Immunity is the ability of multicellular organisms to resist viral infections from harmful microorganisms. Countless microorganisms are present around us all the time. A lot of these microorganisms are harmful to the human body. These harmful microorganisms are called pathogens. As soon as anyone gets infected by a certain pathogen, the body tries to resist that infection and stop the multiplication of that harmful microorganism.
The rise in body temperature is one of the most common reactions after getting infected. But fever, inflammation, and phagocytosis are the second line of defense mechanisms. Apart from them, the whole system within the human body acts together to minimize the risk of infections. In totality, it is known as the immune system. When we say “immunity” we are referring to a person’s inherent capability to resist infections from pathogens. But that’s not all. Having a strong immune system also means recovering from that infections in a shorter time.
Depending on how you acquire (build) immunity against a certain disease or pathogen, we can divide acquired immunity into two types:
- Active acquired Immunity
This type of immunity develops when a person is exposed to a pathogen and as a result of it, develops antibodies to counter future infections from that pathogen. This immunity works against a specific pathogen and takes a long time to develop. But once developed, it provides long-term immunity against that specific pathogen (virus). This can be acquired naturally or artificially.
If the host is exposed to the pathogens in the natural environment and recovers from the infection then he/she builds natural immunity against that pathogen. If the same host has been vaccinated, then they are exposed to the pathogen in a controlled and harmless manner. Thus vaccination helps them develop immunity against that specific pathogen.
- Passive Acquired Immunity
We know that exposure to pathogens and recovery from the infection helps us develop antibodies to resist future infections. But in some cases, the pre-developed antibodies can be provided to the person in need. If someone is suffering from a life-threatening disease and need to develop immediate protection against a pathogen then this way of building immunity becomes very helpful. For example, f a cancer patient whose immune system is already very weak starts showing symptoms of covid, doctors would need to give him/her readymade antibodies for covid.
The immunity acquired through readymade antibodies will help the cancer patient fight off the immediate covid infection. But it won’t help him/her develop long-term immunity against covid. This is an example of artificial passive acquired immunity. When a newborn still takes most of their nutrition from their mother’s breast milk, his/her immune system is still developing. This helps guard the baby against the common cold, diarrhea, and similar disorders. In this case, the mother’s breast milk passes readymade antibodies to the baby to help him/her fight off diseases while their immune system is still weak. This is an example of natural passive acquired immunity.
- Innate immunity
Apart from acquired immunity, there’s innate immunity. Some people are at low risk of developing certain diseases in comparison to others depending on the strength of their innate immunity. As discussed above, innate immunity includes the immune response to infections such as fever and inflammation.
From the above information, you can tell that foods that can boost immunity should be the ones that have certain readymade antibodies against pathogens. Or these can also be foods that promote healthy maintenance of different parts of our immune system. The faster our immune system responds to an infection, the more likely we are to overcome it and develop stronger immunity. Example: Some people recover from common cold earlier than others.
And what we eat heavily impacts our immunity. 70% of our immune system is dependent on gut bacteria. Healthy gut bacteria produce lactic acid to stop the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut and keep us healthy. In this article, we’ve listed all foods that aid the development of healthy gut bacteria and come with natural antibodies.
Why Immunity Matters?
Before you jump to the list, let us see why immunity matters. First of all, nobody likes falling sick, and that too on a regular basis. If you know about HIV then you can guess how dangerous a compromised immune system can be. People with Human Immunodeficiency Syndrome are at great risk of getting infected by multitudes of different viruses. Such patients don’t survive long enough unless they start treatment for HIV which also doesn’t come with a promise of success. Most HIV patients don’t make it.
But HIV infection is not very common. But one very common infection that compromises your immune system is Covid. Once you get a covid infection your chances and speed of recovery are very much impacted by your immunity levels. Be it covid or the common cold, in today’s world, a strong immune system is an asset you can’t ignore.
Natural methods to boost immunity
To put it simply, you build immunity by following a healthy lifestyle. This includes not putting too much stress on your body. When you don’t get adequate sleep and go to sleep at irregular times, don’t eat healthy food, or don’t work out often, it makes daily metabolic activities more challenging for your body. In turn, this unhealthy routine also compromises your immune system and you become susceptible to developing various diseases.
