Immunity Boosters: The Best Foods to Improve Your Immune SystemBy Leslie Barrie Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, R.D. Science-Backed
Believe it or not, we're still in the midst of cold and flu season.1 And with everything going else going on, there's never been a better time to boost your immune health and stay healthy.
While the first step in fighting illnesses, such as the flu and the common cold, is ensuring you get your immunization shots and plenty of sleep, there are other natural things you can do to lower your odds of getting sick and boost your body's natural defense, including choosing healthy, immune-boosting foods.
Read on to discover which foods can boost your immune system function and also support your weight loss goals this season. If you’re a Jenny Craig member, most of these foods can be found in Jenny Craig meals, on our Fresh & Free Additions list, or can be added to a Jenny Craig menu. Just check with your consultant before making any swaps to ensure you stay on track!
If you are on the Jenny Craig program, check with your consultant before making any swaps or changes to your plan to ensure you stay on track!
1. Immunity-Boosting All-Star: Red Peppers
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While most citrus fruits are packed with vitamin C, red peppers are often overlooked as a fantastic source of vitamins and minerals. In fact, a half-cup of red bell peppers have over 150% of your total vitamin C needs for the day.3
Eating a diet filled with vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables can help keep your immune system healthy.3 The vitamin is a powerful antioxidant that can prevent infections by helping your body form beneficial antibodies.4
Enjoy it: Slice up red pepper and use the strips to scoop up a healthy hummus dip (if your goals include weight loss, an ideal serving size is about two tablespoons of hummus). Or toss some bell peppers in a stir-fry, on the grill, or mix them with green beans and a hot sauce vinaigrette.
2. Immunity-Boosting All-Star: Garlic
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Yes, garlic can give you unpleasant breath, but it might also help prevent you from getting sick. Research indicates that this immunity boosting food may enhance the way the immune system functions, giving it a therapeutic effect.5
Not only can the compounds in garlic potentially help boost your immunity — one large study found that women who regularly ate garlic (as well as fruits and veggies) had lower odds of colon cancer.6-7
Enjoy it: Add some sautéed garlic to a side of cauliflower rice for extra flavor, or use roasted garlic to garnish a piece of grilled salmon or a healthy slice of pizza.
3. Immunity-Boosting All-Star: Carrots
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Calling all carrot lovers! This bright orange immune-boosting veggie is packed with vitamin A, which is a key nutrient involved in keeping your immune system functioning efficiently.8
The Cleveland Clinic reports that carrots (as well as other orange veggies like sweet potatoes and pumpkin) have carotenoids, which your body converts into vitamin A.9 In turn, vitamin A works as an antioxidant to strengthen your immune system so it can better fight infections.9
Enjoy it: Shave some carrot on top of your next salad (try this Carrot Salad with Coriander recipe), or make a carrot-packed chicken soup that will help you stay warm and cozy this winter — and also keep your immune system strong.
4. Immunity-Boosting All-Star: Almonds
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If you’re nuts for nuts, you’re in luck. Almonds (as well as peanuts and hazelnuts) are packed with vitamin E, which, like vitamin C and A, is a crucial vitamin to keep your immune system functioning properly.9
Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant that helps the body fight off illness.10 Almonds, a food with one of the highest levels of vitamin E, may even lower heart disease risk because of the nuts’ anti-inflammatory benefits and its ability to lower LDL (the bad kind) cholesterol.11
Enjoy it: Spread some almond butter on apple slices, or have a small amount of raw almonds for your next snack. Just be mindful of your portion size (about one teaspoon) if you’re trying to lose weight, as the calories in nuts can add up quickly. For raw nuts, try to stick to the unsalted variety.
5. Immunity-Boosting All-Star: Chicken
Photo by Jess Lessard Photography on iStock
There’s a reason why chicken noodle soup is such a popular immunity-boosting remedy. Not only does it typically contain carrots, but the broth can be hydrating and can help clear your stuffy nasal passages.13 Plus, the protein found in chicken might enhance your healing and recovery time.14 (Here are 8 other ways protein can benefit your body and weight loss goals.)
Enjoy it: Whip up some homemade chicken noodle soup, top your salad with a few grilled chicken strips, or pair a chicken breast with roasted bell peppers, garlic and carrots for an immunity-boosting meal!
6. Immunity-Boosting All-Star: Oranges
Photo by Adam Śmigielski on Unsplash
This citrusy fruit is packed with vitamin C, which, according to the National Institutes of Health, plays an important part in immune function.3 It’s also an antioxidant that can help prevent damage from free radicals (free radicals contribute to the aging process and are linked to certain diseases like cancer and heart disease).15
When deciding between orange juice and a piece of fruit, your best choice is the whole fruit. The natural form contains filling fiber and can help you avoid a sudden spike in blood sugar.16
Enjoy it: Have an orange as a mid-day snack, add pieces to your salad, or garnish your chicken dish with orange slices for a tangy twist.
7. Immunity-Boosting All-Star: Broccoli
Photo by Leilani Angel on Unsplash
In addition to packing plenty of vitamin C (a half cup of broccoli has 65% of your daily value),3 broccoli also boasts selenium, which plays a key role in your immune system.9 In fact, preliminary research indicates that regular consumption of this cruciferous vegetable may play a role in possibly warding off breast cancer.17
Enjoy it: Steam broccoli with other leafy greens and enjoy it as a dinner side dish. Or, dip florets in a yogurt based-dip for a nutritious snack. Not a huge fan of this crunchy veggie? Try these four ways to make broccoli taste amazing.
Did you know research indicates that losing weight might also help boost your immune system?18 If you’re ready to eat healthy, chef-crafted meals while working toward your goals, Jenny Craig can help. Choose from a variety of delicious menu options designed to fit your lifestyle! Get started today.
Leslie Barrie has a health writing and editing background, and holds her master's degree from Columbia University Graduate Journalism School. Over the past 10 years, she has worked at various magazines in New York City, such as Woman's Day, Health, Seventeen, and more. When she's not writing about health, she likes living it — she enjoys running, hiking, swimming, and yoga (even though she's not the best at it, it helps her to relax!).
Favorite healthy snack: a piece of dark chocolate with a handful of almonds
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and fact-checked by Briana Rodriquez, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Jenny Craig.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
This article contains trusted sources including scientific, peer-reviewed papers. All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source.
Edited by Elisa - Jenny Craig