Eat for Your Immune System

Follow these tips for how to eat your way to a stronger immune system

Ivey Leidy enjoying her immunity bowl, photo by Kent Anderson
Photography by Kent Anderson

The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates famously mused: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” In our current environment, this credo has never been more vital and the immune system has never felt more important. A complex network of white blood cells, tissues, and organs like the spleen, tonsils, and lymph nodes, the immune system is essential for our survival, defending us against bacteria, viruses, parasites, and disease. 

Luckily, nature has provided us with key nutrients and vitamins to support this system that keeps us strong and healthy. The main fuels that boost our immunity are antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C, D, E, and zinc, all of which protect our cells from free radicals and damage. 

In addition to diet, there are numerous other ways to boost your immune system. As little as 20 minutes a day of exercise, for example, can promote good circulation and stimulate the immune system. Water helps to flush out toxins through the lymphatic system. Ensuring you get good quality sleep can also restore the body; in fact, infection-fighting molecules are produced while we rest. Finally, practicing self-care is of the utmost importance as stress and high cortisol levels can suppress the immune system. Consider regularly making time for self-care activities such as massages, facials, and meditation.  

Vitamin A-Rich FoodsVitamin A-Rich Foods

What they do: Support the body’s production of white blood cells (infection fighters).

Examples: Salmon, eggs, sweet potato, kale, carrots, squash, mango, cantaloupe

Vitamin C-Rich FoodsVitamin C-Rich Foods

What they do: Defend the body against germs, bacteria, and viruses.

Examples: Broccoli, tomatoes, brussels sprouts, bell peppers, citrus, berries, spinach 

Vitamin D-Rich FoodsVitamin D-Rich Foods

What they do: Regulate antimicrobial proteins that ward off pathogens.

Examples: Salmon, tuna, eggs, mushrooms


Vitamin E-Rich Foods

Vitamin E-Rich Foods

What they do: Protect immune cells from oxidation.

Examples: Sunflower seeds, almonds, brazil nuts, pine nuts, avocados


Zinc-Rich Foods

What they do: Help make protein and fight off bacteria and viruses.

Examples: Shrimp, crab, oysters, oats, lentils, chickpeas, black beans, cashews, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds

Antimicrobial & Antibacterial Foods

Antimicrobial & Antibacterial Foods

What they do: Prevent and treat illnesses.

Examples: Garlic, honey, ginger, turmeric, echinacea, oregano

Immune-Boosting Recipes

Immunity Bowl ingredients, photography by Kent Anderson

Immunity Bowl


1 head broccoli

4 tbsp. olive oil, divided

1 garlic clove, minced 

1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced

1 shallot, sliced

6 wild shrimp, cleaned and deveined

1 cup kale, chopped

1/2 avocado, sliced

1 tbsp. hemp seeds

Salt and pepper to taste

Assembling the immunity bowl, photo by Kent Anderson


» Using a food processor, pulse broccoli into rice (yields approximately 2 cups). Over medium heat, add 1 tbsp. of olive oil and broccoli rice to a cast-iron skillet. Sauté broccoli rice for 6-8 minutes until soft. Add in minced garlic and 1 additional tbsp. of olive oil and sauté for 2 more minutes. Set aside.

» In a separate pan, add 1 tbsp. olive oil, sliced red bell pepper, and shallot. Cook for 6 minutes, until shallots and peppers are caramelized. Set aside.

» Pat dry shrimp and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Using remaining 1 tbsp. of olive oil, coat a cast-iron skillet and cook shrimp over medium-high heat for 3 minutes on each side.

» Massage chopped kale with drizzle of olive oil and salt. Arrange bowl with sautéed broccoli rice, peppers, shallots, massaged kale, sliced avocado, and shrimp. Drizzle with Lemon Dijon Drizzle and garnish with hemp seeds.

Lemon Dijon

2 tbsp. lemon juice (1/2 a lemon)

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. honey

1/4 cup olive oil

» Whisk together all ingredients, adding in olive oil last and gradually to emulsify.

Immune Booster Juice, photo by Kent Anderson

Immune Booster Juice

1 pineapple

1 orange 

1-inch cube of fresh ginger root

2-inch piece of fresh turmeric 

» Run each ingredient through a centrifugal juicer. You could also use a blender but would then need to strain after blending. Transfer to jug and stir before serving.

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