20+ Foods That Naturally Boost Your Immunity

Stock up on these nutrient-rich foods now!

Shraddha Varma

True that nothing can prepare you against the coronavirus pandemic but that doesn’t mean you can’t build up your body’s immunity against other ailments lurking on the sidelines. One of the best ways to achieve a stronger immune system is a steady supply of nutrients. These desi fruits and veggies are powerhouse of immunity-boosting nutrients that have been part of your mothers’ and grandmoms’ arsenal for fixing niggling aches and pains. It’s time you incorporate them in your daily diet!

1. Ginger

Whether it’s an itchy throat or a runny nose, ginger is one of the first ingredients most Indian moms turn to for an easy remedy. The credit goes to its antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. 

How to eat:

You can chew on a slice of ginger as is before your meal, add it to your lemonade or tea, grate it into your soup, or flavour your dessert with it.

2. Turmeric

We’ve been benefiting from the superpowers of turmeric long before the ‘western world discovered it. Also known as a ‘natural aspirin’ due to turmeric’s ability to relieve aches and pain. It contains curcumin, a phyto-derivative which has strong anti-inflammatory effects making it a popular home remedy for common cold, cough, and congestion. 

How to eat: Use turmeric powder to make the international-favourite golden milk or haldi doodh, mix it in water and drink like a shot, or add it to your everyday lentils and vegetables. Oh, and if you get fresh turmeric in the market, you can even prepare a quick pickle.

3. Garlic

We don’t know if garlic can keep vampires at bay, but it can help offer relief from common cold and flu with its antiviral and antimicrobial properties. Research shows that garlic may stimulate your immune system and help produce more cells to fight against viruses and bacteria. The allium is also known to help with blood pressure and cardiovascular ailments. Garlic is one of the easiest ingredients to include in your diet.

How to eat: Chew on raw garlic to reduce common cold or use to flavour dals, stews, and stir fries. And, if you’ve not been cooking with garlic because its gets your hands all smelly, here’s how you can get rid of it—the smell, not garlic!

4. Bimbli/Bilimbi

Bimbli, a fleshy fruit that looks like a mini cucumber and tastes like a starfruit, is popular souring agent in Goa and the coastal regions of Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Karnataka. An excellent source of vitamin C, Bimbli also has a range of health benefits that include heal wounds, help with cold symptoms and maintaining bone, skin, and teeth health. 

How to eat: It is usually added to lentils, vegetables, and seafood curries. Bimbli and prawns are a popular combination for curry in Goa. You can also relish this fruit as a pickle. 

5. Bengal Quince (Bael) Fruit

Also known as bilva, wood apple, stone apple, monkey fruit, and elephant apple, Bengal quince is a sweet and aromatic fruit with a woody texture. The mushy pulp within bael fruit is a powerhouse of vitamin C, in addition to vitamins A and B. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant that boosts immunity and prevents infections. Bael fruit also purifies blood and is a natural energy booster. 

How to eat: Bael fruit is usually consumed as a drink. It is made using the fruit’s pulp, jaggery, cardamom powder, roasted cumin powder, black salt, and water. 

6. Roselle Leaves 

Looking for a new souring agent to experiment with? Try roselle leaves aka gongura and ambadi. This leafy green is loaded with vitamins A, B1, B2, B9 and C. Ayurveda has been using it since time immemorial for preventing digestive tract issues and to nurture gut health. It may also help in fighting allergies and improve vision.

How to eat: Grind it to make a chutney or finely chop these leaves to give your vegetable, meat, or seafood curry a new flavour dimension. 

7. Dates

Mostly consumed during winters, date (ripe as well as dried) is a power-packed food mostly because it’s rich in vitamin C, B1, B2, B5, and A1. It also boasts of minerals such as iron, manganese, potassium, and copper. A rich source of vitamins and minerals dates help build immunity. They are also natural energy boosters and keeps digestive problems at bay. 