But just like unhealthy habits can compromise your immune system, healthy habits can empower it. If you get 7-8 hours of sleep and eat well-balanced nutritious foods, your body will be able to fight off diseases. Most immune systems are compromised because of micronutrient deficiencies. You should avoid junk food since most of the components of junk food are not good for your immunity.
You don’t need the external intervention of antibiotics every time to fight off common disorders. Your body’s natural response to infection (fever, metabolic slowdown, etc.) is also good enough to combat the spread of most disorders. This is why the best natural way to improve your immunity is to eat right, sleep well, and take care of your body.
Exercise is known to cause a change in antibodies which are white blood cells (WBCs) in your body. Besides exercise helps relieve stress which is a factor commonly associated with developing many disorders.
But if you have a weak immune system, fixing your eating habits should be where you start. Healthy foods contain vitamins, enzymes, and macros that help you fight off diseases. Please note that one food item is sufficient to boost immunity. You can’t eat one food item and call it enough. You must eat various healthy foods consistently to see a difference. Here are some of the foods known to boost immunity.
List of foods, drinks, vegetables, and fruits to boost immunity –
Foods and Drinks to Boost Immunity
Yogurt contains essential minerals and vitamins that boost immunity, and improve digestion and gut health. The three most important micronutrients present in yogurt that help in boosting immunity are high levels of zinc, selenium, and magnesium.
This Zoh Probiotics Culture is a great option to make healthy greek yogurt. You can get the benefits of yogurt easily and in a shorter time by using this culture.
Zinc modulates antiviral and antibacterial immunity. It is also known to regulate the immune response against inflammatory diseases
Selenium improves the immune system by helping in the production and protection of immune cells. Magnesium plays a similar function by mitigating inflammation and aiding the production of immune cells. This aids immune function and prevents infections.
1-2 servings of yogurt a day is a good practice. Pair it with your meals or salad dressing or fruit bowl.
2. Green tea
Green tea contains components such as polyphenols, catechins, and flavonoids, which help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.
This Organic India Classic Tulsi Green Tea is a great immunity booster. You can drink it in the morning or evening as you see fit.
Green tea increases the production of T cells and natural killer cells. These cells fight off infections.
Green tea also boosts metabolism which improves immune response time to infections.
Green tea can be a good replacement for your normal milk and sugar tea. Since it is low in calories but satiating it may also aid in weight loss. Because of the lower caffeine component, green tea is a better option than coffee/tea in the evening.
3. Moringa oleifera (Drumstick)
Commonly known in India as Sahjan, this plant has been used in medicines for centuries. Moringa oleifera boosts immunity through bioactive compounds like polyphenols, flavonoids, and glucosinolates. These compounds are known to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body. Also, the Moringa Olefera plant has a high concentration of Vitamin C.
If you don’t find fresh drumstick nearby then this Pushpam 100% Organic Drumstick Powder is a lifesaver. You can mix it in your flour or drinks or soups to reap all benefits of the drumstick. It also has a longer shelf life which makes it much more durable to use.
Moringa Olefera has a delicious spinach-like taste. This makes it an ideal option to sprinkle over your salad, bled into your veg smoothies, or make a tasty dip from. But one of the most popular dishes made using drumsticks is Murugakkai Sambar or Drumstick sambar.
Honey has been a part of traditional Ayurvedic medicine for a long time. Recent studies have shown that honey is great for your immunity. It contains Flavonoids and polyphenols, which act as antioxidants. Antioxidants help neutralize the free radicals in the body.
This Nature Trust Raw Organic Forest Honey is a healthy honey option because it’s unprocessed and unsweetened. You should always go for natural honey options.
Honey contains high levels of hydrogen peroxide. It is a natural antimicrobial agent. Honey also has prebiotic properties. It can induce the growth and activity of beneficial gut bacteria.
