add to stir fry, salads, pasta dishes, and more.

7. Kale

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"Packed with Vitamin C to help fight off infection and regenerate antioxidants," kale is a great food to eat to keep the immune system high and sharp, says Gahan. Or, try spinach, says Smith, as it's high in zinc, which can stabilize T cells and fight infections.

8. Raw Garlic

Eating raw garlic might sound gross, but it'll kick your immune system into gear, says Lauren Blake, RD, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center over email with Bustle. Here's why: "Allicin, the main active compound in garlic, is thought to improve your immune cells' ability to fight off colds and the flu," says Blake. Plus, garlic also seems to have antimicrobial and antiviral properties that may help fight bacterial and viral infections. "To maximize garlic's immune-boosting effects, aim to eat one clove two to three times per day. Crushing the garlic and allowing it to stand for 10 minutes prior to cooking can also help increase its effects," says Blake.

9. Oats

You might want to pour a bowl of oats for breakfast. "Oats contain beta glucan that may help boost immune system to fight respiratory infections," says Smith. Plus, oats are really filling, so it'll help banish cravings later on in the day and get your morning off to a good start.

If you want to keep your body strong and fight illnesses as quickly as possible, keep these foods in your daily diet. Besides, they are delicious, too. No complaints necessary.