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30 Best Immune-Boosting Foods

Act fast and stock up on your nutrients.
Sliced red bell pepper

As the coronavirus spreads across the country and the world, you might be wondering how to stop the virus. And while there aren't foods that can prevent you from contracting the coronavirus, there are ways to make viral symptoms less painful. In the same way you'd do during flu season, now's a great time to load up on nutrients like vitamin C, as well as to practice hygiene measures like proper hand-washing.

Of course, the best way to stop coronavirus is by practicing social distancing and staying home as much as possible. But you can also protect your body from coughing and sniffles by loading up on these 30 immune-boosting foods. And while you're keeping yourself healthy, be sure to avoid these 100 Worst Foods for Cold and Flu.

1

Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken broth soup
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Chicken soup is a staple for surviving cold and flu season, and not just because the warm comfort food is a nostalgic throwback to mom taking care of you. According to the University of California Los Angeles, this soup has an anti-inflammatory effect and calms down inflammation in the upper respiratory tract that takes place when you develop a cold. The university also noted that the soup helps relieve nasal congestion.

2

Ginger Tea

Ginger tea
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When it comes to treating a common cold, ginger is one of the best foods for relief. In a review published in the International Journal of Preventative Medicine, researchers summarized that ginger's potent anti-inflammatory properties were key in the root's powers to combat a cold or flu. Because inflammation can affect your body's immune response, anti-inflammatory ginger can play a key role in boosting your immunity.

3

Turmeric

Turmeric powder on wooden spoon
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This spice is more than just a delicious kick to your next dinnertime meal; it contains a powerful anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin. (This same compound is what lends turmeric its signature vibrant orange-yellow color.) According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Immunology, curcumin activates the production of T-cells, which are the main cells fighting for your health in your immune system.

4

Oranges

orange slices
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Oranges are packed with vitamin C, an essential nutrient when you're feeling under the weather. According to a review conducted by the National Center for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University, vitamin C is helpful in preventing the common cold for people exposed to sickness-inducing environments, such as cold weather. It can also help lower the duration and severity of a cold.

5

Water

water in glass
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When you're feeling sick, good ol' H2O can be one of the most helpful drinks to sip on. Staying hydrated can help loosen trapped mucus, according to The Mayo Clinic. Try drinking at least the recommended eight glasses of water a day to keep yourself fully hydrated, as we tend to lose more fluids when we're sick, The Mayo Clinic suggests.

6

Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt in bowl with spoon
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Greek yogurt is filled with sickness-fighting probiotics and is packed with more protein than regular yogurt. A meta-analysis published in the Korean Journal of Family Medicine found that probiotics can help to prevent and treat the common cold. The researchers discovered that people who ate probiotics daily had a lower risk of catching a cold than those who did not eat any probiotic-rich food.

7

Blueberries

blueberries
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Blueberries are filled with antioxidants that can help treat and prevent coughs and colds. According to research conducted by the University of Auckland, consuming flavonoids—a class of antioxidants found in blueberries—made adults 33 percent less likely to catch a cold than those who did not eat flavonoid-rich foods or supplements daily.

8

Ginseng Tea

Ginseng tea
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Ginseng tea is popular for more reasons than its delicious taste. Namely, the tea has been used as a treatment for upper respiratory tract infections (a.k.a. the common cold). A review published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal noted that ginseng has been shown to significantly reduce the symptoms of colds and influenza. However, the researchers noted that more research needs to be conducted to support ginseng's immunity-boosting claims fully.

9

Tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes on wooden cutting board
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Tomatoes are a great food to eat when you're sick due to their high concentration of vitamin C. Just one medium tomato contains more than 16 milligrams of vitamin C, which is a proven fuel to your body's immune system. In a German study published by Medizinische Monatsschrift fur Pharmazeuten, vitamin C was shown to be a vital part of the strength of the body's phagocytes and t-cells, two major components of the immune system. The researchers also noted that a deficiency in this nutrient can lead to a weaker immune system and lower resistance to certain pathogens that can lead to illness.

