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How To Boost Immune System & Fight Viruses Fast! (+ Best Immune Boosting Foods)

Written by Shelby Torrese

If you’re trying to stay healthy and fight off viruses, learn how to boost immune system functions FAST and the top 13 foods to boost immunity!

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You wouldnโ€™t believe how many of my friends and family call me frantically during flu season, or once a virus breaks out at their school or work. They want to know how to boost immune system functions, stat! I usually start out by giving them a spiel about how staying healthy should be a #1 priority all year-round to avoid worrying about it in dire times. Listening to me rant is the entry fee, and then I spill the beans on how to quickly build up immunity. ๐Ÿ˜‚

In todayโ€™s blog Iโ€™m going to share all of my secret tricks for boosting your immune system in a pinch. This shouldnโ€™t be a replacement for staying on top of your health as much as possible, but it will serve as a great reference in times of need. This is my own personal and professional research, sprinkled with some of my mom and my grandmaโ€™s own fool-proof remedies. Because, letโ€™s be honest, we all know moms and grandmas know best.

how to boost immune system - older woman sick on couch

Causes Of A Poor Immune System

Before we jump into how to boost immune system functions, it may be helpful to first understand why you may have a weakened immune system to begin with.

A poor immune system can be caused by many different things, but we can often narrow it down to the basics.ย 

The three primary pillars of health that affect your immune system include:

If weโ€™re not properly managing these essentials, we put ourselves at risk of weakening our immune system. Bad habits like smoking and drinking too much alcohol can also contribute to a weakened immune system. [1]

When wondering how to boost immune system efficiency, it is also important to understand that our lymphatic system plays a major role in immunity. Sometimes referred to as the lymph system, our lymphatic system is made up of a network of nodes and vessels that branch throughout the body to carry a fluid called lymph. One of the most important carriers of lymph fluids is immune system cells, which are white blood cells. These immune system cells fight off infections and bacteria.

13 Best Immune Boosting Foodsย 

The first thing I always advise are nutritious foods that boost immune system function. You may even be surprised to find out that some immune boosting foods are some of your favorite foods and spices!ย 

1. Garlic

Science-backed, grandma approved. Garlic contains natural antibacterial, antifungal properties, making it great for combating colds and flus. [4] I grew up eating raw garlic cloves whenever I started to show signs of illness. Itโ€™s brutal, but it helps! ๐Ÿ˜ณ

2. Ginger

Love it or hate it, it works! Ginger has been used for centuries to help relieve pain and nausea, act as an anti-cancer agent, lower cholesterol, and produce anti-inflammatory effects. [5] I love it in tea and juices!

3. Turmeric

Iโ€™ve said it before, Iโ€™ll say it againโ€”I love turmeric! Turmeric is an antioxidant powerhouse that helps to naturally detoxify the body. [6] Donโ€™t forget to always pair turmeric with black pepper (for its high concentration of the alkaloid piperine!) to maximize absorption.

4. Goji berries

These little cuties are jam packed with antioxidants! They help to fight oxidative stress, boost immunity, and prevent the signs of aging. Goji berries are a delicious and nutritious addition to smoothie bowls, teas, and even salads! [7]

5. Green tea

This is by far one of my favorite immune boosting foods. I could survive off of green tea alone, I love it so much. Green tea is an ancient superfood used as an antiviral, antimicrobial, antioxidant, and even an anti-carcinogenic agent. [8]ย 

immune boosting foods

6. Lemons

A great source of vitamin C, lemons are great for boosting immunity. Lemons may even reduce the risk of contracting colds and flus thanks to their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties, [9]

7. Red bell peppers

Fun fact: bell peppers are also a great source of vitamin C! Red bell peppers specifically are also high in the vitamin A beta-carotene, which gives them their vibrant, red hue! [10]

8. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is like the yoda of the spice world. Itโ€™s been around for centuries, and is the answer to pretty much everything. Cinnamon has been shown to lower lipids, prevent neurological disorders, act as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, reduce cardiovascular disease compounds, and so much more. [11] Sprinkle it in your coffee, over oatmeal, in smoothies, everything!

9. Oranges

A great source of B vitamins, such as folate and thiamin, oranges are crucial for boosting immunity! If youโ€™re someone who likes to peel away the white, stringy parts, think again! Those contain nutritious flavonoids! [12]

10. Broccoli

One of the most notable functional foods, broccoli is well known for its high antioxidant and anti-cancer activities. Eat the stem, leaves and florets for the most benefits! [13]ย 

11. Mushrooms

Ah, shrooms! Gotta love โ€˜em. These fungi have gained momentum recently for their adaptogenic properties. Mushrooms are insane superfoods, and can claim the throne for immunomodulating (maintaining the immune system!), which is why I love powdered mushroom blends for smoothies. My favorite is the mood-boosting adaptogen blend in Skinny Greens!