How to eat: Make laddus, grind and mix with milk for a healthy drink, or use it as a substitute for sugar in desserts. 

8. Cinnamon

Cinnamon acts as a natural immunity stimulator that can help fight common cold. What gives cinnamon its power to fight off these viruses is its antibacterial and antifungal properties. Meanwhile, its anti-inflammatory properties may help reduce the risk of infections and diseases. 

How to eat: Cinnamon has a sweet flavour so it goes well with desserts. Think pies, brownies, and other bake goodies.

9. Clove

Clove is replete with powerful antioxidants that may help fight the effect of disease-causing bacteria and free radical, and boost your immunity. This spice also has antiseptic, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial properties. Research suggests it provides instant relief for sore throat and cough. Clove oil when combined with menthol is beneficial in relieving muscle and joint pain. 

How to eat: Clove pods can be eaten both in whole and powdered form. Cloves can be added to soups and stew. If you have a sore throat, soak a couple of them in water for about 10 minutes and chew on them.  

10. Curd

Good bacteria has been sitting in your refrigerator for a while but you seem to care less. We’re referring to the humble dahi that’s quietly watching you binge on leftovers, chocolates, and desserts. Apart from gut health, curd is also good for bones and teeth. Did you know curd also contains vitamin D in a good amount? This vitamin helps regulate the immune system and keep you in the pink of health. 

How to eat: Mix curd with besan and make Punjab’s favourite pakora kadhi, balance the spice level of your pulao/biryani with a cooling raita, or simply, add water and cumin powder to turn it into a refreshing chaas. 

11. Ragi

If you’ve never got the chance to eat finger millet aka ragi, here’s a little motivation to bring it to your plate. In comparison to cow’s milk, ragi has three times the calcium content! Research suggests that this gluten-free millet is a good source of potassium, dietary fibre, and antioxidants. Potassium is good to combat hypertension, while dietary fibre and antioxidants aid in lowering blood cholesterol levels. 

How to eat: From ragi pancakes, porridge with veggies to bread, there’s so much that you can do with ragi.

12. Citrus Fruits

Orange, lemon, sweet lime, and grapefruit – pick your favourite (or them all) and make it a part of your daily diet. Citrus fruits are loaded with vitamin C, which is thought to increase the production of white blood cells in your body—important in the fight against infections. Vitamin C also good for your skin. Since our body doesn’t produce or store this vitamin, you need to make it a point to eat foods that contain it every day.

How to eat: Eat them as is or blend it in a juicer. Come summers, you can even use the juice to make popsicles and enjoy it. 

13. Spinach 

Now here’s an immunity-boosting food that has made to this list not just because it is a good source of iron but also vitamin C, beta-carotene and several antioxidants. These may have the potential to increase your body’s infection-fighting ability. 

How to eat: To ensure you retain all nutrients, remember to use spinach in light cooking. Blanch and grind it to make a soup or add it to dals, vegetables stir-fries or meat curries. 

14. Basil Seeds (Falooda Seeds)

You’ve relished these in falooda and milkshakes, but did you know these chewy, sesame-like seeds have been a go-to for Ayurvedic experts since ages? Sabja seeds aka turkmaria or falooda seeds are used as a laxative and are a good source of iron, vitamins A, C, and K, and potassium. In addition to ensuring strong immunity, basil seeds also suppress your appetite, helping you avoid binge-eating.

Word of caution: This summer superfood must be avoided by women trying to get pregnant since it lowers oestrogen levels. 

How to eat: Apart from milkshakes, falooda can be soaked in water and added to ice creams, sherbets, and kulfi. 

15. Chia Seeds

The South American cousin to our Sabja seeds, chia seed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and loaded with protein and fibre. According to a 2016 study, 100 grams of chia seeds can meet 100% daily requirement of fibre in adults. What makes chia seeds of the best summer superfoods is its high antioxidant content which can prevent liver ailments, aid with cardiovascular health, and even boost immunity. 

