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29+ Immune-Boosting Super Foods To Jumpstart Our Health

Lifestyle

| LAST UPDATE 06/02/2022

by Lia Thomson

Sometimes we find ourselves feeling a tad tired, run-down, or under the weather. Luckily, updating our grocery list can help! Here are some superfoods that can boost our immune systems and help us feel our best.

Watermelon

A slice of cool, juicy watermelon on a hot summer's day can be an absolute dream. But this seasonal fruit isn't just the ultimate thirst-quencher - it also has an array of important health benefits.

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Because it has minimal fats or calories and is comprised of 91% water, it’s a very healthy treat. It is high in potassium which helps the nervous system, and contains vitamins A and C - which can reduce the risk of cancer. It also contains the antioxidant lycopene, which protects cells from damage.

Açaí Berries

In recent years, these small dark purple berries have become a superfood hit around the world. The açaí berry is native to Brazil and other South American countries and has long been a staple food for various indigenous communities in this region - and for good reason!

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These tasty berries are often used in Açaí bowls and smoothies, but nutritionists recommend they be paired with extra fruits, nuts, seeds, and yogurt, as opposed to chocolate and sugary treats. Açaí berries contain the antioxidant polyphenol, which can help to prevent diseases and cell damage.

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Bell Peppers

Next on our list of immune-boosting superfoods is the humble bell pepper, with its subtle flavor and vibrant color. These peppers (which are often called vegetables but are actually a fruit!) are native to Mexico and Central America and are lauded by nutritionists for their health benefits.

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For example, just half a cup of chopped bell peppers in a meal will deliver close to the total daily recommendation of vitamin C. Though this may not seem like much to some, vitamin C is needed to regulate our white blood cells - which is essential in helping the body fight off harmful pathogens.

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Ginger

When we think of ginger, it summons up images of rich-smelling sweets like gingerbread and spiced cakes. But this special spice has uses far beyond sweets and baked goods - it is also used in cuisines across the world, particularly in Asian cultures, for its astounding healthy attributes.

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For thousands of years, ginger has been used for its medicinal properties, and modern medicine has found much to support its immune-boosting benefits. For example, one of its compounds known as gingerol has anti-inflammatory effects, and it also has plenty of antioxidants that prevent cellular damage and oxidative stress.

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Garlic

This herb is so famously strong and pungent that it has long been associated with vampires! Thankfully, garlic isn’t going to kill any of us humans - in fact, it does quite the opposite. Scientific studies have shown that this useful bulb has numerous benefits for our immune system.

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It may surprise some to know that eating copious portions of garlic and similar herbs and vegetables can reduce the risk of gastric cancer. When crushed, this herb also creates a compound called allicin which may be useful in treating bacterial, fungal, and viral infections that cannot be curbed with drugs.

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Pomegranate

For thousands of years, the glorious pomegranate has held a significant symbolic position in many cultures and religions. For example, it is said by some to be the “forbidden fruit” mentioned in the biblical description of the Garden of Eden. But nutritionists will tell us that the last thing a pomegranate should be is “forbidden.”

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That’s because this beautiful fruit has been purported to contain the potentially-antioxidant compound polyphenol, and may also help to prevent cancer and other lethal diseases in humans. It is also believed to have the potential to help Alzheimer’s patients by boosting their cognitive abilities.

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Spinach

Spinach truly is a green gift from the Gods. Sure, it might not have quite as much iron as Popeye the Sailor Man, but it still boasts plenty of great health benefits that should ensure it a place in anyone's vegetable drawer. Not to mention it's also an excellent addition to SO many recipes around the world.

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Many excellent vitamins and minerals can be found in this plant's tender leaves, including vitamin A, C, and K, and magnesium, iron, and potassium. Of these nutrients, the most notable are magnesium, which facilitates energy metabolism to boost our immune system, and potassium, which can lower blood pressure and sodium levels.

