5 foods that boost the immune system

As we think more carefully about what we buy and what we are going to eat over the next few weeks, it might be worth choosing items that could help protect you against infections. Eating certain foods is not going to stave off coronavirus, but it may help you boost your immune system, which in turn could prepare your body to fight off the virus.

Citrus fruits

Most people turn to vitamin C after they’ve caught a cold. That’s because it helps build up your immune system. Vitamin C is thought to increase the production of white blood cells. These are key to fighting infections.Because your body doesn’t produce or store it, you need daily vitamin C for continued health. Almost all citrus fruits are high in vitamin C. With such a variety to choose from, it’s easy to add a squeeze of this vitamin to any meal.


Broccoli is supercharged with vitamins and minerals. Packed with vitamins A, C, and E, as well as many other antioxidants and fiber, broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables you can put on your table. The key to keeping its power intact is to cook it as little as possible — or better yet, not at all.

Red bell peppers

If you think citrus fruits have the most vitamin C of any fruit or vegetable, think again. Ounce for ounce, red bell peppers contain twice as much vitamin C as citrus. They’re also a rich source of beta carotene. Besides boosting your immune system, vitamin C may help maintain healthy skin. Beta carotene helps keep your eyes and skin healthy.

Fermented foods

Now that you’re stocked up on rice, pasta and frozen vegetables, it’s time to visit the speciality aisle. ‘If you like sauerkraut, miso, kefir and their immune-boosting relatives, add just a spoonful or two each day to your diet,’ says Sara Davenport, health expert and author of Reboot Your Health.

‘Fermented foods encourage the growth of good bacteria in your gut and when their levels are high, so are your immune levels, defending you from viral infections.

‘With sauerkraut, avoid shop-bought which is likely to have been pasteurised by heating and stuffed with sugar, which will kill the bacteria off and make it generally unhealthy.  ‘Instead, make your own by grating raw cabbage and putting in a jar to ferment with salt. ‘


Ginger is a magical ingredient, especially if you’re already feeling under the weather. The antioxidant is believed to fight off cold and flu symptoms, combat nausea, and is full of iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium.

However, it’s worth noting that a study from 2013 showed fresh ginger may help boost the body’s respiratory system, but dry ginger did not show the same results. It’s also great to your gut, according to research which shows ginger can help with digestion and constipation.

‘A warming herb, known as “the universal medicine”, in Ayurveda,’ says Euan MacLennan, herbal director at Pukka Herbs and medical herbalist at an NHS practice in London.

‘Ginger stimulates defensive responses in the upper respiratory and digestive mucosa helping the body fend off infections. I would recommend ginger for bacterial and viral infections such as colds, flu, chest infections and sore throats.’




For the latest NHS guidance on COVID-19, click here