A Good Diet To Improve Your Immune System

In October I had my annual flu shot. Mid November, I had the latest COVID booster. I slept a lot for several days afterwards. In December, I had the RSV vaccine. Now I’ve been told I should get the new pneumonia vaccine which is highly improved over the old. I want to have these helpful vaccines to try and stay healthy this coming year. I have lots of allergies and almost any illness can lead to a respiratory infection. Most of you have normal immune systems which are amazing. Winter has arrived.  The colder seasons are usually related to an increase in colds and flu. It’s not the temperature that causes illness, but being inside with others that leads to infections.  Today I would like to review ways to improve our immune systems and be healthier this year.

Harvard Medical School has a great article “6 Ways You Can Help Your Immune System” which has a wonderful list of things to do to keep your immune system strong. Number 2 on the list is keeping your vaccines current which I’m trying to do.


What is #1? The age old practice of washing your hands with soap and water before preparing food and after using the bathroom. Since COVID, I wash my hands so much they are really dry all the time.

Food Safety

You can prevent most cases of food poisoning in your household by preparing and storing your foods safely. See my post, Food Safety Tips, for complete instructions.

Be Physically Active

Regular physical activity helps you feel better, sleep better, and reduce anxiety. I know I don’t get enough exercise, and that’s my goal for 2024. It’s time to take a step back and try to actively improve our daily habits. The habits you set now may be the habits you stick with for life. Consciously try to set new patterns in your life. I used to take a morning walk everyday. I’m going to start that habit again.

Get enough sleep

Scientific evidence is building that sleep loss can negatively affect different parts of the immune system. This can lead to the development of a wide variety of disorders. If you need to improve your sleep habits, check out Tips to Help You Sleep Better for more information.

Smart living

Don’t smoke and only drink in moderation. That pretty much covers smart living anytime. 

Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables

A simple rule can help you when choosing fruits and vegetables at the grocery store or farmers market: The more colorful the fruits and vegetables are, the better.  If you eat “the rainbow” of produce, you will be getting many anti-oxidants and flavonoids to help your body fight disease. Choose a variety of meats including tuna and salmon and add some herbal teas to your routine.

Citrus Berry Baby Greens Salad

Vitamin C

Many people swear by Vitamin C in this quest to stay well.  Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin not produced by our bodies that supports general health.  The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for men is 90 mg and for women is 75 mg.  Taking massive doses does not guarantee that you will be healthier.  Your body can only use so much at a time and the rest is passed in urine.  It’s better to take small doses throughout the day.  When you take Vitamin C tablets, drink a glass of water as they can be hard on the stomach.  Look for the buffered Vitamin C which is listed as “Vitamin C ascorbate” to prevent stomach upset.

Strawberry & Cheese Bruschetta

Personally, I think getting plenty of Vitamin C in your diet is the best move.  Sources of Vitamin C of course include the citrus family, oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes.  Many other colorful veggies and fruits also are a good source like strawberries, papaya, kiwi, goji berries, cantaloupe, leafy greens, potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, chili peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower.

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamn Chips

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin which decreases in most people in the darker months of winter, especially in northern climates.  Vitamin D supports the proper function of the immune system and nervous system.  There are 2 types of Vitamin D:  Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is largely human-made and added to foods, whereas Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is synthesized in the skin of humans from 7-dehydrocholesterol and is also consumed in the diet via the intake of animal-based foods.   Experts feel that Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the preferred type to take and is more beneficial to the body.

Steamed Salmon in Aluminum Foil

Food sources for Vitamin D3 are the fatty fish like tuna, mackeral, and salmon and cheese and egg yolks.  Be sure to include them in your diet during the winter months for added protection.

Tuna Stuffed Avocado


Zinc is a trace mineral found in cells throughout the body. It helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses. The body also needs zinc to make proteins and DNA, the genetic material in all cells. During pregnancy, infancy, and childhood, the body needs zinc to grow and develop properly. Since we do not produce zinc, we must obtain it from our diet or our muli-vitamin.  Sources of zinc include meats, poultry, and seafood. Some plant foods like legumes and whole grains are also good sources of zinc, but they also contain phytates that can bind to the mineral, lowering its absorption.

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is vital to supporting biochemical reactions in the immune system. Vitamin B6-rich foods include chicken and cold-water fish such as salmon and tuna. Vitamin B6 also is found in green vegetables and in chickpeas, which is the main ingredient in hummus. Since I eat chicken and hummus frequently, I know I’m getting plenty of Vitamin B6.

Jerk Chicken & Mango Salsa

Lemon White Bean Hummus

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps the body fight off infection. In addition to providing cell protection, vitamin E is vital to a functioning immune system. This vitamin also helps protect eyesight.  Foods rich in vitamin E include nuts, seeds and spinach.

DIY Candied Nuts

Colorful Carrot Patch Spring Appetizer


Mushrooms contain powerful compounds that enhance and balance your body’s ability to fight disease and stay healthy. These fungi are filled with healing antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components that destroy infections, slow down aging, and regenerate nerve cells. HealthLine has a great article, “6 Mushrooms That Act As Turbo-Shots for Your Immune System.”  They rate the reishi mushroom as best for the immune system. Reishi may be able do it all: aid in weight loss (as seen in a mouse study), keep the immune system in check, and may even fiercely fight cancer cells.    Many people consider reishi the king of mushrooms, but others also have great health benefits.  The Academy of Culinary Nutrition‘s Guide to Medicinal Mushrooms: Types, Best Uses, and Recipes includes information on choosing and buying mushrooms, how to use them, and recipes.  Expand your diet with a new fabulous mushroom dish while enhancing your body’s immune system.

