Three great ways to boost your immune system naturally are selecting the right foods, taking supplements and using essential oils.
During these trying times of COVID-19 it’s important to focus on what you can control. This includes being conscious of what you put in your body and environment to help you stay healthy.
Minimizing risk to you and your loved ones through frequent hand washing, sanitizing, and social distancing is a strong defense but it’s also good to focus on a strong offense: a strong immune system.
Foods to boost your immune system naturally
The foods we put into our bodies provide a direct, natural line to a healthy immune system.
Consider reaching for these foods:
1 – Foods that are rich in zinc
Zinc is a natural immune booster! When we are lacking this important mineral, our immune response is weakened. Taking zinc supplements can help wake up and balance our immune cells, reduce infection and improve immune response especially for older adults. Zinc has proven its ability to strengthen the immune system against the common cold; a number of studies show that getting 80 or more milligrams of zinc a day can cut the length of your cold down by a third!
Foods that are rich in zinc are meat, fish and shellfish, legumes, nuts and seeds, dairy products, eggs and some vegetables including mushrooms and asparagus.
2 – Foods that are rich in vitamin C
Vitamin C is widely known as a natural booster for our immune systems. The vitamin is crucial because of its ability to promote the generation of white blood cells, which help us fight infection. It also helps these cells work better while protecting them from harm. The vitamin offers specific protection for our skin. When we have vitamin C in our body, it moves to the skin where it sets up a defensive guard as an antioxidant. Some studies suggest this is why vitamin C supplements may help hurry up healing time. We also know that when we lack vitamin C, we often have poorer health. One example that’s especially relative today is with pneumonia patients. People who have pneumonia often have low levels of vitamin C and taking vitamin C supplements has led to quicker recovery times.
Foods that are naturally rich in vitamin C include some of the yummiest fruits and vegetables: oranges, kiwis, strawberries, cantaloupe, papaya, sweet potato, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and all three stop-light peppers (red, yellow and green).
3 – Fresh garlic
Garlic is a natural germ fighter! It contains sulfur compounds which give garlic its signature smell and taste. These sulfur compounds are what people refer to when they talk about garlic’s medicinal properties. They help some white blood cells that fight disease and viruses like the common cold or flu.
Eating garlic raw will give you the most bang for your buck… plus in these days of self-isolation you won’t have to worry much about stinky breath!
4 – Probiotic yogurt
Many of us are aware of the good bacteria (a.k.a. probiotics) in most yogurt products that are huge supporters of healthy digestion, but early research also shows that some strains of probiotics also help boost your immune system naturally.
Yogurt eaters also get other natural benefits packed within this delicious and multi-functioning treat including animal protein, calcium, vitamin B-2 and B-12, potassium and magnesium.
5 – Foods that are rich in antioxidants
We’ve all heard it since we were kids: fruits and vegetables are good for our health! While adding more veggies and natural fruits will benefit any diet, those that are higher in antioxidants are also natural immune boosters.
It’s easy to know which fruits and veggies to focus on: look for the colourful ones! Especially those with red, orange, yellow, purple and blue. These signify the main antioxidant vitamins: beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium.
Beta-carotene is probably most commonly connected to carrots, but can also be found in other colourful fruits and vegetables like peaches, nectarines, tangerines and apricots, tomatoes, sweet potato, watermelon, cantaloupe and mangoes, squash and pumpkin, corn, spinach and kale, beets, broccoli, green peppers, turnip and asparagus.
Most people know to grab citrus fruits for vitamin C but there are many other fruits that pack this natural immune booster including berries, kiwi, cantaloupe and honeydew melon, mango, and papaya. Some veggies have lots of vitamin C too, including the stop-light peppers, sweet potato, brussel sprouts, kale, snow peas, tomatoes and broccoli.
Vitamin E can be slightly more selective but you can still find it in avocado, red peppers, pumpkin, chard, turnip, mustard, nuts and sunflower seeds, mangoes, spinach and broccoli.
Selenium can be found in meats like beef, poultry and tuna as well as brazil nuts.
To get the best of these antioxidants, eat these foods raw or steamed – do not boil or overcook them.
6 – Omega-3 (fish or fish oil)
Omega-3 is very important to our immune system because it helps lower inflammation. The natural and essential fatty acids in fish oil turn into anti-inflammatory molecules that help regulate and repair our immune system in response to inflammation. Chronic inflammation over time can weaken the immune system. It has been scientifically proven that the amount of omega acids in one’s body is directly connected to the health of their immune system.
Supplements to boost your immune system naturally
1 – Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and helps produce white blood cells, which protect against infection.
This is the form of Vitamin C I use and recommend. I take anywhere from 1000-2000 mg per day.
2 – Vitamin D
Low levels of vitamin D make you susceptible to infection. Living in North America means that we also do not naturally get enough vitamin D sometimes, especially those of us living in the North.
This is the Vitamin D I use every day, but I take more than the recommended dose in the winter time because I live wayyyy up north!
3 – Probiotics
Probiotics inhibit the growth of bad bacteria and promote the production of natural antibodies which reduces the risk of respiratory infections.
This is the probiotic I use and recommend. It has 50 Billion CFU and 15 different probiotic strains, so its great for taking after antibiotics or on a daily basis as maintenance to support a healthy gut.
4 – Zinc
Zinc has been shown to help prevent and fight infections, as well as lessen recovery time.
This is the form of Zinc I use and recommend. I take 50 mg daily. It is best not to take that large of a dose for long durations as it can disrupt the balance between zinc and copper in your body.
5 – Oil of oregano
Oil of oregano is considered a natural antibiotic and is also antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral. It can be used for prevention or for treatment during a cold or flu.
I have this stuff at home right now and its great quality! If I start to feel a cold coming on I will start taking this daily until it passes. Sometimes I will also take it if someone around me is sick and I want to keep my immune system up!
Essential oils to boost your immune system naturally
Essential oils can be digested (like the oil of oregano listed above) but there are other uses for essential oils that can help boost your immune system.
Many essential oils are antiseptic, meaning they help stop the spread of bacteria, fungus and viruses. By diffusing them in your home, they help purify the air, working against the spread of airborne germs. You can add them to your cleaning products, like surface cleaners and laundry detergent, and you can dilute them and apply them topically to your skin.
The best essential oils for your immune system include peppermint oil, eucalyptus and tea tree oil. These three are known for their antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. Peppermint and eucalyptus oil are also known to be helpful for decongestion.
DoTerra essential oils are very high quality and well made. Here are some of their products to consider for cold & flu symptoms.
I diffuse a lot of eucalyptus, tea tree, peppermint and thieves oil! Its really nice in a steamy bath as well.
Also check out my 1 month immune boosting meal plan if you want to take it to the next level!
References for this post:
Tara Klippert is a Registered Health and Nutrition Counselor and holds a diploma in Holistic Nutrition and Health Coaching. Tara helps people clear up cystic acne, balance hormones and blood sugar + improve anxiety and gut health NATURALLY with food.