The Best Immune System Strengthening Foods

The immune system is responsible for keeping the body healthy and protecting against sicknesses and infections. When someone has a poor immune system, due to a disease such as AIDS or cancer, they are more likely to get sick easily. Some people naturally have weaker immune systems, while others work in an environment that is full of germs, such as a school or daycare. Regardless of what you do for a living, you can help to build your immune system and protect your body by eating the right foods.

Two kids are eating oranges. (Image: Marc Debnam/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Olive Oil

Olive oil helps to build the immune system because it's full of monounsaturated fats. According to the Cleveland Clinic, these types of fats help to strengthen the immune system, while other types of fats like that saturated fat in margarine may actually be harmful. Use olive oil in salad dressings and when cooking fish or chicken. You can also drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil onto sautéed vegetables to make them healthier and taste richer. Though olive oil is healthy for the immune system, it's also high in calories so it's important not to overdo it. One to 2 tbsp. of olive oil in foods each day is sufficient for strengthening the immune system.


According to Dr. Bill Sears, a professor at the University of California at Irvine, oranges are truly one of the best foods to eat when you start to feel sick and want to speed up your recovery. This is because they are rich in vitamin C, with about 75 mg per medium orange, states Dr. Sears. His website states that vitamin C stimulates the production of white blood cells, which prevent viruses from harming the body and fight off infections. Oranges also contain vitamin A, another antioxidant with immune-boosting capabilities.


Instead of only eating turkey at Thanksgiving time, eating it year-round may help to build up the immune system. Both white and dark meat turkey are rich in the mineral zinc. Dr. Bill Sears states that zinc increases the number of T-cells, which fight infections in the body. He recommends consuming 15 to 25 mg of zinc a day for a strong immune system and states that 3 oz. of dark meat turkey has 3.8 mg, while white meat turkey has just slightly less.


Broccoli is another healthy food for boosting the immune system. It's full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which prevent free radical damage to the body. The Cleveland Clinic states that pollution, excess exposure to sunlight and cigarette smoke all damage the immune system by releasing free radicals. Yet eating vegetables such as broccoli helps to negate that damage and keep the immune system strong. Broccoli can be steamed, sautéed, grilled or even eaten raw with dressing for taste.

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