10

Wild Salmon

wild alaska king salmon
Courtesy of Alaska Seafood

Wild salmon is filled with zinc, a nutrient that has been proven to assist with reducing common cold symptoms. If you want your family, and especially your children, to avoid a cold this winter season, then you should be giving them zinc-rich foods. The Journal of Family Practice published a study examining the effects of zinc on the common cold in children ages one to 10 years old. Researchers found that zinc, in comparison to a placebo, significantly reduced the severity and duration of symptoms when taken within 24 hours of the onset of cold symptoms.

The researchers noted that another trial involving children ages 6.5 to 10 years old also proved zinc to be a helpful component in preventing that cold. The children who took 15 milligrams of zinc daily for seven months were found to be significantly less likely to catch a cold during flu season in comparison to those in the control group.

11

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate bar
Simone van der Koelen/Unsplash

Believe it or not, dark chocolate can be extremely helpful in fighting off of a cold. Dark chocolate contains a heavy concentration of theobromine, an antioxidant that has been proven to alleviate coughing. A study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology found that theobromine is helpful in suppressing cough symptoms for people with bronchitis, but notes that more research needs to be done to confirm the findings fully.

RELATED: No-sugar-added recipes you'll actually look forward to eating.

12

Red Peppers

Red bell peppers
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Red peppers are another vitamin C-rich source for fighting colds. A 2013 review noted in a Harvard Health Letter found that consuming 200 milligrams of vitamin C every day cut the risk of getting a cold in half for "extremely active" people. It also cut down the duration of symptoms by eight percent in adults and 14 percent in children.

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13

Broccoli

Broccoli on a wooden cutting board
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The University of California in Los Angeles researchers reported that broccoli can be a great addition to your diet if you're trying to prevent a cold. Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables were proven to help boost immunity, according to the study. Researchers claim that sulforaphane, a chemical in the vegetable, turns on antioxidant genes and enzymes in specific immune cells, which combat free radicals in your body and prevent you from getting sick.

14

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Olive oil
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This oil has been shown to also help rebuild and boost the body's immunity. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that olive oil's high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids act as an anti-inflammatory agent in the body. The acids also assisted in boosting the immune system and guarding the body of infection.

15

Green Tea

green tea being poured into white teacup
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Green tea is not only one of our recommended best teas for weight loss, but it's also one of the best sources for fighting off a cold. It contains flavonoids, an antioxidant that boosts immunity, and it has anti-inflammatory properties, according to a study published in the Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology. The study states that the antioxidant catechin, which is heavily prevalent in green tea, is known to be a powerful antibacterial and antiviral and can kill off cold-starting bacteria and the influenza virus.

16

Spinach

Washed baby spinach leaves
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Spinach is a major superfood that is great for your overall health. Not only is it packed with digestion-regulating fiber, but it also contains vitamin C. A powerful nutrient, vitamin C can assist in preventing the common cold and help reduce symptoms of sickness.

17

Whole Grain Bread

Seeded whole grain bread
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Whole grains contain anti-inflammatory properties, which allows for an increase in production of healthy bacteria, according to a study published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Seventy percent of your immune system lives in your gut, so, it's important to keep it healthy if you want to fend off any cold-causing germs.

18

Eggs

Hard boiled eggs peeled
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Eggs, and especially the yolks, are packed with immunity-boosting nutrients. Eggs contain a high amount of vitamin D, which is vital in regulating and strengthening immunity. According to a study published in the journal JAMA, participants who took a daily serving of vitamin D in the wintertime were less likely to catch a cold or any other upper respiratory tract infection in comparison to those who did not.

