July 20, 2024

Advanced Ailment Care

Elevating Health Solutions

Citrus, Bell Peppers & More

8 min read

Regularly eating a variety of nutritious foods rich in vitamins and minerals, such as citrus fruits, spinach, red peppers, and ginger may help boost your immune system.

Feeding your body certain foods may help keep your immune system strong.

If you’re looking for ways to prevent colds, the flu, and other infections, your first step should be a visit to your local grocery store. Plan your meals to include these 15 powerful immune system boosters.

Important note

No supplement will cure or prevent disease, and no supplement or diet can protect you from COVID-19. Currently, no research supports the use of any supplement to protect against COVID-19 specifically.

Food Fix: Immune System Boost

Most people turn straight to vitamin C after they’ve caught a cold. That’s because it helps build up your immune system.

Vitamin C is thought to increase the production of white blood cells, which are key to fighting infections.

Most citrus fruits are high in vitamin C. With such a variety to choose from, it’s easy to add a squeeze of this vitamin to any meal.

Popular citrus fruits include:

Because your body doesn’t produce or store it, you need daily vitamin C for continued health. The recommended daily amount for most adults is:

  • 75 mg for women
  • 90 mg for men

If you opt for supplements, avoid taking more than 2,000 milligrams (mg) a day.

Also keep in mind that while vitamin C might help you recover from a cold quicker, there’s no evidence yet that it’s effective against COVID-19.

Ounce for ounce, red bell peppers contain almost 3 times as much vitamin C (127 mg) as a Florida orange (45 mg). They’re also a rich source of beta-carotene.

Besides boosting your immune system, vitamin C may help you maintain healthy skin. Beta-carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A, helps keep your eyes and skin healthy.

Broccoli is supercharged with vitamins and minerals. Packed with vitamins A, C, and E, as well as fiber and many other antioxidants, broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables you can put on your plate.

The key to keeping its power intact is to cook it as little as possible — or better yet, not at all. Research has shown that steaming or microwaving are the best ways to keep more nutrients in the food.

Garlic adds flavor to food and has long been used for medicinal purposes.

Early civilizations recognized its value in fighting infections. Garlic may also slow down hardening of the arteries, and people use it to treat high blood pressure.

Garlic’s immune-boosting properties seem to come from a heavy concentration of sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin.

Spinach made our list not just because it’s rich in vitamin C — it’s also packed with numerous antioxidants and beta-carotene, which may both increase the infection-fighting ability of our immune systems.

Similar to broccoli, spinach is healthiest when cooked as little as possible so that it retains its nutrients. However, light cooking makes it easier to absorb the vitamin A and allows other nutrients to be released from oxalic acid, an antinutrient.

Check out some spinach recipes here.

Look for yogurts that have the phrase “live and active cultures” printed on the label, like Greek yogurt. These cultures may stimulate your immune system to help fight diseases.

Try to get plain yogurts rather than the kind that are flavored and loaded with sugar. You can sweeten plain yogurt yourself with healthy fruits and a drizzle of honey instead.

Yogurt can also be a great source of vitamin D, so try to select brands fortified with this vitamin. Vitamin D helps regulate the immune system and is thought to boost our body’s natural defenses against diseases.

Clinical trials are even in the works to study its possible effects on COVID-19.

Research so far suggests that vitamin D deficiency may increase the risk for COVID19 and the severity of disease progression in people with the infection. Experts therefore believe supplementation may protect people with a vitamin D deficiency. However, there is no evidence that vitamin D can treat a COVID19 infection.

When it comes to preventing and fighting off colds, vitamin E tends to take a backseat to vitamin C. However, this powerful antioxidant is key to a healthy immune system.

It’s a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it requires the presence of fat to be absorbed properly. Nuts, such as almonds, are packed with the vitamin and also have healthy fats.

Adults only need about 15 mg of vitamin E each day. A half-cup serving of almonds, which is about 46 whole, shelled almonds, provides around 100% of the recommended daily amount.

Sunflower seeds are full of nutrients, including phosphorous, magnesium, and vitamins B6 and E.

Vitamin E is important in regulating and maintaining immune system function. Other foods with high amounts of vitamin E include avocados and dark leafy greens.

Sunflower seeds are also high in selenium. Just 1 ounce contains nearly half the selenium that the average adult needs daily. A variety of studies, mostly performed on animals, have looked at its potential to combat viral infections such as swine flu (H1N1).

