Immunity is on the minds of many. We’re in a global health crisis after all—one that, according to science, is partly due to the poor immune and metabolic health of Earth’s citizens.
Foods for immune health are important allies for fending off opportunistic pathogens including, yes, viruses. Matter of fact, in studying functional virology one quickly finds research and evidence showing how specific nutraceuticals can bolster the body’s immune system to fight viruses.
Before we get more into that, we should preface this article on the best foods for immunity by mentioning that immune-boosting nutraceuticals are supplements. “Supplements” function exactly as the name implies; they’re meant to supplement healthy diets, lifestyles, and immune-healthy habits.
With that in mind, here are the 10 best foods for immunity that we recommend.
Best Foods for Immunity and Boosting Immune Health
It’s that stinky stuff that we all love! Garlic doesn’t only serve to add flavor to your soups and curries—it can help you while you’re under the weather, too!
A double-blind, placebo-controlled survey containing 146 volunteers assessed whether garlic supplements decreased the length of a cold. The supplements more specifically contained the active ingredient in garlic called allicin, an organosulfur compound responsible for garlic’s signature taste and aroma.
According to the study, those who consumed the allicin supplement reduced the number of colds by 63% compared to placebo. The average length of colds was also reduced.
Though other research claims more studies are required to truly know garlic’s efficacy against viruses, we think it won’t hurt to try adding a bit of extra garlic to your cooking!
Oregano is another food that’s often used in recipes such as soups, stews, roasts, and so forth. It’s good to know that oregano may prove effective against both bacteria and viruses.
Two compounds in oregano known as thymol and carvacrol have been shown in studies to effectively fight pathogens. For example, in one study, carvacrol was shown to “turn-off” stomach flu viruses (norovirus) within an hour.
On the bacterial side of things, research suggests that after thyme, oregano is the most antibacterial herb available.
They call it the “king” of medicinal mushrooms due to its many immune and nervous system-modulating benefits. If you’re looking at medicinal mushrooms that have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, chaga mushroom is one that should not be missed.
Chaga—along with its companions reishi, cordyceps, turkey tail, and maitake mushrooms—are all known and used for their adaptogenic powers. That is, these mushroom friends help consumers adapt to stress.
Research points to chaga as a promising supplement for immune support as well. Findings indicate that chaga mushroom can boost beneficial cytokines in the body. This is important for bolstering white blood cell count to fend off viral and bacterial infections.
When it comes to chaga, quality really matters. Make sure to check out our sustainably sourced Chaga Mushroom Powder Extract for exceptional quality and purity.
Strawberries are packed full of vitamin C, arguably the best known vitamin for immunity.
We love strawberries for immune health because, let’s be honest, there are so many delicious ways to consume them! Try them by themselves, in smoothies, and covered in dark chocolate.
Did you know that, per calorie, strawberries actually boast more vitamin C than oranges? These little balls of red deliciousness aren’t one of our best foods for immunity for no reason!
To many, ginger is that spicy stuff that should exist only as background flavor in a good Thai or Indian dish. After all, it’s just so… spicy!
But most people can use more of this potent root in their lives. Recent research has confirmed ginger’s role in modulating inflammation and serving as a potent antioxidant. Research is also finding that 6-gingerol, the active “medicinal” component of ginger, is capable of lessening symptoms in some autoimmune conditions. Powerful stuff!
Consuming ideal amounts of ginger can be challenging for some. We suggest steeping whole ginger minced in tea form. If you can hack the taste and spice, just eating small bits at a time is semi-manageable!
Green tea is a popular tea consumed throughout much of the world, but has its roots in Asia. In the health community, it’s become popular for its potent polyphenol known as EGCG.
Researchers believe and have observed in some studies that EGCG has anti-inflammatory benefits. It can improve regulatory T-cell activation. As with ginger, green tea may prove promising for regulating autoimmunity. Researchers note that this works through epigenetics, or, the possibility that specific autoimmune-specific genes can be turned off by use of green tea and EGCG.
Consuming green tea is as simple as making it into… tea. There are plenty of brands that sell green tea in different varieties. We even sell matcha green tea powder that’s ceremonial grade from Japan!
Organ meats have been prized by both indigenous traditions and within traditional Chinese for thousands of years.
Eating the liver of a cow provides an abundance of nutrients, most notably vitamin A (in the form of retinol), vitamin B6, niacin, pantothenic acid, iron, phosphorus, selenium, copper, and vitamin B12. Many of these nutrients play key roles in bolstering immune health.
What a good way to start the day. Papaya contains digestive enzymes, vitamin C, and plenty of water for ample hydration.
Papaya is also commonly noted for its seeds, which research says contain potent anti-pathogenic properties. One 2007 study found that “air-dried…papaya seeds are efficacious in treating human intestinal parasites and without significant side effects.”
Again, papaya is a good breakfast food. And even if you don’t have any known infections, try eating just a few seeds each time you eat a papaya. They’re harmless and great for preventative measures!
Raw honey is one of those magic foods for immune health. It contains enzymes and immune-boosting phytonutrients that have been shown in studies to act as an antibacterial and antifungal. It even holds anticancer properties.
Try consuming raw honey on an empty stomach or lathered on a piece of sprouted bread. Many people worry about honey’s sugar content, but rest assured that honey contains a glycemic index of 58, which is fairly low. For reference, papaya contains a glycemic index of 60, which is higher than honey.
Cayenne pepper has gotten some attention among scientists lately due to its compound known as capsaicin. Studies have shown that capsaicin contains antimicrobial and antiviral properties, making it a popular option during cold and flu season.
Using Immunity Foods Together
Combine a few of these best foods for immunity to make an energizing concoction effective against colds and infections. Try this:
Mix a minced clove of garlic with some raw honey (about 1 teaspoon) and cayenne pepper (about ¼ teaspoon). Mix it all together and consume with water. Enjoy staying well!