Eating to Boost Immunity

By Kenda Hettinger a recent ASU Nutrition Student

My 5-year-old is currently fighting strep throat. We were talking about probiotics and eating healthy to help her get better quicker and she said: “so the probiotic goes through my mouth and into my body and karate chops bad bacteria?” It’s kind of like that.

With the exception of those who are immunocompromised, our bodies do a pretty good job of fighting off what the world throws at it. There are foods that we can consume that help give our immunity an extra hand.



Echinacea is a very useful plant native to North America. It is made into teas, juices, extracts, capsules, and topical formulas. A literature review from 2018 found that consuming 2400 mg per day can help to prevent the common cold. This should be increased to 4000 mg per day after starting to show symptoms to reduce the duration and severity. Hot echinacea tea with honey is a delicious treat when you are not feeling well.


Take an elderberry supplement.


There is not a lot of research on elderberry, but I did find a study done in 2012 that states that elderberry extract increases the activity of Lactobacillus acidophilus in dendritic cells. Dendritic cells are part of our immune system. L. acidophilus is one of the probiotics in yogurt, so perhaps taking your elderberry supplement with a yogurt snack would help boost this benefit.




For optimal immunity and health, you need more good bacteria than bad bacteria. Probiotics help the good bacteria flourish in your gut, crowding out the bad bacteria and preventing viruses from entering your bloodstream. A study in 2012 gave school-aged children found that children who were given probiotics were 18% less likely to develop the common cold symptoms. Yogurt and yogurt drinks commonly contain beneficial probiotics.




Legumes, in general, are a good addition to your daily diet due to their high content of numerous vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. Legumes are especially beneficial during the cold and flu season due to their zinc content. A literature review completed in 2018, states to increase your zinc intake within 24 hours of the onset of cold symptoms to reduce the duration by about 33%.




Kiwi fruit is high in vitamin C. With 93 mg per 100 G, this gives you more Vitamin C than an orange. Kiwi is also in season in the fall, making it a great-tasting addition to your daily diet. According to a review of literature completed in 2018, regular supplementation of vitamin C may reduce the duration of and severity of the common cold by 8% in adults and 14% in children.




Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin, but did you know that mushrooms are naturally high in vitamin D? They also contain vitamin C and zinc, making them upper respiratory infections fighting powerhouses. Mushrooms are great in stir-frys, soups, and added fresh to salads.


Green Tea


According to a study published in 2012, the polyphenols and flavonoids found in green tea help to boost your immune system. It also contains an antioxidant called EGCG. EGCG can directly kill bacteria and viruses. Green tea is a powerful food to have in your stay well arsenal this season.



Eating a diet with a wide variety of healthy foods to ensure a good amount of vitamins and minerals is best to keep your body able to fight off infections this winter season.




For more recipes like this one check out our recipe section. Check out the produce section to find out what produce is in season.




Rondanelli, Mariangela, Alessandra Miccono, Silvia Lamburghini, Ilaria Avanzato, Antonella Riva, Pietro Allegrini, Milena Anna Faliva, Gabriella Peroni, Mara Nichetti, and Simone Perna. “Self-Care for Common Colds: The Pivotal Role of Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Zinc, and Echinacea in Three Main Immune Interactive Clusters (Physical Barriers, Innate and Adaptive Immunity) Involved during an Episode of Common Colds-Practical Advice on Dosages and on the Time to Take These Nutrients/Botanicals.” Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : ECAM 2018 (2018): 5813095. Web.


Rerksuppaphol, Sanguansak, and Rerksuppaphol, Lakkana. “Randomized Controlled Trial of Probiotics to Reduce Common Cold in Schoolchildren.” Pediatrics International 54.5 (2012): 682-87. Web.


Chatterjee, Anirban, Mini Saluja, Gunjan Agarwal, and Mahtab Alam. “Green Tea: A Boon for Periodontal and General Health.” Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology 16.2 (2012): 161-67. Web.


Frokiaer, Hanne, Louise Henningsen, Stine Broeng Metzdorff, Gudrun Weiss, Marc Roller, John Flanagan, Emilie Fromentin, and Alvin Ibarra. “Astragalus Root and Elderberry Fruit Extracts Enhance the IFN-beta Stimulatory Effects of Lactobacillus Acidophilus in Murine-Derived Dendritic Cells.” Plos One 7.10 (2012): Plos One, 2012 Oct 30, Vol.7(10). Web.

Share This:
This entry was posted in Allergies, Cooking, Diet Tips, Fill Your Plate, Focus on Agriculture, Food, Food Safety, In Season, In the Kitchen, In the News, Just For Fun, Produce and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *