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Immunity Boosting Bites

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Woman making a smoothie

If you’ve heard the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” you are familiar with the idea that foods you eat can influence your immune system and reduce your risk for infections. Check out the common foods below that are rich in nutrients to boost your immunity.

Canola & Olive Oil
Canola and olive oil, rich in vitamin E, provide an antioxidant that defends cells against oxidation, a process that can damage cell genetic material and increase disease risk. Vitamin E helps maintain the function and integrity of the cells in the body, enhancing their immune response to infection.

Tip: Next time you sauté vegetables, try using either canola or olive oil.

Visible by their bright orange color, carrots are rich in carotenoids. Beta-carotene, a type of carotenoid, enhances immune cell function and the immune response overall. Not only does beta-carotene increase the activity of immune cells, it also targets harmful substances and removes them from the body.

Tip: Beyond carrots, you can choose other orange-colored fruits and vegetables. Try cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and orange bell peppers.

Antioxidants protect the body from unstable molecules called free radicals that can make one more susceptible to disease. Blueberries are believed to be the contain the highest levels of antioxidants of all common fruits and vegetables and are particularly rich in polyphenols antioxidants called flavonoids. These particular antioxidants not only help boost your immune system but also support a healthy upper respiratory system. 

Tip: Sprinkle fresh blueberries in a salad, on top of Greek yogurt or in a refreshing fruit smoothie for an added antioxidant boost.

100% Whole Grain Breakfast Cereals
Fortified breakfast cereals are good sources of zinc. Zinc is key in the development of white blood cells, the cells responsible for the body’s immunity. Additionally, zinc acts as an antioxidant, defending against damaging oxidation.

Tip: For breakfast, try cereals such as Kashi® Honey Toasted Oat or Fiber One® Honey Clusters with skim or 1% milk. Better yet, add a handful of blueberries for another boost of antioxidants!
Chicken Breast, Chickpeas & Bell Peppers
What do chicken breast, chickpeas and bell peppers all have in common?  Vitamin B6.  Vitamin B6 is critical in the production of DNA and RNA, the body’s genetic materials.  Through the production of DNA and RNA, the immune cells are able to readily multiply and enhance their fighting response to infections.

Tip: Enjoy roasted chicken breast for dinner as a good source of lean protein and vitamin B6. For a snack, dip sliced bell peppers into hummus, which is made out of chickpeas.

Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is rich in probiotics, which is the “good” bacteria that promotes optimal digestion and defends against harmful bacteria. Probiotics help increase the number of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell in the body, enhancing the immune system’s response to infections.

Tip: Add non-fat Greek yogurt to smoothies instead of milk or juice, or use it as a topping on baked potatoes instead of high-fat sour cream.
Salmon is rich in omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats reduce inflammation in the body by decreasing the production of inflammatory molecules. Inflammation disturbs normal functioning of the body and when it becomes chronic in specific areas, such as in arthritis, it can cause tissue damage.

Tip: Fatty fish are great sources of omega-3 fats, but this nutrient can also be found in nuts and oils. For a mid-day snack, enjoy 1 oz. of walnuts or about 14 halves.

As you can see, there are many options other than apples that may keep the doctor away. Help out your immune system by providing nutrients it needs to thrive! Visit to meet with one of our registered dietitian nutritionists today.


Article provided by Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.