By Dr. Josh Axe
The immune system plays a pivotal role in overall health. In short, it’s the body’s first line of defense that keeps us healthy.
Wondering, “how can I support my healthy immune system?” Switching up your diet is one of the best strategies regarding how to support your immune system health naturally.
Some of the top foods that support a healthy immune system include those that are high in antioxidants, vitamin C, zinc and probiotics. By making a few simple swaps to your diet, you increase your intake of these important nutrients and more, such as amino acids, fats and fiber that all play a role in healthy immune system function.
Below we’ll look closer at how these foods offer health support, as well as other lifestyle changes that can keep you functioning at your best.
Can Foods & Lifestyle Changes Help Support a Healthy Immune System?
Many foods provide an array of specific nutrients that can help support healthy immune function and support a healthy you. While taking supplements, such as vitamin C and vitamin D for example, is one way to increase your intake of essential nutrients, getting these naturally from a balanced diet is the best way to maintain your health.
Fruits and vegetables are a great source of antioxidants such as vitamin A and vitamin C, which are important water-soluble vitamins that, generally, support a healthy immune system.
Other foods like nuts, seeds and fatty fish are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fat that can help support healthy cardiovascular function and healthy cognitive function.
Some other ingredients such as leafy greens and algae are high in phytonutrients and other health-promoting compounds, which may support a healthy immune system.
Did you know that your gut houses between 70 percent and 80 percent of the cells that make up your immune system? This is why Multi Collagen Protein powder is another healthy immune system promoter, since its clinically studied vitamin C and probiotic ingredients help support both a healthy immune system and antioxidant activity on top of a healthy gut, skin, hair and nails.
Healthy Immune System–Friendly Foods
Which fruit is best for promoting a healthy immune system? How about vegetables and protein sources — for example, are plant proteins or animal proteins better?
Here are a few suggested healthy immune system–supporting foods for both kids and adults of all ages. (Of course, if you have sensitivities or allergies to any of these, then you should avoid them. You should also consult your healthcare professional prior to starting any new dietary or lifestyle regimen, including supplementation):
- Fruits: apples, oranges, lemons, limes, kiwi, papaya, melons, berries
- Vegetables: bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, kale, cauliflower
- Foods high in vitamin C: leafy greens, berries, cabbage, spinach, mango, pineapple, kiwi, bell peppers
- Foods high in zinc: meat, organ meats like liver, seafood, nuts, seeds, legumes
- Organic Supergreens: This convenient powder features superfoods like organic oat grass, beetroot and alfalfa grass, as well as a digestive enzyme blend and probiotic blend for gut support
- Nuts: almonds, walnuts, pistachios, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts
- Seeds: chia seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds (see our Plant Protein collection that powered by such super seeds)
- Protein foods: collagen protein or bone broth protein, grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish, free-range poultry, eggs, tempeh, yogurt, legumes
- Omega-3 foods: wild-caught fish like salmon, sardines, trout, mackerel as well as flax seeds and walnuts
- Whole grains: couscous, quinoa, brown rice, oats, farro, barley, buckwheat
- Fats and oils: avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter
- Herbs and spices: ginger, garlic, cinnamon, black pepper
- Beverages: green tea, kombucha, coconut water, kefir
In addition to eating well in order to maintain normal levels of essential nutrients, these lifestyle tips can help support a healthy immune system:
- Stay active. Regular exercise helps to promote a healthy immune system. Just be careful not to over-do it, since this can lead to fatigue and a run down system.
- Prioritize getting enough sleep. Aim for 7 to 9 hours per night which most adults need to feel their best.
- Get a handle on stress. Chronic stress can take a toll on the “gut brain connection” and can weaken immune system function.
- Consider adding some or all of the top immune-supporting supplements to your routine, such as vitamin C, enzyme activated zinc and SBO probiotics. Herbs such as elderberry and echinacea can also be helpful.
Foods to Avoid
Just as important as enjoying a variety of nutrient-rich foods is limiting your intake foods that can weaken the immune system.
Foods that are heavily processed and refined, in particular, often contain ingredients, such as artificial sweeteners, additives and preservatives, that you should avoid to help promote gut health and a healthy inflammation response.
Other products like baked goods or refined carbs also often contain high amounts of added sugar, which can take a toll on many aspects of health, including immune system health. Meanwhile, processed meats should be avoided, too.
Here are a few foods that you may want to limit or avoid to support immune system health:
- Processed foods: fried foods, baked goods, fast food, convenience meals
- Refined carbs: white bread, pasta, crackers, chips, tortillas
- Processed meats: bacon, salami, bologna, beef jerky, lunch meats
- Sugary beverages: soda, fruit juice, sweet tea, sports drinks, energy drinks
- Added sugar: high-fructose corn syrup, table sugar, agave nectar, molasses
- Loading up on a few of the top healthy immune system–supporting foods is a simple way to promote immune system health while also squeezing a variety of essential nutrients into your daily diet.
- Healthy immune system–supporting foods like fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds are typically rich in the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants necessary to support immune system health.
- Not only that, but these foods can also provide other key nutrients as well, including fiber, protein and good fats which together can support cognitive function, cardiovascular function, joint health and more.
- Fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and whole grains are a few of the top immune system–supporting foods.
- Meanwhile, heavily processed or refined ingredients are generally considered foods to avoid when it comes to supporting immune system health.
Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DNM, CNS, is a doctor of chiropractic, doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food and nutrition. He operates leading natural health website DrAxe.com and is co-founder of Ancient Nutrition, a health supplement company. He’s also author of the books Eat Dirt, Essential Oils: Ancient Medicine, Keto Diet, Collagen Diet and the recent Ancient Remedies.