Best Foods To Build Up A Healthy Immune System


Sadly, many people do not follow healthy diets so they resort to dietary supplements to compensate the deficiency. However, the vitamins and minerals found in food sources are easier to absorb than those in supplements.

Vitamin C is the most powerful vitamin in building up the cells of the immune system; it enhances the ability of the immune system to protect the body from viral and bacterial infection. This vitamin can help reduce the severity and duration of infections, especially upper respiratory tract infections and common colds, since it acts as a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory. For adults, the recommended daily amount of vitamin C is 65–90 mg.

Of course, once you hear vitamin C, the first thing you think about is citrus fruits. It is true that citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemon, and grapefruits, are rich in vitamin C; however, there are other fruits and vegetables that are also rich in vitamin C. Surprisingly red bell peppers contain more vitamin C than citrus fruits; tomatoes also have a high concentration of vitamin C—one medium-size tomato has more than 16 milligrams of vitamin C. Eating an orange or a cup of chopped red bell peppers will give you the needed daily dosage of vitamin C.

Broccoli is another important source of vitamin C; however, there are many other reasons to add broccoli to your diet. Researchers claim that broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts, help boost immunity because they contain the antioxidant sulforaphane, which combats free radicals and prevent you from getting sick. Another superfood is spinach; not only because it is rich in vitamin C, but it also contains folate that helps the body make new cells and repair DNA. Just like broccoli, it is recommended to slightly cook spinach or eat raw to get the most of their nutritional benefits.

Another infection fighter is vitamin A, which comes from animal foods, such as fish, meat, and dairy products, and from plant carotenoids, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin. These vitamin A rich foods act as antioxidants that fight cell damage and inflammation. Vitamin E also plays an important role in fighting off infections; it is critical in how the immune system works. Nuts, specifically almonds, are the best food containing this vitamin, in addition to other healthy fats. Consuming half a cup of almonds daily is enough to cover the body’s needs of vitamin E, which is 15 mg.

Your body also needs zinc for the production of new immune system cells; it protects tissue barriers in the body and helps prevent some diseases from attacking the body. Many studies proved that the mineral zinc can protect against respiratory tract infections. Legumes, including chickpeas, beans, and lentils, contain a great amount of zinc; it is also present in lean meat, poultry, and fortified cereals. The recommended daily amount of zinc is 8 mg for women and 11 mg for men.

Garlic is not only a taste boosting ingredient in cooking, it also has antiseptic and antifungal properties, since it is packed with important nutrients, including vitamins B1, B6, and C, in addition to iron and phosphorous. In ancient history, garlic was only used for its medicinal properties. When chewing garlic raw, its main compound called alliin turns into allicin, which quickly then converts to sulfur containing compounds providing their medicinal properties that help the white blood cells that fight viruses. They also stimulate your liver to produce detoxifying enzymes to filter toxins out of your body.

Since Ancient Times, mushrooms were used to treat infections and diseases; there are many types of mushrooms that have medicinal properties. They can also boost immunity since they are loaded with important nutrients, such as selenium, which is an antioxidant that strengthens the body in its fight against bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. Mushrooms also contain vitamins B riboflavin and niacin, which play an important role in building a healthy immune system.

Another beneficial natural remedy is ginger, which has anti-inflammatory properties; it is used to fight illnesses, ranging from infections to digestive problems. Gingerol, the active component of ginger, has the ability to lower inflammation in the body, which is often caused by infections. Drinking hot ginger with honey and lemon is a good remedy to soothe your sore throat.

At the end, we must bear in mind that consuming healthy diets or dietary supplements, or maintaining a healthy lifestyle will not prevent us from being infected by COVID-19, and it will not cure us either. This is only a way of many ways to help our frontline defense soldier, the immune system, to perform better in order to fight any disease.


This article was first published in print in SCIplanet, Winter/Spring 2021 issue.

Cover image by Freepik

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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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