What to eat and avoid to keep the immune system healthy

What to eat and avoid to keep the immune system healthy

The immune system works to protect the body from infectious diseases including colds and flu. Nutrition is an integral part of maintaining a healthy immune system.

Eating some unhealthy foods on a regular basis can impair the immune system’s ability to work properly. This may reduce its ability to function as well as it could.

According to several studies, diets high in added sugar and salt are linked to an increased risk of autoimmune diseases and other chronic illnesses.

Consuming foods rich in certain nutrients, such as vitamin C, can, on the other hand, help to strengthen the immune system.

Diet does not exacerbate all inflammatory or immune problems, including obesity and type 2 diabetes. Disturbances in the environment, drugs, and genetic predispositions all play a part.

This article will look at foods that can weaken the immune system as well as foods that can help strengthen it.

Foods to eat

A well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet can aid in the maintenance of a healthy body weight, which is important for immune system function.

The foods mentioned below may have more precise immune-boosting properties.

Citrus fruits

Citrus fruits

These are strong sources of vitamin C, and according to a 2017 report, vitamin C has a number of properties that can help with immune function.

Vitamin C is an extremely potent antioxidant. Antioxidants protect essential molecules in the body from environmental and biological harm, such as proteins and carbohydrates.

Vitamin C is also essential for collagen development and helps promote metabolic energy and hormone regulation.

According to the same 2017 report, most people can consume 100–200 milligrammes (mg) of vitamin C per day.

Zinc-containing foods

Zinc is an essential mineral for keeping the immune system in good shape.

Zinc intake recommendations vary from 2–11 mg per day, depending on age and gender. When a woman is pregnant, she needs 11–13 milligrammes.

Zinc can be found in a variety of foods, including:

  • oysters
  • beef
  • baked beans
  • fortified cereals
  • chicken breast
  • cheese
  • peas

Cruciferous vegetables

Sulforaphane, a compound found in these vegetables, especially broccoli and broccoli sprouts, may help boost the immune system.

Sulforaphane has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer effects, according to a 2016 report.

Sulforaphane’s effect on colon cancer cells was explored in a 2018 report. It was discovered that sulforaphane inhibited immune cell inflammation, which the researchers believe may help prevent the development of cancer.


For generations, people have used ginger to add spice. Researchers have recently looked into its impact on the immune system.

In a review of high-quality studies published in 2020, researchers discovered that taking ginger supplements reduced inflammation associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Ginger supplements were also found to help obese people lose weight, according to the report. Since obesity is related to chronic inflammation, this may mean that ginger benefits the immune system indirectly.

Foods to avoid

Processed foods

Limit or avoid the foods mentioned below if you want to boost your immune system’s efficiency.

Processed foods

Unhealthy fats, carbohydrates, and additives are found in many processed foods. These may enhance a product’s flavour, texture, and shelf life, but they can weaken the immune system, according to the studies below.

The following are some processed foods that contain a lot of additives:

  • canned foods
  • microwaveable meals
  • chips
  • cakes and cookies

Eating foods with additives may increase the risk of several chronic inflammatory or metabolic conditions, according to a 2017 report. Sucralose, aspartame, carboxymethylcellulose, polysorbate-80, sodium, and carrageenan were all investigated in the study.

Obesity, immune-related inflammation, and insulin resistance are all linked to diets rich in additives, according to the researchers.

Meanwhile, a study of studies published in 2014 concluded that a high intake of salt, refined sugar, saturated fat, and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as a deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids, can harm the immune system.

Consuming sugars and fats in processed foods can lead to calorie overconsumption, increasing the risk of obesity. Obesity can cause inflammation, which in turn can cause insulin resistance and immune system dysregulation.

Sugar-dense foods

People who consume a lot of sugar have a higher chance of developing many chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The following foods have a high sugar content:

  • preserves, marmalades, and sweets
  • cookies and cakes
  • flavored milk and sweetened dairy products
  • sugary breakfast cereals
  • sugary drinks, such as soda

In addition, a high-sugar diet can reduce the immune system’s ability to fight disease. This could be accomplished by decreasing the effectiveness of white blood cells and increasing inflammation.

High-refined-carbohydrate foods

Processed foods high in refined carbohydrates, such as white flour and refined sugar, are linked to inflammation and oxidative stress, all of which can affect the immune system.

Refined carbohydrates can be found in the following foods:

  • white rice
  • white bread
  • sweets, cookies, and cakes made with white flour


People who want to strengthen their immune system should avoid foods rich in processed carbohydrates, sugar, and additives. These foods can weaken the immune system.

A nutrient-dense, varied diet, on the other hand, can help to improve the immune system and reduce inflammation.