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Turmeric

Throughout Asia, the vivid and valuable root known as turmeric has been used in countless recipes and remedies, even if it has only recently caught on in western countries. Of course, there is much more to this spice than orange lattes and smoothies - as it has been an invaluable ingredient for many cultures throughout history.

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In particular, its medicinal uses have been noted for centuries. This is largely due to curcumin, which turmeric is made out of. Curcumin is believed to help reduce inflammation by significant amounts, which is important as inflammation can weaken the immune system and increase the likelihood of cancer and arthritis.

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Eggs

For those of us who love eggs on toast for breakfast but feel a little guilty for consuming so many of them, try not to worry too much. After all, chicken eggs are one of the most ubiquitous staple foods on the planet - with millions of people eating them every day in countless different types of dishes.

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And it’s not just a great source of protein - it also contains riboflavin, a vitamin believed to support cell growth and function, as well as choline, which promotes cell metabolism. As if that’s not enough, one serving of eggs meets half the recommended daily dose of vitamin B12, which keeps our nerves and blood cells healthy.

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Oysters

While many of us know these murky mollusks as a powerful aphrodisiac, there’s a lot more to love about oysters than just, well… love. And no, we aren’t talking about the gorgeous, glossy pearls they produce for us to make into jewelry. We’re talking about their properties as a superfood and immune booster!

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Not only are oysters super low calorie, but they’re nutritious too. They contain plenty of protein and iron, helping the body to produce hemoglobin. Scientific studies also suggest that they contain amino acids and serotonin, which are “integral in the neural pathway of the pleasure response,” according to Sexual Medicine Reviews.

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Green Tea

Though it’s not super popular in every country, tea is actually the most consumed drink in the world - after water, that is. And one type of tea that has begun to take the world by storm due to its perceived health benefits is green tea, which has been a popular drink in East Asian countries for centuries.

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Green tea goes through the process of oxidation, where tea leaves retain antioxidants and polyphenols, both of which help to boost the immune system. Catechins are an antioxidant in green tea that prevent cellular damage, and green tea has been connected to reduced risk of stroke, low cholesterol, and cancer treatment.

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Broccoli

These tiny, crunchy little trees look fun, but they are also extremely useful vegetables that are a staple in many cuisines around the world, particularly in the Mediterranean. Few will be surprised to learn that broccoli is a super nutritious superfood that can bring many benefits to a person's eating plan.

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Broccoli is loaded with health properties - for example, half a cup of this vegetable has over the daily value of vitamin K, an essential vitamin for bone health. It also has plenty of immune-boosting vitamin C that can help to fight off disease and fiber and fats, which make it an excellent base for a well-rounded meal.

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Mushrooms

There’s no denying that mushrooms are a fascinating food - and though everyone isn’t a fan of their texture, they certainly make a great addition to many recipes, including various soups, pies, and casseroles. But they haven’t always been primarily used as food - in some cultures, edible fungi are prized for their medicinal properties.

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Various scientific studies have been done on the benefits of mushrooms. And they have found links between mushroom components and their potential usage as inflammation and cancer treatments - particularly due to the chemical polysaccharides, which can slow the growth of tumors and the anti-inflammatory compound selenium.

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Honey

These days everyone knows that honey bees are essential for the environment, but it turns out the honey they produce might be just as helpful! As one of the oldest foods known to man, it should be no surprise to learn that this “liquid gold” has health and medicinal properties that have been observed for millennia.

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Above all kinds of honey, the healthiest and most nutritious is raw honey, which is not heated or highly processed. Raw honey is darker and contains compounds known as flavonoids that have the potential to be antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral. It also becomes antimicrobial while it is being processed by bees.

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Papaya

This sweet and colorful fruit is a delicious addition to both sweet and savory dishes, and while it is native to Mexico and parts of South America, it is also a venerated addition to any southeast Asian dishes. While the tropical papaya is beloved for its taste, it is also adored for its immune-boosting properties.

