No one likes to be ill, and feeling under the weather can have a big impact on every area of your life. If you want to try and avoid developing a common cold, the flu or another illness, it pays to think about how you can keep your immune system healthy and ready for action.
Exercising, not smoking, limiting how much alcohol you consume and making sure you get a good night’s sleep are all key in supporting your immune system. However, one of the biggest ways you can support your immunity is to eat a healthy diet. Superfoods, which are so-called as they’re believed to be nutritionally dense1, contain a variety of nutrients like vitamins, fibre and anti-oxidants that can benefit your overall health. Check out the following immunity-supporting natural superfoods.
1. Lemons and limes
Lemons and limes contain vitamin C that everyone knows is useful for supporting immune health, but did you know that they also contain polyphenols, which help to regulate immune responses2?
Add slices to your drinking water or squeeze over vegetables or salads. Try our Lemon & Ginger Smoothie Bowl with echinacea for added immunity benefits or if you’re looking for something more classic, try our Vegan Lemon curd Meringue Cupcake recipe.
Raw garlic is brilliant at giving your body’s immune system a helping hand. It has natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, helping you ward off illness and recover quicker. Raw garlic can increase the number of t-cells in your blood, which in turn fights viruses and could help reduce the length of time you have a cold 3. Garlic’s health powers are best when it’s raw.
Crush or slice garlic cloves and add to salad dressings or here’s 7 more tasty ways to add garlic into your diet.
See how smart nature can be? After all that raw garlic, you might fancy a natural breath freshener. Stock up on fresh flat-leaf parsley. This fragrant herb contains lots of coumarin, which can support the activity of your white blood cells. A salad dressing of crushed garlic, fresh lemon juice, and chopped fresh parsley will do you good!
Mushrooms are an interesting superfood ingredient, because – just like us – they synthesise Vitamin D when they are exposed to UV light4. You should, therefore, choose wild mushrooms or mushrooms grown in UV light. They are the only plant source of vitamin D, which supports your immune system.
Try our Mushroom, Leek and Parsnip Pie
5. Bell peppers
Brightly coloured bell peppers contain lots of vitamin A, which can help repair your body’s mucosal barriers (easily damaged by infection).
These little onions contain lots of allicin, a natural antibacterial compound. Slice or chop them to get the most out of them. The good news is that shallots taste milder and sweeter than big onions, lending themselves to a wider variety of recipes. In fact, all types of onion have anti-inflammatory properties!5
7. Ginger root
Keep a few inches of fresh root ginger in your kitchen. Not only is it naturally warming, but it acts as a natural decongestant and soothes digestion6. Ideal for coughs, colds and poorly stomachs.
Fresh red and green chillies are incredible health boosters. They contain lots of vitamin A and C (nutrients which can boost the immune system) and capsaicin which can help clear congestion and phlegm.
9. Friendly bacteria
You can take friendly bacteria by eating yoghurt which contains friendly bacteria. Yoghurts made from goat’s milk are particularly high in these. Whichever you opt for, your immune system will benefit from the increase in friendly bacteria.
Elderberries are full of flavonoids and they can help stop viruses in their tracks. Even if you do develop a cold or flu, you may find that your body recovers much quicker if you’ve been eating elderberries.
11. Pumpkin or sunflower seeds
These superfoods help boost your zinc levels, which can help you fight off colds and infections quicker. Other foods that are rich in zinc include red meat, fish, chickpeas and eggs. Alternatively, you could take a zinc tablet daily.
Next time you go to make yourself a hot chocolate or cup of tea, try sprinkling in some cinnamon. Cinnamon is great for your gut and immune system as a whole. It can reduce bacteria’s ability to multiply, and if you do end up suffering from a cold, it should help it clear up quicker.
You need to make sure that your body has plenty of vitamin C as it helps your body fight off infections. Vitamin C can’t be stored by your body, so you need to try and incorporate foods that are rich in vitamin C every day. If you’re not a fan of oranges then you could try eating more tomatoes, peas and peppers, take a vitamin C supplement or drink hot lemon.
These contain citrulline, which helps keep your heart healthy, and they’re rich in vitamins A, C and B6 too. Their red flesh supplies your body with lycopene, helping your bones stay strong and your immune system balanced.
Check out the Watermelon & Mint smoothie recipe in our Five super drinks to support your immune system article.
When it comes to choosing your five-a-day, make sure broccoli becomes a firm favourite as it’s bursting with nutrients and contains choline which is good for your gut. Instead of cooking your broccoli, try to eat it raw if you can, as it’s more nutritious this way.
Keep fillets of wild salmon in the freezer for easy, tasty immune-supporting evening meals. The pigment that gives salmon meat its pink colour is called astaxanthin, and it can help your immune cells function properly.
Read more: How to support your immune system naturally
Last updated: 6 May 2020
1. What Are Superfoods?, Health Science
2. Regulation of Immune Function by Polyphenols, ResearchGate
3. Josling P. Preventing the common cold with a garlic supplement: a double-blind, placebo-controlled survey
4. A Review of Mushrooms as a Potential Source of Dietary Vitamin D
5. 9 Impressive Health Benefits of Onions, Healthline
6. Why is ginger good for you?, Medical News Today
7. Why gut bacteria are essential for a healthy immune system, Medical Xpress