How to eat: If you’re looking for some cooking therapy amid the Coronavirus lockdown, we’d suggest you try this healthy nutri-seed bar recipe using chia seeds by chef Ranveer Brar.

16. Almonds

Praised by nutritionists for its high protein value, almonds makes for a healthy snack option. Research suggests that this dry fruit has the ability to fight off viral infections that cause common cold and flu. Almond is an excellent source of vitamin E, manganese, and copper—these three, when combined, give a boost to your immune system. 

How to eat: Almonds can be soaked overnight and eaten every morning without its skin, added to desserts. There’s also badam milk: A winter favourite prepared by mixing coarsely-ground almonds, elaichi (cardamom seeds), milk, and sugar (optional). 

17. Star Anise

Besides boosting the immune system, star anise promotes bone health, may reduce the risk of cancer, and save you from the damages caused by free radicals and slow down the process of aging. It is particularly beneficial for lactating mothers. The oil extracted from star anise can increase the flow of breast milk. For pregnant women, the oil helps stimulate the immune system. 

How to eat: Star anise has a distinct liquorice flavour, much like fennel. It can be used to flavour soups and curries. Star anise is popularly used in Thai curries and is one of the spices used in a variety of biryanis. 

18. Fermented Foods

Think of fermented foods as a saviour for your gut health. Just a spoonful of any fermented food, from kanji to kefir and home-made pickles, contains high amount of good bacteria, which in turn gives you a strong immunity. 

How to eat: LF columnist Neeti Mehra, Founder and CEO of BeejLiving, recently showed how to make fermented rice at home on her Instagram. Check out the post here: 

19. Tomatoes

Don’t underestimate the power of this common pantry item. With high concentration of vitamin C, tomatoes can help build better resistance to certain pathogens that can lead to illness, in addition to a stronger immune system. 

How to eat: Tomato can be used as a souring agent in dals, curries, and stir fries. It can be enjoyed in salads or used as a base of pasta sauces. 

20. Red bell peppers

Just in case citrus fruits are not a big fan of citrus fruits, include red bell peppers to fulfill your intake of vitamin C. It contains twice the amount of this vitamin and is also a rich source of beta carotene, which keeps your eyes and skin healthy. 

How to eat: You can make a simple Chinese-style stir fry with red bell peppers and broccoli, eat it in a salad, or puree it for sauces. 

21. Green tea

You may have known green tea as an effective aid for weight loss, but did you know it is also one of the best sources to fight off common cold? It has anti-inflammatory properties and is rich in flavonoids and catechins. Flavonoids boost immunity while catechin is an antibacterial and antiviral that may kill influenza virus and common cold bacteria.

How to eat: The best way to consume green tea is to drink it as a hot beverage. But you can also use it in baking and cold beverages. 

22. Eggs

Research shows that vitamin D may keep common cold or any other upper respiratory tract infection at bay. Eggs (yolk + whites) contain high amount of vitamin D as well as protein. So, for a strong immune system, make this immunity-boosting food a part of your everyday meals. But remember not to overdo it because eggs are high in cholesterol. 

How to eat: Eggs are one of the most versatile immunity-boosting foods to cook with and hence, we’ve compiled a long list of recipes you can try. 

These foods can’t prevent illness, but they can certainly help strengthen your immune system and keep you healthy. Remember, diet is only a part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. You also need to make certain lifestyle modifications to prepare your body to fight head-on with viruses and bacteria:

2) Sleep well
3) Do not stress
4) Don’t smoke
5) Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all you do
6) Maintain a healthy weight

Special mention:

While you add these foods to boost immunity in your diet, don’t forget the good ol’ water. Heart health, detox, weight loss, happy skin, and better digestion—water comes with a number of benefits. Click here to know the benefits of water and how many glasses of water you must drink in a day. 

Images: Shutterstock


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