10 Foods That Can Boost Your Immune System

10 Foods That Can Boost Your Immune System

7. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a category of fats with antimicrobial properties.

The most common type of MCT found in coconut oil is lauric acid, which is converted into a substance known as monolaurin during digestion.

Both lauric acid and monolaurin have the ability to kill harmful viruses, bacteria and fungi (43).

For instance, researchers report that coconut fats may help fight off the types of bacteria that cause stomach ulcers, sinusitis, dental cavities, food poisoning and urinary tract infections (44).

Researchers also believe that coconut oil may be effective against the viruses responsible for influenza and hepatitis C. It may also help fight Candida albicans, a common cause of yeast infections in humans (44, 45, 46).

You can easily add coconut oil to your diet by using it instead of butter or vegetable oils in cooking or baking.

Consuming up to two tablespoons (30 ml) per day should leave enough room to continue including other healthy fats in your diet, such as avocados, nuts, olives and linseed oil.

However, you might want to increase your intake gradually to avoid the nausea or loose stools that can occur with high intakes.

Bottom Line: The type of fat found in coconuts may help protect you against various viral, bacterial and fungal infections.

8. Licorice

Licorice is a spice made from the dried root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant.

It has been used in traditional herbal medicine in Asia and Europe for thousands of years.

Studies show that licorice has the ability to fight some fungi and bacteria, including E. coli, Candida albicans and Staphylococcus aureus (47).

Licorice may also be able to fight the viruses responsible for the flu, gastroenteritis and polio (47, 48).

That said, many products containing licorice are also very high in sugar. Those trying to reduce their sugar intake should look for lower-sugar options, such as licorice tea.

In addition, consuming too much licorice may have a number of adverse effects, including high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythm and an increased risk of premature birth (49, 50, 51).

Individuals at risk of these should limit their consumption.

Bottom Line: Licorice may help your body fight various viruses, bacteria and fungi. However, excessive intake may increase the risk of certain adverse effects, including high blood pressure.

9. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are incredibly nutrient-rich.

They're rich in selenium, copper, vitamin E and zinc, among other nutrients. All of these play a role in maintaining a healthy immune system (52, 53, 54, 55, 56).

Sesame seeds and almonds are particularly good sources of copper and vitamin E, while pumpkin seeds and cashews are rich in zinc.

As for selenium, you can meet your daily requirement by eating just a single Brazil nut per day.

Nuts and seeds are also great sources of fiber, antioxidants and healthy fats, all of which are beneficial for health (57, 58, 59).

Bottom Line: Nuts and seeds are good sources of selenium, copper, vitamin E and zinc, all of which play an important role in immune health.

10. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are not only delicious—they're also rich in vitamin A.

Not consuming enough foods rich in vitamin A can lead to a deficiency, which studies link to a weaker immune system and a higher sensitivity to infections (60).

For instance, one study reports that vitamin-A-deficient children were 35 percent more likely to suffer from respiratory symptoms, compared to those with normal vitamin A levels (61).

Another study reports that giving infants vitamin A supplements may help improve their response to certain vaccines (62).

However, excessive vitamin A intake can lead to adverse effects such as nausea, headaches, weaker bones, coma and even premature death—especially if you take the vitamin A in supplement form (63).

High intakes of vitamin A supplements during pregnancy may also increase the risk of birth defects. Therefore, it might be safest to meet your vitamin A requirements through diet instead of supplements (63).

Besides sweet potatoes, other foods that are high in vitamin A include carrots, dark-green leafy vegetables, squash, romaine lettuce, dried apricots, red peppers, fish and organ meats.

Bottom Line: Sweet potatoes and other vitamin-A-rich foods may help boost the immune system and lower the likelihood of infection.

Immunity-Boosting Supplements

A well-functioning immune system requires a good intake of various nutrients.

People consuming a well-balanced diet rich in the foods described above should have no difficulty reaching their daily requirements.

However, some may be unable to meet their recommended daily nutrient intakes through diet alone.

If this is the case for you, consider adding the following supplements to your diet:

  • Probiotics: Ideally Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium strains in amounts between 2–3 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) per day (64).
  • Vitamin C: Consider taking about 75–90 mg per day. Increasing your daily dose to up to 1 gram per day may provide extra benefits during illness (19, 65).
  • A multivitamin: Look for one containing iron, zinc, copper, vitamin E and selenium in amounts sufficient to help you meet 100 percent of the RDIs.
  • Zinc lozenges: Doses of at least 75 mg per day at the first onset of cold symptoms may help reduce the duration of the infection (66).

In addition, low blood levels of vitamin D may increase the risk of respiratory infections, including the flu, sinus infections and bronchitis (66).

Therefore, those living in northern climates, where sunlight is limited, might also want to consume at least 600 IU (15 mcg) from vitamin D supplements per day (67).

Bottom Line: The supplements above may help boost immune function in individuals who are unable to meet their daily nutrient requirements through diet alone.

Take Home Message

Your diet plays an important role in the strength of your immune system.

Regularly consuming the foods listed above may help reduce how frequently you get sick and may help you recover from illness more quickly.

Those unable to add these foods to their diets might want to consider taking supplements thought to have immunity-boosting properties.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.

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