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For example, a person can achieve their daily vitamin C intake with just one helping of a papaya! Vitamin C aids the functioning of our immune systems. Papaya also contains beta-carotene, which may help to fend off cancer, and the fruit has even been linked to aiding digestion due to the enzyme papain.

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Salmon

There are so many species of fish in the world’s oceans, and though most fish are a great addition to a healthy menu, some are more beneficial than others. Take the regal salmon, for example, which has been lauded for its high protein and concentration of essential omega-3 fatty acids.

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Omega-3 fatty acids are highly recommended for healthy and well-rounded eating plan as they are anti-inflammatory in boosting brain health. In particular, salmon is a source of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). To reap the benefits of these omega-3 fatty acids, nutritionists recommend two servings a week.

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Elderberry

Sometimes scientists don’t always know best! Just take the delicate elderberry, a plant that has long been cherished in Europe for its medicinal properties. Just recently, the scientific community has taken an interest in the elder tree and its flowers and berries due to its potential health benefits.

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For example, it has been discovered that a small dose of elderberry syrup taken throughout the day can drastically shorten the duration of the flu or of flu-like symptoms. This is likely due to its vitamin C concentration and the possibility that it can inhibit viral reproduction.

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Blueberries

For people who love the burst of flavor packed into these tiny sapphire berries, they’ll be pleased to know that they're doing their immune system a favor as much as their taste buds! In fact, blueberries are one of the healthiest berries in the world due to their amazing health properties.

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Blueberries contain phytochemical compounds, plenty of fiber, and lots of vitamin A too. This means they can contribute to cellular protection, anti-inflammation, protecting the intestine and thus the digestive system, and generally supporting a person's immune system, amongst many other benefits.

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Sweet Potatoes

Whether they are enjoyed in a savory curry, a tasty pie, or as a delicious dessert topping, the versatile sweet potato is a great choice for almost any eating plan. Not just because of their taste but because they contain the antioxidant beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A.

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This vitamin has been linked to healthy immune function and eye health. Sweet potatoes also contain vitamin C, which is vital to strengthen the body’s immune system and also to maintain the body’s natural healing processes. Potassium is also present in this root vegetable, which contributes to many of the body’s vital functions.

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Sardines

Salmon isn’t the only fish that can go a long way in boosting our immune system. Sardines, also known as pilchards, also have a laundry list of benefits due to their healthy vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids. They can also be used in a multitude of surprising ways, from salads to pies, to curries and pizza topping!

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Sardines are packed with vitamin B2 and B12, vitamin D, niacin, potassium, calcium, selenium, and phosphorus! They also contain the aforementioned omega-3 fatty acids that make salmon such a popular health food - but unlike many other fish species, sardines contain relatively little mercury, making them healthy and safe to eat.

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Tomatoes

Not only are these bright red fruits an aesthetically pleasing and delicious food staple around the world, but like other foodstuffs on this list, they're very healthy too! Tomatoes are chock-full of essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, C, potassium, and the antioxidant compound lycopene.

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Instagram via @thedbkitchen

This rare compound has been researched intensely due to its potential for warding off cancer, reducing the risk of male stroke, boosting the immune system, preventing blood clots, and improving vascular health. With all of those good things packed into one compound, there are no doubt tomatoes should be an essential part of any person's meals.

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Apples

We all know the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but there may be more truth to it than we thought! These days there has been plenty of research done to verify that these fruits really do improve our health, largely due to the antioxidants they contain.

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These antioxidants prevent cellular damage, particularly oxidative stress, which can lead to cancer and other diseases. Consumption of apples has also been liked to lesser risk of thrombotic stroke and improved bowel health due to the presence of pectin. Nutritionists recommend eating apples with their nutritious peel left on.

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Oranges

As many of us know, we usually can’t compare apples and oranges. But what about when it comes to their nutritional value and health benefits? Well, it seems the fruits are pretty close. Oranges are packed with vitamin C, an essential vitamin for boosting the immune system.

