Immune Boosting Foods

Cold and flu season aren’t over just yet (not to mention the COVID-19 pandemic) and in addition to good handwashing techniques, you can help to boost your immune system through the foods that you eat. 

Vitamin C is an antioxidant (stops oxidation/damage to cells) and helps your body to better absorb iron. Both of these functions are important for your immune system. You’ll find vitamin C in foods like:

  • Citrus fruits (oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes, and grapefruit)
  • Red bell peppers
  • Papaya 
  • Mango
  • Spinach and other dark leafy greens
  • Broccoli
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes

Zinc is an important part of making protein for the healing process. Some zinc containing foods include:

  • Beef
  • Dark meat chicken
  • Pork chops
  • Crab
  • Clams
  • Chickpeas
  • Hemp seeds
  • Lentils
  • Oatmeal

Vitamin E is also an antioxidant. It also helps keep your immune system strong against viruses and other bacteria because it helps with the creation of your red blood cells. Vitamin E is found in: 

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Avocados
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Rainbow trout
  • Kiwi

Flavonoids rich in antioxidants and can help your body stay healthy and possibly decrease your risk of some chronic health conditions. Various flavonoids are found in:

  • Green tea
  • Black tea
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Elderberries

Check out the following recipes for a few ways to include some of these immune-boosting foods in your diet. Recipes from MayoClinic.org. 

Fresh Fruit Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh pineapple chunks
  • 1/2 cup cantaloupe or other melon chunks
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries
  • Juice of 2 oranges
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Directions

Remove rind from pineapple and melon. Cut into chunks. Remove stems from strawberries. Place all ingredients in blender and puree until smooth. Serve cold.

Fresh Fruit Kebabs

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces low-fat, sugar-free lemon yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 4 pineapple chunks (about 1/2 inch each)
  • 4 strawberries
  • 1 kiwi, peeled and quartered
  • 1/2 banana, cut into 4 1/2-inch chunks
  • 4 red grapes
  • 4 wooden skewers

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, lime juice and lime zest. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Thread 1 of each fruit onto the skewer. Repeat with the other skewers until the fruit is gone. Serve with the lemon lime dip.

Whole-Wheat Blueberry Pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cup white whole-wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/3 cup skim milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen whole blueberries

Directions

In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, sugar and cinnamon together.

In another bowl, beat milk, egg and oil together. Add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture, and stir until the flour is moistened.

Add blueberries and stir gently.

Coat a griddle or skillet with cooking spray and heat to medium-high heat. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto the hot griddle and cook until browned. Flip and brown the other side.

Written by Keri Smith, Lead Dietitian

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