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Immune System Booster Foods & Ingredients to Fight Illness

Woman shopping for fresh immune system boosting produce

Whether it’s cough and cold season or you’re trying to avoid a bug that’s going around, immune system booster foods can be a helpful addition to your diet.

The key to boosting your immune system with foods is to focus on the nutritional content of your ingredients. Ingredients rich in these vitamins and minerals are most likely to be the best foods for supporting your immune system:

  • Vitamin A
  • B group vitamins
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Selenium
  • Zinc

Here are foods and ingredients rich in one or more of these nutrients to spark some inspiration for how to incorporate immune system booster foods into your diet to help fight illness—including coughs.

Vitamin A-Rich Immune System Boosting Foods

  • Beef and lamb liver
  • Blueberries
  • Butter
  • Carrots
  • Caviar
  • Cod liver oil
  • Some cheese (camembert, cheddar, feta, limburger, roquefort)
  • Cruciferous vegetables (bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale)
  • Leafy greens
  • Some fish (mackerel, salmon, trout, tuna) 
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Watermelon

B Group Vitamin-Rich Immune System Boosting Foods

B group vitamins include thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, B6, biotin, B12, and folic acid.

  • Chicken
  • Mushrooms
  • Papaya
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Turkey
  • Walnuts
  • Watermelon
  • Wheat germ

Vitamin C-Rich Immune System Boosting Foods

  • Blueberries
  • Citrus fruits (clementines, grapefruit, lemons, limes, oranges, pomelos)
  • Cruciferous vegetables
  • Kiwi
  • Papaya
  • Peppers
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Tomatoes

Vitamin D-Rich Immune System Boosting Foods

  • Cod liver oil
  • Eggs
  • Mushrooms
  • Some fish (canned tuna, herring, salmon, sardines)
  • Vitamin D-fortified foods
  • Yogurt

Vitamin E-Rich Immune System Boosting Foods

  • Almonds
  • Cruciferous vegetables
  • Chicken
  • Cottage cheese
  • Eggs
  • Mushrooms
  • Oatmeal
  • Pork
  • Some fish and seafood
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Turkey

Zinc-Rich Immune System Boosting Foods

  • Almonds
  • Beans
  • Beef
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Pork
  • Salmon
  • Seeds
  • Shellfish (crab, lobster, mussels, oysters)
  • Wheat germ
  • White tuna

Aside from ensuring your diet includes several of these immune system booster foods, drinking plenty of water is also important for protecting your immune system. And if you already have a cold, staying hydrated can help loosen chest and throat congestion, easing your cough.

References

  1. Five Immune-Boosting Foods for Cold & Flu Season. Franciscan Health. https://www.franciscanhealth.org/news-and-events/news/5-immune-boosting-foods-cold-flu-season. Accessed May 15, 2020.
  2.  B Vitamins. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/bvitamins.html. Accessed May 15, 2020.
  3.  Cold remedies: What works, what doesn’t, what can’t hurt. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/in-depth/cold-remedies/art-20046403. Accessed May 15, 2020.