It’s easy to strengthen your immune defenses with the right diet.
The immune system is very sensitive to poor nutritional choices.
Giving your body nutritious whole foods at the first sign of a problem can improve your chances of overcoming a sickness before it takes hold.
Here are five of the most potent healing foods to eat for a stronger immune system.
High antioxidants and enzymes in fresh fruit and vegetable juices supercharge your immune system. Food enzymes are crucial to immune response.
Without enough enzymes, we end up with undigested food in our blood, which takes a toll on immune response. Enzyme-rich juices take care of this unhealthy reaction before it ever starts.
Enzyme active, fresh fruit and vegetable juices flush out toxins and rejuvenate the tissues. A few of the best choices: leafy greens, beets, carrots, apples, and citrus fruits.
Invest in a good juicer, and reap the rewards. Add a teaspoon of a green superfood like spirulina, barley grass, or wheatgrass, for a chlorophyll energy boost.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, “superior” medicines are often derived from mushrooms. All mushrooms offer immune benefits.
Shiitake mushrooms are especially good for immunity. They are widely available and can easily be added to broths, stews, stir fries, or soups.
Shiitake mushrooms have been found to stimulate your immune system macrophages and NK (natural killer) cells. In Japan, a polysaccharide from shiitake is used in cancer therapy alongside chemotherapy.
A little goes a long way with shiitake. Start by adding 1-2 shiitakes to the recipe of your choice.
Garlic is one of the most potent spices for immunity available.
Garlic has been revered as a health enhancer since the reign of ancient civilizations.
During World War I, garlic juice was used as an antiseptic to soak wounds and is thought to have saved many lives.
Few herbs can rival garlic’s antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. Garlic encourages the activity of immune macrophages and T-cells. In my opinion, there is no better herb than garlic to fight colds and flu.
A recent study showed aged garlic extract (a popular supplement) reduces the severity and duration of cold and flu symptoms.
Eating garlic also works well. Just 1 to 3 cloves a day can strengthen immune response and clean out infection toxins.
Here’s another tip: If you’re sick with a bad cough, try macerating raw garlic in honey. Take 1-2 tbsp daily to help you recover faster.
Yogurt is an exceptionally nutrient-dense, immune building food.
High in protein and minerals like calcium, yogurt is a rich source of probiotics like lactobacillus bulgaricus, lactobacillus acidophilus, and streptococcus thermophilus that support immune and digestive health.
Active cultures in yogurt encourage the production of interferon, the body’s natural antiviral substance.
Just one cup of yogurt daily reduces Candida yeast living in the vagina by 30%. In addition, yogurt is a first choice to relieve diarrhea caused by antibiotics.
Yogurt is better tolerated than other dairy food because it stimulates lactase activity (the enzyme that digests lactose).
For your best health, choose organic yogurt whenever possible to avoid growth hormones and chemicals present in conventional dairy.
Spinach is my favorite leafy green food for immunity.
It’s one of the highest food sources of antioxidants, vitamin C, and folate.
Spinach is also a good source of beta carotene that supports white blood cell activity.
A 2009 study shows that spinach has strong anti-tumor activity against many cancers (including breast, brain, kidney, lung, pancreas, prostate, and stomach).
Not only is it healthy, spinach also tastes wonderful, and picks up the flavor of other seasonings you cook with. I shred a few handfuls and add them to my favorite recipes.
Just lightly cook spinach to retain the most nutrients. You can also eat spinach raw or add it to fresh vegetable juices.
The beauty of using food to strengthen immunity is anyone can do it, and food comes without long lists of warnings or contraindications.
You can always use food to heal, no matter where you are on your health journey.
Using your food to boost immune strength takes commitment, but you will be amazed by how much better you feel with each healthy meal.
Boivin, D., Lamy, S., Lord-Dufour, F., Jackson, J., Beaulieu, E., Cote, M. et al. (2009) Antiproliferative and antioxidant activities of common vegetables. Food Chemistry,112, 374-380.
Dai, X., Stanilka, J.M., Rowe, C.A., Esteves, E.A., Nieves, C., Spaiser, S.J., et al. (2015, April). Consuming Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) mushrooms daily improves human immunity: A randomized dietary intervention in healthy young adults. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 34(6), 478-87. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25866155
Garlic: An immune boosting superstar. (2005-2016). Retrieved from WebMd,
Garlic: The immune system booster (2016). Retrieved from Daily Mail UK,
Greger, M. (2015) How not to die. Flatiron Books
Group, E. (2014). 12 ways to support your immune system naturally. Retrieved from Global Healing Center, http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health-12-ways-support-immune-system-naturally
Nantz, M.P., Rowe, C.A., Muller, C.E., Creasy, R.A., Stanilka, J.M., & Percival, S.S. (2012, July). Supplementation with aged garlic extract improves both NK and γδ-T cell function and reduces the severity of cold and flu symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled nutrition intervention. Clinical Nutrition, 31(3), 337-44. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22280901
Schend, J. (2005-2016) Foods that boost the immune system. Retrieved from Health Line,