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These bright round fruits have also been linked to increased collagen production in the skin and improved eye health. According to a study carried out by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating an orange a day may lower the chances of developing macular degeneration, which causes vision loss.

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Greek Yogurt

Many cultures have celebrated the virtues of yogurt, but it’s only recently the dairy product has taken off around the world. In particular, people are going crazy for Greek yogurt, which has gained a reputation for being a staple superfood. Due to its straining process, the yogurt has less sugar and more protein than most yogurts.

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But that isn’t the only reason this yogurt is so good for health - it is also packed with probiotics, which help to strengthen and improve our digestive system, which may also boost our immune system overall as a result. Some studies even suggest that probiotic products like Greek yogurt can also fight gastrointestinal illnesses.

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Miso Soup

For a long time, miso soup was just a thing we got on the side at a Japanese eatery (unless one lived in Japan, of course). But today, many people around the world have tuned into the well-researched health benefits of this soup, which is made from fermented soybeans that develop probiotic bacterias during the fermenting process.

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As we know from Greek yogurt, probiotics help to improve the digestive system. But miso is also chock-full of useful vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K, folic acid, and plenty of protein. However, as delicious and nutritious as miso may be, it also has a high sodium content, so miso paste should be eaten sparingly.

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Ginseng

For years ginseng has been used in tea, particularly by Asian cultures, but not so much for its nutritional value. Instead, this root was steeped and brewed in hot water to create a herbal tea that harnessed its medicinal properties. The two most common types of ginseng are American and Asian, and both can be condensed into pills.

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Ginseng is most lauded for a compound it contains, known as ginsenosides. Research shows that it can halt cellular damage to the body via its antioxidant properties and can protect the immune system by lessening the effect of colds and other infections. It is also believed to boost concentration and mental performance.

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Almonds

These days it is almond milk that gets all of the attention, but people around the world still love these hard, brown little nuts. And it’s not just for their sweet and mild taste! Despite their small size, almonds are packed with nutrients, including protein, fiber, vitamin A and E, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids.

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Due to these components, almonds have a wide array of fantastic health benefits - they can reduce the risk of heart disease and improve the health of the hair and skin. They also aid digestion, lower cholesterol and relieve oxidative stress that can lead to a range of chronic diseases, including cataracts and diabetes.

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Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds make a tasty and convenient snack, and throughout history, they have even been used for useful staple foods, such as being ground into flour or turned into sunflower oil. But versatility isn’t the only discovery that has been made about them - research shows that they also have many beneficial health properties.

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These tough little seeds contain vitamin E and B6, phosphorus, selenium, and magnesium. As a result, the consumption of sunflower seeds can help to maintain and regulate a person's immune system. Research is also being done to track their effectiveness in protecting against viral infections, like swine flu.

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Kiwi

Originally native to southwest China, the vibrant kiwi has since spread throughout the world, particularly in New Zealand and the United States. As the fruit has become more and more popular around the world, people have become aware of its usefulness as a superfood - after all, kiwi contains essential vitamins and nutrients.

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These include vitamin C and K, potassium, and folate. In fact, kiwi is known for its exceptionally high levels of vitamin C, which relieves oxidative stress, helps the immune system to function properly, and helps to fight infections. Vitamin E also plays an important part in maintaining immune health.

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Poultry

Chicken and turkey are two of the most delicious kinds of poultry, but most people don’t immediately think of them as immune-boosting ingredients. But why else do we associate chicken noodle soup with colds and flu? It’s not just because it is so comforting - it’s because poultry can genuinely help us feel better.

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Poultry products like chicken and turkey are very high in protein, which is essential for health, and also high in vitamin B-6 and zinc. Zinc helps to strengthen the immune system, whereas vitamin B-6 is essential for the formation of red blood cells and helps to protect our body against infection.

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