You can include honey as a natural sweetener in your diet to replace sugar. I like to add honey to my green tea or have a honey lemon drink in the morning. Also, you can use honey in your overnight oats. Honey goes well as a dressing over fruit salads.
Vegetables To boost Immunity
Spinach is a powerhouse of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Spinach in high n Vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect cells from oxidative stress and support immune health.
A good alternative to fresh spinach is this Bliss of Earth Spinach Powder. You can mix it in your soups, veggies, or flour to add the benefits of spinach to them.
Spinach also has a high concentration of Vitamin E. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that helps to protect cell membranes from damage caused by free radicals.
Another enzyme present in spinach is beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A supports the immune system by maintaining the integrity of the mucosal barriers in the respiratory, digestive, and urinary tracts.
Spinach is very easy to include in your diet as a palatable veggie, salad ingredient, or dip. Various ways to cook and use spinach exist across all cultures. You can choose whatever method you find the easiest.
Brocolli contains Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and bet-carotene. Apart from their aforementioned health benefits (in spinach), broccoli also contains high amounts of potassium and calcium. These micronutrients promote muscle growth and bone health. Brocolli also benefits the nervous system and aids proper brain functioning and immune function.
This Unloq Instant Broccoli Almond Soup is my favorite healthy soup option. It’s can be a great option for dinner and evening snacks being savory and fulfilling.
You can include broccoli in your diet as sauteed veggie or make it into a pureed soup. Baking broccoli or adding it to your pasta isn’t a bad idea either.
Kale has four times the Vitamin C content as spinach and twice the selenium content. Kale also contains glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing compounds that have immunity-boosting properties.
You can get all the benefits of Kale by making a green savory kale smoothie. A quick option to make it is this Urbana Superfoods Kale Smoothie Mix.
Kale is very similar to spinach in texture and taste. Any dish that you make with spinach can also be made with kale. You can use kale in your soups and salads while also as a veggie with your regular bread. All green leafy veggies have a healing effect on your body.
Mushrooms contain useful complex polysaccharides called beta-glucans which help in activating immune cells. Apart from this mushrooms are rich in antioxidants like ergothioneine and selenium. All these properties make mushrooms great for consumption and boosting immunity.
My favorite immunity-boosting mushroom is this Desi Treat Button Mushroom which comes with a 15-month shelf life. It can be added to your salads or cooked into a separate side veggie. You can buy this any time from amazon and keep stored for long-term use.
4. Immunity booster Green Powder
A greens mix that comes with the benefits of all great green leafy superfoods is a blessing. You can add this to any of your foods to reap the benefits of all healthy greens in one go. A great option for those who like quick and minimal cooking like me.
This Yogi Celery Juice Powder is an awesome green powder that I personally use every day.
It comes with the goodness of greenies like Organic Wheat Grass, Organic Alfalfa, Organic Barley Grass, Spinach, Organic Spirulina, Organic Moringa, Organic Chlorella, and Ashwagandha.
Fruits to Boost Immunity
Dates contain high amounts of vitamin C just like most foods on this list. Moreover, they also contain p-coumaric, ferulic, and synaptic acids, flavonoids, and procyanidins. These flavonoids reduce the free radical activity in the body.
My personal favorite is these ORGANICALI Kimia Dates which are really soft and juicy. You can use these in most dishes because their sweetness and texture are just right.
Dates are also known to be effective against cardiovascular disorders along with certain types of cancer. Additionally, dates contain fiber, which is important for maintaining the gut microbiome.
You can include dates in your oatmeal. Or eat a couple of dates as a natural after-meal sweet or as a part of your post-workout meal. Be mindful of your calorie intake while eating dates.
Grapes contain minerals and vitamins that aid the proper nervous system and immune function. Apart from Vitamin C grapes also contain polyphenols, which are a type of antioxidant.
Resveratrol found in grapes protects against infectious diseases and also has antifungal, antiviral, antitumor, and antioxidant effects. Grapes contain quercetin, a flavonoid with anti-inflammatory properties.
Including grapes in your diet can be super easy. Just add it to your fruit salad, bled it in your smoothies, or include it as a topping over your oatmeal. But I love eating it as a mid-meal snack.
