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9 Natural Immune Boosters That Really Work

Registered dietitians and twin sisters Rebecca and Reisha Harper share what to add to your diet to keep your immune system strong.

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How to boost your immune system

Maintaining a healthy, active and vibrant lifestyle during the cold-weather months (and every month!) is high on the list for most of us. To help achieve this, we need to understand the intricate relationship between gut health and the immune system. The body’s immune system is one of the best defences when it comes to fighting illness and disease. About 80 percent of your immune system is found in the gastrointestinal tract. Taking care of your gut health is one of the most important steps to maintaining good health, necessary for absorbing nutrients and keeping your immune system strong. Here are some key natural immune system boosters.

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Humans can’t digest these soluble plant fibres, but they’re required as a food source for probiotic bacteria. Prebiotics and probiotics work together, and both are needed for the gastrointestinal tract to function properly. Prebiotic foods include asparagus, bananas, barley, chicory root, cocoa, dandelion greens, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, leeks, oats, onions, psyllium husk, sweet potatoes and whole-grain wheat.

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These living bacteria colonize the intestinal tract and play a key role in gut health, which helps support the immune system. Make sure to have one or two servings of probiotic foods daily with fermented options like kefir, kimchi, kombucha, miso, natto, pickles, plain yogurt, sauerkraut, tamari and tempeh. To build and maintain a healthy immune system, it’s also important to feed your body certain nutrients and stay adequately hydrated. Include a variety of these immune-boosting foods in your daily intake.

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Chia seeds

Research shows that their fatty acid content helps boost the immune system. They’re also a good source of iron, which is necessary to transport oxygen around the body and help support the immune system. (For a super simple breakfast, try this Vanilla Chia Pudding recipe.)

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Loaded with antioxidants, garlic also contains alliin, a compound that helps fight germs. When raw garlic is crushed or sliced, the alliin turns into allicin, its active, immune-boosting ingredient.

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High in antioxidants and one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, the “king of greens” strengthens your immune system and protects your body from disease. Add raw kale to smoothies, enjoy kale leaf chips or sauté kale with avocado oil as a side dish.

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This ground green tea is packed with vitamins, minerals, trace elements and free radical scavengers, making it a powerful force to fight off colds and flu. Enjoy matcha as a beverage or in baked goods. Organic matcha is your best option, but make sure to store it in the refrigerator.

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Red and yellow bell peppers

Peppers are packed full of vitamin C, which is believed to increase white blood cell production and is essential for building and maintaining a strong immune system.

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This spice contains high concentrations of curcumin, which has strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antiviral properties. We recommend taking turmeric as a dietary supplement.

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Vitamin D supplements

For your immune system to function properly, you need adequate levels of vitamin D. Since most vitamin D intake comes from sunlight, we recommend taking a daily vitamin D3 supplement.

Rebecca and Reisha Harper of Harper Nutrition are twin sisters and registered dietitians with a special focus on nutrition for health, beauty and aging well. Follow them on Instagram @harpernutrition_twins.

Next, Rebecca and Reisha share how to be healthy without dieting.

Best Health Canada
Originally Published in Best Health Canada