Our Favorite Winter Superfoods for Immune Health

Feb 15, 2022 Healthy Recipes Immune System

Our Favorite Winter Superfoods for Immune Health

Quick Health Scoop

  • Your immune system keeps you healthy 
  • A balanced diet filled with superfoods for immune health could provide key nutrients that help support immune system function
  • There are many immune-supporting superfoods, including a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and dairy products
  • These quick, delicious recipes are an easy way to work more foods into your diet to support a well-functioning immune system

Your immune system works around the clock to support your health. But just like the rest of your body, your immune system requires good nutrition to function at its best.[1] Of course, a balanced diet is a great first step. But filling your plate with superfoods for immune health could provide even more benefit a welcome prospect for all the time.

How Do Superfoods Support Immune Health?

Immune-supporting superfoods deliver targeted nutrients that support immune health and fortify the immune system for good health. And getting them is easier than you might expect. As it turns out, there are lots of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and dairy products packed with these vital nutrients. If you're not sure where to start, try these six foods and the quick, tasty recipes that go along with them. They're loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can help to keep your immune system in top shape.

Learn More: Top Five Nutrients That Support Your Immune System

Oatmeal

When you think of superfoods for immune health, oatmeal might not be the first food that comes to mind. But this hearty grain is a tasty way to foster a healthy immune system. Oats are one of the few foods that contain beta-glucan, a unique fiber that activates special immune cells.[2]

Try It in Cherry Almond Oatmeal

  • In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup of water to a boil.
  • Add ½ cup rolled oats, 1 tablespoon tart, dried cherries and 1 pinch of ground cinnamon.
  • Reduce heat to low. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from heat. Top with 1 tablespoon slivered almonds and serve immediately.

Red Bell Peppers

When it comes to vitamin C, oranges get all the credit. But did you know one half-cup of diced red bell pepper supplies more than an entire day's worth of vitamin C? That's 36% more than you'd get from an orange![3]

Try It in a Red Pepper Chickpea Salad

  • In a large bowl, combine 1 can rinsed, drained unsalted chickpeas, 1 diced red bell pepper and 1 cup halved grape tomatoes.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the juice of 1 lemon, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 clove minced garlic and 1 tablespoon capers.
  • Pour dressing over vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss well and serve.

Yogurt

Your gut is the largest immune organ in your body.[4] To keep it running smoothly, think yogurt. This fermented dairy food is filled with probiotics—beneficial live bacteria that protect the gut.[5]

Try It in a Curried Yogurt-Tahini Dip

  • In a small bowl, whisk 1 single-serve container of plain low-fat Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon tahini and ¼ teaspoon curry powder.
  • Serve with baby carrots and bell pepper slices for dipping.

Learn More: Probiotic Foods List: The Best Food Sources for Probiotics

Lean Beef

Your body relies on zinc to activate specialized immune responders called T cells.[6] If you're looking for an easy way to load up on this mineral, lean ground beef can help. Just one 3-ounce serving provides nearly half the zinc you require per day, and it takes just minutes to cook.[7]

Try It in a Crunchy Taco Salad

  • In a small non-stick skillet, sauté 3 ounces of lean ground beef until it reaches 160° F.[8] Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
  • In a small bowl, whisk 1 tablespoon olive oil with the juice of 1 lime, 1 pinch cumin and 1 pinch chili powder.
  • In a large bowl, combine 2 cups shredded romaine lettuce, ½ cup halved grape tomatoes, ½ cup thawed frozen corn, ¼ cup diced red onion and the ground beef.
  • Drizzle with lime dressing. Toss well and serve.

Learn More: Benefits of Zinc

Spinach

Vitamin A does more than support healthy eyesight. This nutrient also keeps your skin and mucous membranes healthy so they can seal out. Cooked spinach is an easy way to get your fill. One half-cup provides nearly two-thirds of the vitamin A you need in a day.[9]

Try It in Sesame Ginger Spinach

  • In a large non-stick sauté pan, heat 1 teaspoon canola oil over medium heat.
  • Add 2 cups of baby spinach and sauté until the spinach begins to wilt, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger and sauté for another minute.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
  • Drizzle with 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil and serve.