Crock Pot Mushroom Lentil Barley Stew 

Spinch Mushroom Quiche

Herbs and Teas

Teas have been popular for centuries, and traditional wisdom had teas for almost any physical condition.  When we hear the word tea, most of us think of  black and green teas made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant.  They certainly have healthy attributes, but let’s talk about herbal and spice teas. If you have a herbal garden, you may make tea with the fresh leaves. You can use leaves from a single plant, like peppermint, or make your own combinations of herbs to infuse.  If you don’t grow herbs, dried teas are readily available in most areas.

First consider Tulsi, or Holy Basil, which is the Queen of teas in India.  The Spruce has a great post on What is Tulsi? Its Uses, and Recipes with lots of information on this healing tea.  Regular consumption of tulsi may lower blood pressure and cholesterol by regulating cortisol levels, reducing the risk of stroke, heart attack, and other related diseases. It can also help relieve headaches and may lessen anxiety and depression for some.

Peppermint Tea naturally supports healthy digestion, which in turns encourages enriched immunity. Take it from assistant professor of pathology at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, Dan Peterson: “A huge portion of your immune system is actually in your GI tract.”  Protect your disgestive track and immune system with the fresh aroma and taste of mint.

If you’ve ever read the The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series of books, you’ve heard of Rooibos Tea. Rooibos is derived from a plant native to the western coast of South Africa, where it’s long been savored for its rich, distinct taste and health benefits. Part of this is due to its high content of vitamin C, which organically supports a number of immune mechanisms, including the production and function of white blood cells (which attack “invaders”). Rooibos also brims with quercetin and rutin—two bioflavonoids that block the release of histamines.

Echinacea or coneflower tea was a favorite of the American Great Plains Indian tribes.  The North American coneflower contains polysaccharides that trigger health-supporting activities, including the stimulation of natural killer cells; overall, it supports healthy immune function and seasonal wellness.  I personally drink Traditional Medicine’s Echinacea Plus which is a fabulous combination of echinacea plus elderberry.  I wrote about elderberry syrup several years ago  and how to make homemade elderberry syrup.  With this easy to use tea, I am getting support from two great health fighters.  I’ve been drinking a cup daily since 2020.

Made from the root of the Curcuma longa plant, turmeric tea is thought to be one of the leading ways to consume curcumin, a compound that has been proven to support immune function and enhance overall well-being.  Ginger tea aids digestion, helps soothe upset stomachs, and can reduce nausea. While turmeric and ginger teas are sold in most stores, DIY brews also offer an excellent, pure taste.

DIY Turmeric Ginger Tea

Simply boil two cups of water in a small saucepan, and add ½ teaspoon of dried turmeric or freshly-grated turmeric, ½ teaspoon of chopped, fresh ginger, and a dash of cinnamon. Let simmer for 10 minutes before adding the juice from a lemon wedge. You can drink it without sweetener if you are counting calories, but I love to add a teaspoon of local honey, another wonderful way to support your health.

Matcha tea is very popular right now. Matcha is made of young green tea leaves, which are ground into a powder and then whisked with water. Slightly sweet in taste with a fun green color, it holds many of the same health benefits as green tea, but, given that you’re consuming the actual leaves, these are amplified. A natural source of antioxidants, and rich in vitamins and minerals such as manganese and phosphorous, Matcha boosts metabolism, supports healthy cholesterol, supports natural detoxification and helps promote immunity.

In conclusion, a simple rule can help you when choosing fruits and vegetables at the grocery store or farmers market: The more colorful the fruits and vegetables are, the better.  If you eat “the rainbow” of produce, you will be getting many anti-oxidants and flavonoids to help your body fight disease. Choose a variety of meats including tuna and salmon and add some herbal teas to your routine.  To your health!

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I was raised in Tennessee but have lived in Florida for many years. Love my small home in the Tampa Bay area and its developing garden. My decorating style is eclectic - some vintage, some cottage, all with a modern flair. Pursuing a healthier lifestyle. Spent many years in social services but am happily retired.

23 thoughts to “A Good Diet To Improve Your Immune System”

  1. Hello, Carol

    Great information, we should all follow a healthy diet that includes many of the vitamins and minerals. I try to eat more fresh fruits and veggies. I have bought different herbal teas, the rooiboos is one of my favorites. Thanks for sharing. Enjoy your day, have a great week ahead.

  2. I’m on a mission to improve my diet too and you’ve given lots of good advice here. The food here looks yummy and it’s good to know it’s healthy too. My immune system went kaput! over four years ago and it’s been a long hard slog trying to get it to work properly again. I’m still learning.

    1. Me too – I have a compromised immune system and always trying to learn ways to strengthen it. Keep trying!

  3. Such excellent advice and those recipes look delicious! It’s been too cold here to get much exercise outdoors and I’ve been slacking off. Thanks for the reminder to be more active.

  4. These are fabulous tips! I definitely try to “eat a rainbow” each day and add in a few supplements like vit. D and zinc in the winter because I figure it can’t hurt. 🙂

  5. Fantastic post ! I don’t think that most people pay much attention to nutrients that their food is providing or they would not be eating so much fast food and fried food. There are so many wonderful suggestions in the post. I definitely want to start drinking more fresh herbal teas such as the ginger and turmeric you provided. Love your recipes too…

  6. Amazing, thanks for all the tips and awesome recipes.
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  7. Great tips here. I’m all about healthy eating. I’m gonna check out the mushroom lentil barley stew recipe now.

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