Both green and black teas are packed with flavonoids, a type of antioxidant. Where green tea really excels is in its levels of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), another powerful antioxidant.

Research has suggested that EGCG may have antiviral properties that support the immune system. The fermentation process black tea goes through destroys a lot of the EGCG. Green tea, on the other hand, is steamed and not fermented, so the EGCG is preserved.

One small papaya contains 100% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C. Papayas also have a digestive enzyme called papain that has anti-inflammatory effects.

Papayas have decent amounts of potassium, magnesium, and folate, all of which are beneficial to your overall health.

Like papayas, kiwis are a rich source of essential nutrients, including folate, potassium, vitamin K, and vitamin C.

Vitamin C boosts the white blood cells to fight infection, while kiwi’s other nutrients keep the rest of your body functioning properly.

When you’re sick, and you reach for chicken soup, it’s more than just the placebo effect that makes you feel better. The soup may help lower inflammation, which could improve symptoms of a cold.

Poultry, such as chicken and turkey, is high in vitamin B6. About 3 ounces of light turkey or chicken meat contains nearly one-third of your daily recommended amount of B6.

Vitamin B6 is an important player in many of the chemical reactions that happen in the body. It’s also vital to the formation of new and healthy red blood cells.

Stock or broth made by boiling chicken bones contains gelatin, chondroitin, and other nutrients helpful for gut healing and immunity.

Shellfish isn’t what jumps to mind for many who are trying to boost their immune system, but some types of shellfish provide zinc, a nutrient that supports immune function.

Varieties of shellfish that are high in zinc include:

  • oysters
  • crab
  • lobster
  • mussels

Keep in mind that you don’t want to have more than the daily recommended amount of zinc in your diet:

  • 11 mg for adult men
  • 8 mg for most adult women

Too much zinc can actually inhibit immune system function.

How can you boost your immune system quickly?

Boosting your immune system quickly isn’t possible, but the sooner you get started with a few lifestyle changes, the sooner you may improve your overall well-being and, ultimately, your immune system. You may want to focus on eating a balanced diet with plenty of fresh foods and whole grains, engage in at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week, get enough sleep, manage stress with deep breathing or talk therapy, avoid or quit smoking, and limit alcohol consumption.

Does vitamin C increase white blood cell count?

Preliminary research suggests vitamin C may be involved in the development and function of white blood cells. It seems vitamin C may improve the reproduction of B- and T-cells, which are important white blood cells for the immune system. The amount of vitamin C needed for increasing white blood cells may depend on the condition and overall health needs. More research in humans is needed to better understand the link between vitamin C and white blood cells.

How do you increase white blood cell count?

To raise your white blood cell count, you may want to avoid alcohol and tobacco use, take Omega-3s and zinc, and eat a balanced diet. For example, a 2021 study found that the Mediterranean diet had an effect on the white blood cell counts of adults at risk for cardiovascular disease.

Depending on the cause of low white blood cells, you may also need to take medications like myeloid growth factors.

What foods help fight viruses?

Antiviral foods may include fermented vegetables (kimchi), fermented milk (yogurt and kefir), herbs (oregano, fennel, peppermint, and aloe vera), garlic, ginger, turmeric, black cumin, cinnamon, licorice root, mushrooms, and citrus fruits.

What foods help fight infections?

Some foods may boost your immune system while others will help with their antimicrobial properties. This means they may help fight bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens that cause infections. Examples include herbs and spices (oregano, cinnamon, clove, and rosemary), cruciferous vegetables (kale and rutabaga), citrus fruits, parsley, and a wide range of other plant-based foods.

What vegetables are good for the immune system?

Eating a variety of vegetables may help you boost your immune system. Red peppers, spinach, and broccoli are good choices, as well as ginger, turmeric, and garlic.

Can bananas boost your immune system?

Eating all types of fresh fruits regularly may help your immune system function well. Bananas, in particular, contain a substance called lectin. One study in rodents found that banana lectin may enhance the immune system.

Fresh foods can provide our bodies with the nutrients our immune system needs to work correctly. You need a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, herbs, and spices in your diet to enable your body to stay as healthy as possible.

Good choices of foods to boost the immune system include citrus fruits, spinach, almonds, papaya, and green tea.

It’s worth remembering though, that diet alone can’t keep us healthy. It’s also essential to exercise, maintain a moderate weight, and limit habits such as smoking and a high alcohol intake.

Although eating a balanced diet is key to boosting your immunity, foods alone cannot and should not replace medical treatment, unless your healthcare professional recommends it.

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