How to boost your immune system with diet and stay well

winter vegetarian seasonal recipes - kale and quinoa salad recipe with cranberries, apples and walnuts

How to boost your immune system with diet and stay well

Here is some research into the ways what you eat can help you to protect yourself from infection at the moment. The coronavirus pandemic has taken over all the topics of conversation, so here are some things you can do to improve your chances of fighting this disease if you get infected.

The first point to note is that research has shown that people who eat five or more servings of vegetables a day will have a significantly greater protective antibody response to pathogens than those people who eat less than three serves of vegetables a day [1].

Other particular fruit and vegetables that can help you to ward off serious ill effects from infection include kale, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, mushrooms and berries. Probiotics and exercise can also help.

kale to boost immunity during coronavirus threat


When minuscule amounts of kale were dripped on human white blood cells in a petri dish, this resulted in five times the amount of antibody production within the white blood cells. [1] Although there has not been any research to date about how kale can benefit the human immune system in a dietary situation (rather than coming in direct contact with the white blood cells in the experiment), it is still worth eating kale to benefit your immune system (what is the worst that could happen)?

Happily, it doesn’t seem to make a difference if the kale is cooked. In the experiment, kale that had been boiled for thirty minutes actually worked better than the raw kale at stimulating antibody activity. [1]


Broccoli contains compounds that activate the intraepithelial lymphocytes in your gut. These white blood cells boost your immune system and protect you from pathogens in your food, and also the environment. Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and brussels sprouts rally your immune system foot soldiers and boost your defences. [1]

flour crumble and bowl of frozen berries


Eating berries can boost your levels of natural killer cells, which are part of your immune system’s rapid response against virus-infected and cancerous cells. These cells attack an invading pathogen on the first time it encounters it, unlike other cells in the immune system which need a history of exposure to develop antibodies. [1]

Eating a handful of blueberries a day can improve levels of natural killer cells in the blood stream. And eating cardamon can super boost the activity of these cells so that they fight harder against viruses and cancer cells.

probiotics for enhanced immunity


Research has shown that the blood taken from subjects who had taken probiotics for a couple of weeks displayed superior capacity to destroy invading pathogens. And this capacity lasted up to three weeks after probiotics had been discontinued. [1]

Another study showed that people who take probiotics have significantly fewer colds, fewer sick days and fewer overall cold symptoms. this indicates that probiotics might reduce the risk of upper-respiratory-tract infections. [1]

Rather than taking a probiotic, you can enhance the good bacteria living in your gut by eating prebiotics, such as fibre and a certain kind of starch concentrated in beans. Eating lots of plant foods will feed your bacteria with lots of good bacteria present on the fruits and vegetables and in turn will boost your immune system. [1]

exercise in important to fight infection


Even a little bit of exercise can help to boost your immune system. Letting kids run around for six minutes boosts the levels of immune cells in their blood by nearly 50 %. [1] For elderly, sedentary, women the chance of getting a respiratory-tract infection is about 80% however when these women walk for 1/2 an hour a day this chance drops to 20 % and for women who ran regularly the chance was just 8 %. [1]

It is thought that the reason this is so is because exercise boosts IgA levels in the saliva for example. And because over 95 % of all infections stare in the mucosal surfaces of the body, including the eyes, nostrils and mouth, boosting IgA can stop pathogens from getting access to the human body. [1]


Mushrooms also increase the IgA in your saliva. Eating a cup of cooked button mushrooms every day, increased study participants IgA by 50 %. Try to include mushrooms in your diet liberally!

So, try to eat foods that include these ingredients over the coming weeks. I will try to include recipes that include these wonderful ingredients in the next few weeks. Until then, stay well! And enjoy your hibernation.


1. Greger, M and Stone, G. (2017) How not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifcally Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease. Pan Macmillan, London.


Image credits:

“Ma Pao Tofu” by CulturedGuru is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

“Flu Warning” by mrofiq is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 


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