Papaya is a rich source of vitamins A and C. It also contains anti-inflammatory enzymes like papain and chymopapain., These compounds help protect against infections and improve the immune system. The fiber in papaya also plays a crucial role in enhancing gut health. Papaya is generally known for its digestive benefits. Strong digestion is at the core of a strong immune system.
You can include papaya in your diet by making it a mid-meal or after-meal snack. Papaya jams are also many people’s go-to jams. I love eating diced papaya cubes after they are a little cold in the refrigerator.
Newzealand has something that can benefit us all. Yes, Kiwis. Kiwis can be highly beneficial for your immune system. Various components of Kiwis are known to have an immunity-boosting effect. Kiwi contains vitamin C, dietary fiber, carotenoids, and polyphenols.
I love this SFT Kiwi Slice (Dried) because it’s easy for me to consume at any time and comes with all the benefits of fresh kiwi.
I like keeping it simple with Kiwi. I peel off the skin and slice it into thin pieces that I enjoy eating at leisure. You can make a kiwi smoothie too. Don’t shy from getting creative since this wonder fruit is very versatile.
Herbs and Spices to Boost Immunity
Garlic contains Accilin. Accilin has anti-microbial properties. It can also stimulate the production of immune cells. Garlic contains antioxidants such as flavonoids and organosulfur compounds which protect cells against oxidative damage. It also contains immunity-boosting micronutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin B6, and selenium.
I personally use this Relic Trademart, Single Clove Garlic because of its great quality and long years of trust in the market. Any garlic should give you good immunity-boosting benefits as long as you buy it from trusted sources.
All these factors make garlic a great immunity booster. Thankfully Garlic is a part of the traditional diet in many cuisines. You can eat 1-2 cloves of raw garlic every day. You can add finely chopped garlic to your salads as well. If this isn’t possible, you can also choose garlic supplements. Anyhow, you should just try to increase the role of garlic in your kitchen from just being a spice.
Turmeric gets its immunity-boosting properties mostly from a compound called curcumin. Curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties. It helps you fight against disorders and also heal infections. Turmeric is also used for cosmetic purposes because of its anti-microbial properties.
I like this Organic Tattva Organic Turmeric because it is free from any additives and organically made. It is also 100% vegan and gluten-free which makes it a great buy for vegans and those on a non-gluten diet.
Ginger has high concentrations of gingerols, shogaols, and zingerones. Gingerols can stimulate immune cells. In terms of micro-nutrients, ginger contains vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium which are very beneficial to our immune system. Moreover, ginger also has prebiotic properties.
I like this LJL Traders Fresh Organic Ginger which comes all the way from Kerala. Kerala is famous for its awesome spices. You can totally go for this or any other ginger available in your local market.
Ginger tea is my favorite way to include ginger in my diet. I also add ginger to most veggies and soups. Ginger has to be a part of some food or paired with something mostly. You should continue to use ginger as a part of your diet and you can also consider increasing its quantity for more benefits.
4. Tulsi Drops
Tulsi drops didn’t become popular during covid for no reason. Tulsi is blessed with high concentrations of phytochemicals, such as eugenol, rosmarinic acid, and ursolic acid. Eugenol has antimicrobial properties.
I like using Dabur Tulsi Drops because they are easily available and many people have benefitted from using them. You can benefit from it too.
Tulsi also has adaptogenic properties. This means it helps us adapt to stress levels efficiently. Essential oils present in tulsi such as cineole, eucalyptol, and camphene can stimulate the immune cells. Tulsi has many highly effective immune-boosting nutrients.
You can add tulsi drops to your green tea. It doesn’t have a very strong taste and in one go you won’t consume more than 5-10ml. You can consume it with a cup of water as well for ease and time-saving.
Cinnamon contains cinnamaldehyde and eugenol. These compounds have antioxidant properties and thus protect the cells from oxidative damage. This helps you maintain healthy cells. Essential oils present in cinnamon such as cinnamyl acetate and cinnamyl alcohol can stimulate the immune cells. All these benefits are aided by the antimicrobial properties of Cinnamon.
