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Spinach may boost the immune system, as it contains many essential nutrients and antioxidants, including :. Vitamins C and E can help support the immune system.

How to boost your immune system - Harvard Health

Research also indicates that flavonoids may help to prevent the common cold in otherwise healthy people. People use ginger in a variety of dishes and desserts, as well as in teas. According to a review, ginger has anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties and is likely to offer health benefits.

However, more research is necessary to confirm whether or not it can effectively prevent illness. One review looked at whether taking garlic supplements containing allicin reduced the risk of getting a cold. The group of participants taking a placebo had more than double the number of colds between them than those taking the garlic supplements. However, the researchers concluded that more research is necessary to determine whether or not garlic can help to prevent colds.

Green tea contains only a small amount of caffeine, so people can enjoy it as an alternative to black tea or coffee.

Drinking it may also strengthen the immune system. As with blueberries, green tea contains flavonoids, which may reduce the risk of a cold. Kefir is a fermented drink that contains live cultures of bacteria that are beneficial for health. Initial research suggests that drinking kefir may boost the immune system.

According to a review , various studies have shown that regular consumption of kefir can help with:. The majority of the research that supports this was carried out on animals or in a laboratory. Researchers need to perform additional studies to understand how kefir may prevent disease in humans.


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Sunflower seeds can make a tasty addition to salads or breakfast bowls. They are a rich source of vitamin E , an antioxidant. In the same way as other antioxidants, vitamin E improves immune function. It does this by fighting off free radicals, which can damage cells. Almonds are another excellent source of vitamin E. They also contain manganese, magnesium , and fiber. A small handful or a quarter of a cup of almonds is a healthful snack that may benefit the immune system.

Boosting Your Immune System

Oranges and kiwis are an excellent source of vitamin C, which is the vitamin that many people turn to when they feel a cold developing. While scientists are still not sure exactly how it helps, vitamin C may reduce the duration of common cold symptoms and improve the function of the human immune system. For people trying to avoid the sugar in fruit, red bell peppers are an excellent alternative source of vitamin C. Stir-frying and roasting both preserve the nutrient content of red bell peppers better than steaming or boiling, according to a study on cooking methods. Enjoying the 15 immune-boosting foods covered in this article may strengthen people's immune system and improve their ability to fight off infections.

That said, it is important to remember that the immune system is complex. Eating a healthful, balanced diet is just one way to support immune health. It is also essential to be mindful of the other lifestyle factors that may affect immune system health, such as exercising and not smoking. Anyone who gets frequent colds or other illnesses and is concerned about their immune system should speak to a doctor.

Article last reviewed by Tue 10 July All references are available in the References tab. Allan, G.

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Prevention and treatment of the common cold: Making sense of the evidence. Chen, C.

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Dietary antioxidants and human immune function

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Journal of Food Science and Technology , 48 4 , — Whitehead, A. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition , 6 , — MLA Burgess, Lana. MediLexicon, Intl. APA Burgess, L. MNT is the registered trade mark of Healthline Media. Here are some tips for getting the top vitamins and minerals your immune system needs to perform. Leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale, bell peppers, brussels sprouts, strawberries and papaya are also excellent sources.

Like vitamin C, vitamin E can be a powerful antioxidant that helps your body fight off infection. Almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts and sunflower seeds are all high in vitamin E. Foods high in vitamin B6 include bananas, lean chicken breast, cold-water fish such as tuna, baked potatoes and chickpeas.

Bring on the hummus! For vitamin A , go colorful. Foods that are high in colorful compounds called carotenoids — carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cantaloupe and squash — are all great options. The body turns these carotenoids into vitamin A, and they have an antioxidant effect to help strengthen the immune system against infection.

Many people have a hard time absorbing vitamin D from food, so if you have a vitamin D deficiency, talk to your doctor about supplements. Folate is the natural form, and folic acid is the synthetic form, often added to foods because of its health benefits. To get more folate, add more beans and peas to your plate on a regular basis, as well as leafy green vegetables. You can also get folic acid in fortified foods check the label such as enriched breads, pastas, rice and other percent whole-grain products. Iron, which helps your body carry oxygen to cells, comes in different forms. But never fear, vegetarians: You can get other forms of iron in beans, broccoli and kale.

You can find it in garlic, broccoli, sardines, tuna, brazil nuts and barley, among other foods. You can find zinc in oysters, crab, lean meats and poultry, baked beans skip the kind with added sugar , yogurt and chickpeas.