Ask the Nutrition Expert: 10 Immune Boosting Foods


Written by contributor Angela Stanford, MBA, RD, RYT Registered Dietitian/Holistic Nutritionist & Owner of Vital Nutrition and Wellness. *image via

Q: What foods can I feed my family to ward of colds and flu this season?

A: With fall upon us and temperatures dropping, people are catching colds and getting sick. Help protect your family by feeding them these 10 immune boosting foods.


10 Immune Boosting Foods

Grapefruits are rich in vitamin C and flavonoids which are natural chemical compounds found to increase immune system activation. If you are not fond of grapefruits, eat their cousins – oranges and tangerines, other vitamin C-rich citrus fruits in season.

Sweet Potatoes are a great source of the antioxidant beta-carotene that sweeps up damaging free radicals and converts to vitamin A to keep the connective tissues in your skin strong and elastic as your first line of defense against harmful invaders like viruses and bacteria.

Mushrooms contain the mineral selenium which if you have low amounts of in your system studies have shown increases your risk of developing a more severe flu.  Also potent in the B vitamins riboflavin and niacin, studies have shown mushrooms have antiviral and antibacterial effects from the beta glucans that increase the production and activity of white blood cells to kill and rid your body of those nasty bacteria and viruses.

Garlic contains allicin, an infection fighting antioxidant that helps ward off immune system invaders and bacteria like H pylori.  A British study showed that people who ate more garlic in their diets were 2/3 less likely to catch a cold than those that did not.

Cooking tip: peel, chop and let garlic sit for 15-20 minutes before cooking to activate immune boosting enzymes. Spinach is an excellent source of folate which is key in aiding your body’s ability to resist infections and support lymphocytes that identify and destroy harmful invaders.

Spinach is an excellent source of folate which is key in aiding your body’s ability to resist infections and support lymphocytes that identify and destroy harmful invaders.

Cauliflower like broccoli and Brussels sprouts is a cruciferous vegetable rich in antioxidant vitamins that gives your immune system a boost. It also contains choline to keep your cells functioning properly and supports a healthy gastrointestinal barrier, keeping bacteria safely confined in the gut. Cauliflower is also a good food to eat when you’re sick because it’s rich in glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that helps fight off infection.

Cinnamon along with being a tasty and versatile spice, is a potent antiviral and antifungal agent. Add it to smoothies, baked sweet potatoes and roasted carrots, or sprinkle it on oatmeal, yogurt or you favorite toast with a smear of coconut butter. Yum!

Almonds are a not only a source of omega 3 fats, but also a rich source of the fat soluble vitamin E and contain B vitamins to help increase resiliency to stress that can make you susceptible to illness.

Yogurt contains probiotics or “live bacteria” that not only aid digestion, but like other fermented foods that contain the bacterial strains Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus reuteri have scientifically shown to prevent colds, improve immune response and shorten sick leave from work by 33%.

Wheat Germ is the food source part of the seed and is an excellent source of zinc which helps boost immunity.  Found raw or toasted, it tastes great sprinkled on salads, rice, or steamed vegetables.

Eating more of the foods listed above along with proper hand washing and getting enough rest will really boost your body’s defenses to ward of colds and flu this season.

Try cooking up these immune boosting recipes below or make your own creation using several foods listed above.

Immunity Boosting Recipes

immune boosting green smoothie recipe

Immune Booster Smoothie


2 cups spinach
1/4 cup carrots
1 banana
1/2 cups orange juice
1 cup water
2 cups frozen strawberries (I defrost them first because the flavor is more intense)
1/2 cup frozen blueberries

Additional immune boosters: powdered probiotics, olive leaf extract and elderberry extract (amount varies depending on how many people are drinking the smoothie)

More healthy smoothie recipes on our new site: Simple Green Smoothies.


Sweet Potato, Corn & Kale Chowder


1 Tbsp Canola Oil
2 med. Carrots
1 med. Red Onion, chopped 1 stalk Celery, chopped 1 large Red Pepper, seeded & chopped
1 large Sweet Potato, peeled and chopped
1 sprig Fresh Thyme, minced
¾ tsp Turmeric
1 med Tomato, chopped
5 cups Cold Water or Veggie Stock
1 cup Fresh or Frozen Corn Kernels
3 cups Spinach Leaves, chopped, heavy stems removed and washed
Salt & Freshly Ground White Pepper to taste
Cayenne Pepper to taste
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
½ cup Fresh Parsley, chopped
¼ cup Cashew Pieces (optional)



In a large pot, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Sauté carrots, onion, celery, pepper, and sweet potato for 3 minutes. Add the thyme and turmeric; combine well with the vegetables. Add the tomato and cold water and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the corn, spinach, salt and white pepper, and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with cayenne pepper.

Combine the cornstarch with 2 teaspoons cold water (but see cashew option below). With the soup simmering, stir in the cornstarch mixture, continue to stir, and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley.

If using cashews, use a blender or food processor to blend the cashews, cornstarch and ¾ cup of soup broth. Return this mixture to the simmering soup and continue to simmer soup, stirring often for 3 minutes.

*Use organic ingredients whenever possible.
*Vegan and Gluten-free.

Source: Whole Foods Cookbook (substituted spinach for kale)

Angela offers nutrition counseling, workshops and corporate wellness programs. To learn more about Angela, a Registered Dietitian and Holistic Nutritionist, visit

Ask the nutrition expert!

Share your recipes and secrets on how you keep you and your family healthy during the flu season.

P.S. — Have a burning question about nutrition and you or your family’s diet? Ask our nutrition expert, and we may feature it in a future post.

15 Responses to Ask the Nutrition Expert: 10 Immune Boosting Foods

  1. Ryan Hansard November 17, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    I have a question: My kids aren’t fans of milk and we don’t push it. Are we missing out on aspects of nutrition because of this? We do drink some almond milk and occasionally coconut milk, but in the back of my mind I wonder if we should be supplementing with something additional.

    • Mandy October 4, 2013 at 5:13 am #

      There’s just about nothing worse out there than cow milk. If your kids don’t want it – hurray for them! Every family has to have at least a couple smart members, looks like they’re the ones. Ex. Milk is said to be good for the bones. Therefore, kids drink it everyday in America, more than in any country in the world. Fun fact: More people have osteoporosis in America than anywhere else. Coincidence?

      Milk, if taken straight from a farm cow is bareable. But the store stuff you chug down every day in reality is full of hormones, preservatives, cow blood and toxic (for humans) substances. Besides, there’s a reason why it’s called COW milk. It’s meant to be for calves, not people, and has nutritients that suit only their kind. Almond, coconut and (not often) soy are ideal substitutes for the ”miracle fluid” that isn’t even needed in our diets.

  2. Kathy January 16, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

    I am very excited to make this smoothy!!!!!!! Can’t wait!

    • Family Sponge January 19, 2013 at 5:55 am #

      Hope you enjoy it Kathy! If you are interested in drinking more green smoothies, you should check out our newest project: Simple Green Smoothies.

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