Nothing comes closer to Sri Lankan cinnamon in terms of quality. That’s why I love this authentic FYN True Sri Lankan Cinnamon Quills. These are easy to use and the aroma, as well as taste they deliver, is awesome.
Cinnamon tea is a common way to increase your cinnamon intake. Adding cinnamon to your coffee or tea is also a good idea. If you are fond of baking then you can add cinnamon powder or essence to your baked foods. It will cover the smell of egg and you will get a change from the usual vanilla essence. Finally, you can also add cinnamon to your oatmeal and granola.
6. Black pepper
Antioxidant compounds present in black pepper are piperine and caryophyllene. Piperine is beneficial because it makes other nutrients more bioavailable. This means piperine aids in the body’s absorption of other minerals from food. Black pepper also exhibits antimicrobial properties.
I love using Organic Tattva Organic Gluten Free Black Pepper. It is completely unadulterated and safe for use. I always keep it handy in my pantry.
Black pepper powder is my favorite seasoning. I add it to almost all the foods I cook myself. You can add black pepper to your veggies, soups, salads, etc. for improved taste and immunity-boosting.
7. Licorice root (Mulethi Root)
Licorice root or Mulethi is a part of traditional ayurvedic medicine. Antioxidant compounds present in Licorice root are flavonoids, triterpenoids, and glycyrrhizin. Licorice root has antimicrobial properties too. Glycyrrhizin has been known to stimulate immune cells.
If fresh Mulethi is not available nearby then you can always go for this Namo Organics – Mulethi Stick. It is a convenient way to get all the immunity-boosting benefits of Licorice root without worrying about the quality.
Licorice root can easily become a part of your tea. Besides, nowadays you have licorice root extract available in the form of capsules, gels, etc. which makes it super easy for you to take benefit of this wonderful plant.
Nuts and Seeds to boost Immunity
1. Black Seed/Nigella Sativa (Kalonji)
Black Seed or popularly known in India as Kalonji, has been a part of ayurvedic medicine for ages. The antioxidant present in Black Seed is thymoquinone which can neutralize free radicals in the body. Thymoquinone also supports the production of immune cells as well as their activity.
My favorite is Orgrain India Organic Raw Black Seeds. These seeds are completely organic with no other flavor or preservative added to them. You can definitely go for these since locally available black seeds often happen to be adulterated.
Black seed may have certain side effects or unwanted reactions if you’re simultaneously using other medications. It’s advisable to consult your doctor before you include black seeds in your diet. If there are no explicit health concerns then Black Seed can be included in your diet after a light roast, mixed with honey or water. You can grind and use it to add flavor to your bread and curry dishes.
Almonds contain Vitamin E, zinc, selenium, flavonoids, and phenolic acid. All these micronutrients and compounds boost immunity by stimulating immune cells and have anti-microbial properties. The fiber in almonds supports healthy bacteria in the gut.
I personally use Happilo 100% Natural Premium California Almonds. Because the best quality almonds come from California and this brand brings you the best almonds without any added preservatives.
Almonds can be eaten in pre-workout meals and added to shakes, smoothies, and oats. You can use almonds as toppings on your cakes or custard. This makes almonds an amazing source of immunity and also very easy to consume.
3. Sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds contain phenolic acids, flavonoids, lignans, zinc, and vitamin E. All these micronutrients help in boosting immunity and also protect against free radicals and oxidization. Fiber present in sunflower seeds boosts gut health.
I love these True Elements Sunflower Seeds because they are completely natural and organic. I carry these around daily and use them regularly.
You can include sunflower seeds in your diet by sprinkling them over whatever foods you generally eat. Sprinkling sunflower seeds over salads and vegetables can be great.
These immunity-boosting foods are not a replacement for a healthy nourishing diet. This information is only for educational purposes. If you fall sick, you should see your physician and not rely on these foods as a replacement for proper medical treatment either.
Your best bet against chronic diseases is a fit body and healthy metabolism. You must incorporate these foods consistently in your diet for the long term to experience benefits. Avoid habits and foods that compromise your immune system and health.