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Nutrition Tips to Boost the Immune System

By Tanya Humphrey, BS, NDTR, CLT

· Nutrition Blog

Give Yourself a Fighting Chance

Your immune system can protect your body from infection, virus, and disease. It creates white blood cells, stores them, and distributes them when there is a foreign invader. A strong immune system can help keep you healthy. Incorporating specific foods into the diet such as blueberries, turmeric, and ginger can strengthen the immune system. In truth, there are many foods that are believed to influence the immune system. You should focus on eating nutrient-rich foods, plan your meals ahead, get enough sleep, and practice food safety.

Focus on Your Immune System by Choosing a Variety of Nutrient-Rich Foods

The following are six immune supporting nutrients that I find are the most beneficial. These can be found in a variety of foods:


  • Vitamin C: include citrus fruits such as berries, melons, tomatoes, broccoli, and bell peppers.
  • Vitamin D: found in salmon, tuna, seabass and other fatty fish.  Also, Vitamin D is found in eggs, milk and 100% juices that are fortified.
  • Zinc: best when absorbed from an animal source such as seafood or beef, but is also found in wheat germ, beans, nuts and tofu which are good vegetarian sources
  • Probiotics: promote health in the gut with “good” bacteria. 70-80% of our immune system is found in the gut. Probiotics can be found in yogurt and other cultured dairy products but also in fermented foods such as kimchi.
  • Beta Carotene: can be found in carrots, sweet potatoes, mango, spinach, tomatoes, and broccoli.
  • Protein: can be found in plant and animal sources such as milk, eggs, beef, chicken, seafood, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and yogurt.

Plan Your Meals

Not only does planning your meals make grocery shopping more efficient, it is also good for your health. Planning a week of meals at a time will allow you to take control of your nutritional needs and prevent you from eating the same thing. This will also help you cut down on trips to the grocery store. Be sure to include side dishes, entrees, and healthy desserts too. When you have your menu plan filled in, create a shopping list of the ingredients you'll need. As you plan each meal remember that fruit and vegetables should cover half your plate. Lean proteins should be a quarter of the plate and the rest should be whole grains. Alternate your meals with a variety of fruits, vegetables, protein, and grains.

Get Enough Sleep

Yes, lack of sleep can affect the immune system. Studies show that people who don't get enough are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. Your body needs sleep to fight infectious diseases. During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines which are important during inflammation or infection. Sleep deprivation can decrease production of these protective cytokines. Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each day. However, children need anywhere from eight to 14 hours, depending on their age.