by Joanna Foley, RD, CLT February 16, 2022 4 min read

Supporting your immune system doesn't need to be complicated or expensive. You'd be surprised at how many natural immune boosters you may already have in your kitchen. Here are five go-to sources of immune support, as well as recipes and tips for how to incorporate them into your nutrition plan and wellness routine.

5 Natural Immune Boosters

1. Fruits and Vegetables

These support a robust immune system in three key ways — providing essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Some vitamins — like vitamin C and E, found in berries, kiwi and broccoli — are potent antioxidants, which help boost the immune system by fighting off free radicals that can cause our body to break down and lead to symptoms of dis-ease. Other vital nutrients, including zinc, vitamin D, and selenium, also help ward off harmful germs that can cause illness and are essential for keeping your immune system working efficiently.

One way to ensure you're getting plenty of nutrients is by "eating the rainbow" of colorful produce every day. Start your morning with a breakfast smoothie using your favorite fruits and veggies, plus a serving of an all-in-one protein powder to give your body everything it needs to function optimally. Mushrooms have been widely used for medicinal properties, dating back thousands of years. They serve as powerful adaptogens that help balance hormones and build robust immunity. These fungi are a versatile ingredient to add to soups, salads, and stir-fries or use a scientifically formulated high-potency blend to get an effective dose and maximum benefits of this immune-boosting superfood.

2. Echinacea

Echinacea is another medicinal plant that has been used for centuries to strengthen immune function. It is widely available as herbal tea or found in liquid form -- good to have on hand to give your immune system a boost if you feel like you are coming down with something. Using a tincture that combines a broad spectrum of plant compounds, including echinacea and other potent herbs, can help fight off germs and keep you healthy.

3. Herbs and Spices

Garlic, ginger and turmeric are among the top herbs and spices known for supporting immunity — and you probably already have them in your spice drawer. In addition to providing a delicious kick to many dishes, garlic and ginger have potent antioxidant, antimicrobial and antiviral properties that help fight harmful pathogens and keep us healthy. Turmeric is also well known and widely used for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

These ingredients can be used in a variety of ways when cooking. Garlic and ginger are incredibly versatile and can be an ingredient in sauces, stews, stir-fries and more. Turmeric goes great in curry and other South Asian, Middle Eastern, or Mediterranean recipes. You can also make a delicious turmeric latte, otherwise known as "golden milk," by combining a mixture of ground ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper and a natural sweetener like raw honey. The pepper combined with turmeric enhances the absorption of this powerful herb.

4. Elderberry

Like echinacea, elderberryis another well-known plant for its ability to support a healthy immune system. Elderberry is a popular remedy used to fight against the common cold and flu. A study found that adults with flu symptoms who took 15 ml (about one tablespoon) of elderberry syrup four times a day had improved symptoms four days sooner than those who didn't. Elderberries are also rich in antioxidants and have antiviral properties that can help strengthen against immune system invaders.

Elderberry tea or soothing lozenges containing a mix of elderberry and other immune-boosting nutrients are easy to keep on hand. They can be taken as a preventive measure or at the first signs and symptoms of illness.

5. Liquids

Your immune system is highly dependent on the nutrients in your bloodstream, which contains over 90% water. Thus, not being adequately hydrated can affect the transportation of nutrients to each organ system. Staying well-hydrated is also crucial for effective detoxification through the skin, lungs, kidneys, colon, and liver — and supporting your lymphatic system. These help rid the body of waste and transport immune-supporting white blood cells throughout your body.

In addition to drinking enough water throughout the day, you also get water from hydrating fruits and vegetables like berries, citrus fruits, celery and cucumbers. You could make an immune-boosting juice rich in minerals and vitamin C with ginger, greens, and lemon and add a scoop of an organic fruit and vegetable blend to maximize your dose of essential nutrients. Watch out for common signs and symptoms of dehydration like headaches, dry mouth, muscle weakness and dark-colored urine, and increase your fluid intake if you notice any of these.

Supporting a solid immune system is essential during cold and flu season and all year long. Thankfully, there are many natural immune boosters you might already have on hand and can incorporate into delicious drinks and meals to help keep your body healthy and strong.

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