19

Garlic

woman-chopping-garlic-on-cutting-board
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Garlic has built a reputation for being one of the best cold-curing foods, and for good reason. A review of the food published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews showed that a group of participants in a study who ate garlic over a three-month period only had 24 cases of the common cold total, a significant decrease in comparison to the 65 cases reported by the control group. However, the researchers noted that more studies need to be conducted in order to validate garlic's true impact on the common cold.

20

Apples

Granny smith apples
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"An apple a day keeps the doctor away" isn't just an old wives' tale—apples actually can help prevent illnesses such as the common cold. This fruit contains phytochemical antioxidants, according to a study published in the Nutrition Journal. These antioxidants help boost immunity and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

21

Nuts

Bowl of nuts
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Most nuts contain vitamin E, another vitamin that's crucial to fighting off sickness. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that taking 50 milligrams of vitamin E daily helped cigarette-smoking men who were 65 years and older living in cities reduce their risk of catching a cold by 28 percent. However, the researchers noted that more studies need to be conducted in order to fully validate vitamin E's potential in preventing colds.

22

Light White Tuna

Canned tuna light
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Like salmon, light white tuna is filled with zinc. This nutrient has a heavy impact on your immune system and helps reduce symptoms of the common cold, according to a study published in theCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. The study found that people who were ingesting at least 75 milligrams of zinc a day were relieved of their cold symptoms in a shorter amount of time in comparison to those who did not.

23

Rosemary

rosemary sprigs on cutting board
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Rosemary isn't just a tasty herb to add to baked goods—it's also an amazing anti-inflammatory and is a rich source of antioxidants. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition noted that most herbs, such as rosemary, contain antioxidants that serve as anti-inflammatory properties in the body. This anti-inflammatory effect allows for better digestive and gut health, leading to a boost in your immune system to keep you healthy.

24

Bone Broth

Turkey broth
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Animal-based bone broths could be the key reason as to why soups are great for you when you're suffering from sickness. According to a study by the American College Of Chest Physicians, chicken soup's broth could be the reason for its anti-inflammatory effect on the body, which leads to relief from major cold symptoms.

25

Oysters

raw oysters on ice
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Oysters, like other types of seafood, are high in zinc. And they're one of the highest recommended kinds of seafood to eat for incorporating zinc into your diet.

And for more tips to stay healthy, check out these 27 Doctors' Own Cures for a Cold.

26

Raw Honey

Honey
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All-natural, raw honey not only tastes delicious but can also help soothe some symptoms of a cold. Honey is helpful in relieving sore and itchy throats, according to a study published in the Iran Journal of Basic Medical Science. The study also states that honey acts as an antibacterial, killing any germs in the body that can cause you to get sick.

27

Miso

Miso soup
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Miso is made from soy, which contains isoflavone antioxidants that help boost the immune system. This study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that due to the antioxidant content in soy products, postmenopausal women were able to reduce inflammation in their bodies and boost their immunity.

28

Mushrooms

pan roasted mushrooms onions
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Mushrooms are great for boosting your immunity, according to a study by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Research suggests that participants who ate shiitake mushrooms every day for four weeks had a significant increase in numbers and strength of immunity-boosting T-cells. They also noticed a reduction in inflammatory-inducing proteins, proving that shiitake mushrooms also act as an anti-inflammatory agent.

29

Anise Tea

Star anise
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Anise acts as an antibacterial and antifungal, according to an in-depth review of the plant published in the International Scholarly Research Notices: Pharmacology. The study also noted that anise acts as an antiviral and contains antioxidants that can help boost your immunity.

30

Fennel

Fennel seeds
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Fennel has a variety of soothing effects that can help relieve you of your flu-like symptoms. A study published in BioMed Research International noted that fennel acts as a soothing mechanism for those suffering from conjunctivitis, diarrhea, fevers, and stomachaches due to its abundance of phytochemicals that act as antioxidants. The research also notes that fennel contains flavonoids that act as anti-inflammatory agents.


Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest foods news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and stay healthy.

Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.

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