Boost Your Immune System Better*
by Ashley Koff, RD** and Tori Schmitt, MS, RDN
Looking to boost your immune system with vitamins, minerals, and herbs? Making better food, beverages and supplement choices can all help boost your immune system. While there is never a time of the year that your immune system doesn’t need support, when temperatures drop, days get shorter, and holiday hugs, mugs, and travel are in the near future, you know it is time to pay attention to your immune system.
Better first line of defense tips that may help boost your immune system:
Grab some extra sleep, quit smoking, and ditch the alcohol, dairy, most caffeine and added sugar in favor of a rainbow of plant-based foods, spices, healthy fats, water, and get in these 4 immediate immune health heroes:
How it helps: Used for centuries to ward off sickness, clinical research demonstrates that elderberry helps support a healthy immune response.* (1, 2)
Where you can find it: Quality elderberry is available in gummies, syrups, capsules and teas. When I want to support my immune system, I get my elderberry by grabbing MegaFood’s Acute Defense– it also includes a few additional immune heroes like zinc and vitamin C (!!)*
How it helps: Zinc helps your immune system work better. Without enough zinc your immune system may not fight off foreign invaders. (3, 4) In one randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, those with the common cold who took zinc lozenges saw a significant reduction in the time it took to come to a complete resolution of symptoms compared to those who took a placebo. (5) That’s science-y for “got better faster” so yeah, get your zinc in!
Where to find it: Eat it from cashews, chickpeas, hemp seeds, whole grains and almonds. One better nutrition way, grab an Almond Butter Perfect Bar As noted above, when the almost-a-cold feeling hits, you may want to hit harder with a quality supplement of zinc too.
How it helps: Immune cells are literally lined with omega fatty acids which are called “essential” because we need to take them in since the body can’t make them itself.
Where you can find it: Eat them from plants and animals like seeds (hemp, flax, chia), walnuts, organic soybeans, and wild caught salmon and sardines. Since we need them daily, if you don’t eat these foods regularly you should consider a quality supplemental source like any of the SmartyPants Complete line which also includes immune heroes, vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc, too!
How it helps: While vitamin C may not help you from first catching a cold, evidence suggests that getting more vitamin C daily might help decrease the duration of cold symptoms – by as much as an 8% reduction in duration of symptoms for adults and 14% in children! (6, 7)
Where you can find it: Fruits and vegetables are among the best sources of vitamin C! When you eat a rainbow of plant foods – like red from a red pepper and strawberries, orange from oranges and cantaloupe, green from broccoli and Brussels sprouts, and white from cauliflower – you get more vitamin C. Need help eating a rainbow of plant foods more often? Text PlANT123 to 44222 for the Better Plant-Based Nutrition Guide FREE or grab the whole set of tools to build your better plant-based nutrition plan easily and deliciously. Use PLANT30 to save 30% off!
Need more quick tips on what to do when you feel sick? Ask My Better Nutrition,the Alexa skill that features better nutrition tips from Ashley Koff RD. Enable it today!
Got a better nutrition tip that helps you kick a cold? Share it with us on Instagram – tag Ashley & Tori so we can share your post with others too!
*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
**Ashley Koff RD is a paid sponsor for the brands mentioned which she also may consume herself and recommends to her patients as appropriate. She may be the sole author of this post or not, but regardless she has reviewed and approved the statements and these are her recommendations.”
- Zakay-Rones Z, Varsano N, Zlotnik M, et al. Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. J Altern Complement Med 1995;1:361-9.
- Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res 2004;32:132-40.
- Wintergerst ES, Maggini S, Hornig DH. Contribution of selected vitamins and trace elements to immune function. Ann Nutr Metab 2007;51:301-23.
- Zinc: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. “National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements.” Accessed October 1 2018 from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/#en52
- Mossad SB, Macknin ML, Medendorp SV, Mason P. Zinc gluconate lozenges for treating the common cold. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Ann Intern Med.1996 Jul 15;125(2):81-8.
- Douglas RM, Hemilä H. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. PLoS Med 2005;2:e168.
- Hemilä H. The role of vitamin C in the treatment of the common cold. Am Fam Physician 2007;76:1111, 1115.