12. Almonds

Out of all of the foods that boost immune system function, almonds are the most versatile. They can be made into milk, butter, even flour! Almonds are rich in monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, and fiber, making them a healthy snack for building immunity.

13. Blueberries

Another one of my favorite immune boosting foods! I throw blueberries in my smoothies, in my pancakes, on toast, theyโ€™re just so delicious. Plus, theyโ€™re absolutely packed with antioxidants, and are surprisingly low in sugar for such a tasty fruit. [16]

boost your immune system

Other Ways To Boost Immunity, Naturally


1. Sunlight

The sun is our best and most reliable source of vitamin D. Whenever I had a cold or was sick with the flu as a kid, my mom would tell me to lay out by the pool for 2 chapters worth of a book. I later realized this equated to about twenty minutes, which is our daily recommended intake of natural sunlight. Without vitamin D, our bodies are at risk for weakened bones, poor calcium absorption, and even heart disease after prolonged deficiency. [2] If bed-ridden or unable to go outdoors, try to rest in the room with the most daylight. Studies have shown that well-lit rooms may have HALF as many germs as darker rooms! [3]

2. Fresh air

Fresh air is one of the most obvious, yet underrated, ways to boost immunity. As early as grade school we learn that we need plants to breathe. They give off oxygen, and we give off carbon dioxide. Itโ€™s a beautiful, symbiotic relationship. But our needs go beyond plants, or else weโ€™d all just throw a plant in our homes and call it even! The Environmental Protection Agency shared that the air in homes can be more polluted than some outdoor air, and can put you at risk for serious health problems. [18] This is due to the massive amount of household product chemicals, pesticides, and unfavorable building materials present in our homes. When determining how to boost immune system function best, itโ€™s really more simple than we realize. Even during the 1918 influenza pandemic, the patients treated in open-air hospitals fared much better than those without sunlight or fresh air. [19]ย 

3. Movement

If you think exercise is just for losing weight or gaining muscle, throw that idea out the window. Moving is extremely important because our immune system is highly responsive to exercise! [20] Remember when I mentioned our lymphatic system? Do you think fluid movement in our bodies is at its best when we remain stagnant, or when we allow our bodies ample movement? If you guessed with movement, you guessed right. Something I love about activities for building up our immune systems is that they can almost all happen at once! If you go for a long walk outdoors, not only are you getting exercise, but youโ€™re also getting fresh air and sunlight! Win-win-win!

4. Supplements

When trying to quickly build immunity, getting in the highest concentration of nutrients is key. This is where supplements can be a great tool. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 1 in 10 Americans meet their daily recommended intake of fruits and vegetables! [21] So supplementing is not just for building immunity, but also for getting all of your essential daily vitamins and minerals.

My favorite nutrient-dense supplement is Skinny Greens. Itโ€™s packed with fruits and vegetables that I wouldnโ€™t normally eat in my daily routine. Plus, remember when I mentioned getting my mushroom powder blend from Skinny Greens? Itโ€™s because of the cost-effectiveness! If I were to individually purchase all of the mushrooms, fruits and veggies, and superfoods packed into Skinny Greens, I would 100% go broke. Skinny Greens has 34 essential superfoods, is packed with gut-healthy pre and probiotics, and contains my personal favorite stress-relieving adaptogen blend. Adding it to your daily routine is a no-brainer if you truly are looking for foods that boost immune system function.

skinny greens superfood powder

5. Hydration

Hydration is key for staying healthy! A hydrated body is great at getting rid of toxins and waste, but without proper hydration, our body severely suffers and is much less effective at fighting off harmful infections. While drinking water is the best way to hydrate, itโ€™s not the only way! Broth-based soups, and fruits and vegetables that have high water content (like celery and watermelon!) are also great ways to hydrate. [17]

The Bottom Lineย 

When fighting off infections and wondering how to boost immune system cell production quickly, be sure to reference this rundown. While it works for boosting immunity in times of need, these are also great best practices for staying healthy all year-round. Just by eating all of the delicious immune boosting foods listed, youโ€™ll be doing your body and health a favor. Plus, most of them can also be added to pizza.

Next time you or a family member are ill, try to stay positive and full of gratitude for anything going well. Even if you are stuck in bed or at home, remember to rest by a bright window and enjoy everything that nature has to offer, even if just for viewing purposes. Staying healthy and learning how to boost immune system functions is a balancing act, so just do your best!

About The Author

Shelby Torrese

Nutrition, Movement & Meditation Coach

Shelby Torrese is a wellness enthusiast (and matcha fanatic!) from Miami, FL. She attributes her love of movement to her mom, a personal trainer, and her love of food to her dad, a farmer. She studied creative writing in college while getting her yoga certification, and went on to pursue fitness and nutrition in grad school. Her go-to advice is, โ€œBalance,โ€ and she is a firm believer that the ocean can cure just about everything.

  • Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Teacher
  • NASM Certified Nutrition Coach
  • M.S. in Human Performance


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