Now more than ever, it’s important to fuel ourselves with foods that will bolster immune health
, giving us a better chance of warding off potential illnesses. We all know by eating fresh, wholesome foods packed with nutrients, we’re supplying our bodies with the proper vitamins and minerals to build a stronger defense system.
Despite this knowledge, our busy lives often make it difficult to consistently follow a nutrient-rich diet. One great (and fairly easy!) way to incorporate healthier foods into our days is to re-think snacks
. Instead of reaching for packaged, processed options like crackers and cookies, tweak your menu to include immune boosting bites.
Here are 10 of the best snacks that boost immune system health.
1. Greek yogurt
Packed with probiotics, thick and rich Greek yogurt is glorious for gut health
. The naturally occurring bacteria in Greek yogurt helps to build good bacteria in your gut, strengthening your stomach lining and protecting against invading bad bacteria. Greek yogurt is also a great source of calcium and protein and acts as a perfect blank canvas for healthy snacking. Sweeten your serving with a dollop of honey
for an added antibacterial kick
, or toss in a handful of seeds for added texture and nutrients.
2. Seed medley
A lot like trail mix, a seed medley is not only quick and easy to make and take, it’s also a great addition to other snacks, such as Greek yogurt. Include the below seeds for an immunity-boosting bite!
Pumpkin seeds are loaded with zinc
– a major player in proper immune system functioning (with deficiencies linked to impairments in the way our immune cells function). Zinc keeps skin and mucosal cells healthy, which helps to safeguard our skin, or our ‘physical barrier’ to invading viruses.
Sunflower seeds are quick to grab and great for loading up on vitamins and minerals. Rich in phosphorus, magnesium and vitamins B-6 and E, sunflower seeds
seem to harness the power of the sun itself! Vitamin E is an antioxidant and is crucial in regulating and maintaining immune system function (especially regarding T-cells
Toss your seed medley on top of salads, or try toasting them with avocado oil
and salt for a satisfying snack!
Another good source of vitamin E, almonds are packed with nutrients (including iron and protein) that are vital to a properly functioning immune system. Almonds are full of healthy fats, fiber, magnesium, manganese – and almond skins have been shown
to exhibit antiviral activity and immunomodulatory effects.
You can enjoy almonds
anyway you like, whether it’s a raw (or roasted) handful, as a tall glass of cool almond milk, as a thick and delicious almond butter spread
– or as part of that Seed Medley mentioned above.
4. Salsa (with a healthy chip alternative)
Tomatoes are rich in the antioxidant, lycopene, a type of plant pigment which has shown to enhance immune system functioning by protecting virus-fighting cells
from damage. Cooked tomatoes contain more lycopene than raw, so opt for a salsa based on a cooked recipe. And of course, grab a healthy chip alternative (like multigrain tortilla chips
) for even more immunity-boosting power!
Try cooking your own tomatoes
and drizzle with garlic, chilies and olive oil, as healthy fats boost your body’s ability to absorb lycopene.
5. Fresh veggie platter
We all know veggies are one of the healthiest snacks but the prep involved can eat up time (especially with more than a few different veggies. Focus on these two veggies below, and look for a good hummus
for a quick and easy hit of immunity boosting goodness.
6. Red peppers
When it comes to healthy veggies, the brighter the better. Red peppers (and other colorful veggies) are loaded with beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant
improving everything from cognitive functioning and skin health to immune-system functioning (especially when beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A).
Broccoli is a cruciferous (related to the cabbage family) vegetable and that means it boasts unique plant compounds called isothiocyanates. Among other benefits (such as reducing inflammation and oxidative stress), isothiocyanates have shown to stimulate the immune system. Broccoli is also packed with the immune-boosting vitamins, A, C and E.
8. Fresh fruit salad
Another simple snack that requires a slice of time to prepare, fruit salads
are the perfect answer to summer heat and the sweetest path to a super-powered immune system.
Blueberries + red grapes
Much like veggies, colorful fruits are also packed with immune-boosting powers. In a 2013 study from Oregon State University
, scientists found that the pigments in red grapes and blueberries increased the expression of the CAMP gene, which helps to regulate the immune system. The pigments (such as stilbenoids
) in the fruit worked in synergy with vitamin D, adding more weight to the idea that the sunshine vitamin is crucial for a healthy immune system. Sunshine and blueberries, anyone?
This tropical fruit is loaded with immune-boosting vitamin C, in fact, double the recommended amount in just a single medium-sized fruit. Papaya
also carries a powerful anti-inflammatory digestive enzyme called papain, as well as potassium, magnesium and folate.
A tiny powerhouse of essential nutrients, including folate, potassium, vitamin K, and vitamin C, kiwis are a must-include fruit in your salad. Vitamin C is known to boost white blood cell count that assists in fighting infections, while the other nutrients help keep the rest of your body functioning properly.
7. Orange juice
Citrus fruits are a great way to get a solid helping of vitamin C, a key vitamin in boosting immune function
. Vitamin C is the all-around champion when it comes to staving off cold and flu viruses, and so, the most efficient way to get this antioxidant into you is in liquid form.
Try drinking a glass of orange juice each morning to start the day, or enjoy one as a cool treat in the afternoon. For a fun twist, try this delicious Orange-Mango Ice Pop recipe
Both green and black teas
are packed with protective antioxidants called polyphenols (and more specifically, flavonoids), each with different benefits. Green tea contains high levels of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which has been shown to enhance immune function
. Black tea is a rich source of theaflavins, which are believed to support the body’s natural antioxidant production.
Try a fresh cup of black tea in the morning, and wind down with a tall glass of green tea in the afternoon.
Known as one of the healthiest grains on the planet, oats are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – the most notable being avenanthramides (which contribute to anti-inflammatory and anti-itching activity
Oats are also unique in that they contain high levels of beta-glucan
(sugars found in the cell walls of bacteria fungi, yeasts, algae, lichens and plants, such as oats and barley) which has a number of immune-boosting benefits including:
Reduced LDL and total cholesterol levels
Reduced blood sugar and insulin response
Increased growth of good bacteria in the digestive tract
Eat a bowl of oatmeal
in the morning (with your cold glass of orange juice or cup of hot black tea) to not only boost your immunities, but keep you fuller for longer.
10. Whey protein
An excellent protein source, whey protein
is one of the most studied supplements on the market. Although popular with body-builders and fitness models, whey protein isn’t just a great muscle-builder/fat-burner – it also offers some solid immune system boosting strength.
Rich in cysteine
, (a key amino acid that allows the body to create the potent antioxidant, glutathione),
whey protein helps the body replenish glutathione levels
to build a stronger defense against bugs.
Lastly, whey protein contains two components: beta-lactoglobulin and alpha-lactalbumin both of which are known to stimulate the production of neutrophils,
a type of white blood cell involved in fighting off infection.
Add a scoop of whey protein to smoothies
, your bowl of oatmeal or your helping of Greek yogurt for immune (and muscle) building power.