Salmon

Your body's immune cells require vitamin D to function properly. Yet, as important as this vitamin is, it's only found in a handful of foods. Fatty fish like salmon can help. With 71% of your daily vitamin D requirement per 3 ounces, salmon is a tasty way to keep your immune system functioning well[10]

Try It in Citrus Soy Salmon

  • In a small bowl, whisk ¼ cup orange juice with 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard.
  • Pour half of the marinade into a small shallow bowl. Reserve remaining marinade.
  • Place a 3-ounce salmon filet in a bowl with the marinade, flesh side down. Marinate for 10 minutes.
  • Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Transfer salmon to a baking sheet, skin side down. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Bake in a 400° F oven for 15 minutes.
  • Remove salmon from the oven. Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with reserved marinade.
  • Serve with the sesame ginger spinach, if desired.

Learn More: How Much Vitamin D Do You Really Get From the Sun?

The Bottom Line

Getting the nutrition you need for optimal immune health doesn't have to be complicated. Your kitchen is a great place to start. Cooking with superfoods can provide the nutrients your body needs to support your wellbeing so you can feel your very best all winter long.

Learn More About Nutrients for Immune Health:

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as medical advice or a recommendation for any specific product. Consult your health care provider for more information.

† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

References

  1. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Support your health with nutrition." December 9, 2019. Accessed on: December 10, 2021. https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/support-your-health-with-nutrition
  2. Nutrients. "Nutritional components in Western diet versus Mediterranean diet at the gut microbiota-immune system interplay. Implications for health and disease." February 22, 2021. Accessed on: December 10, 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7927055/
  3. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. "Vitamin C: Fact sheet for health professionals." March 26, 2021. Accessed on: December 10, 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/#h3
  4. Biomedical Journal. "Mammalian gut immunity." 2014. Accessed on: December 10, 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4714863/
  5. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. "Probiotics: Fact sheet for consumers." March 24, 2021. Accessed on: December 10, 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Probiotics-Consumer/
  6. Nutrients. "Nutritional components in Western diet versus Mediterranean diet at the gut microbiota-immune system interplay. Implications for health and disease." February 22, 2021. Accessed on: December 10, 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7927055/
  7. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. "Zinc: Fact sheet for health professionals." December 7, 2021. Accessed on: December 10, 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/
  8. United States Department of Agriculture. "Safe minimum cooking temperatures chart." April 12, 2019. Accessed on: December 10, 2021. https://www.foodsafety.gov/food-safety-charts/safe-minimum-cooking-temperature
  9. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. "Vitamin A: Fact sheet for health professionals." March 26, 2021. Accessed on: December 10, 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/#h3
  10. 10. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. "Vitamin D: Fact sheet for health professionals." August 17, 2021. Accessed on: December 10, 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/

Authors

Sandra Zagorin, MS, RD

Science and Health Educator

As a member of the Medical and Scientific Communications team, Sandra educates healthcare professionals and consumers on nutrition, supplements, and related health concerns. Prior to joining Pharmavite, Sandra worked as a clinical dietitian at University of Chicago Medicine in the inpatient and outpatient settings. Sandra received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Science, with minors in Spanish and Chemistry from the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. She earned her Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from RUSH University in Chicago, IL. As part of her Master’s program, Sandra performed research on physical activity participation and correlates in urban Hispanic women.

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Lynn M. Laboranti, RD

Science and Health Educator

Lynn is a Registered Dietitian (R.D.) and is a member of the Medical and Scientific Communications team at Pharmavite. She has over 20 years of experience in integrative and functional nutrition and has given lectures to health professionals and consumers on nutrition, dietary supplements and related health issues. Lynn frequently conducts employee trainings on various nutrition topics in addition to educating retail partners on vitamins, minerals and supplements. Lynn has previous clinical dietitian expertise in both acute and long-term care, as well as nutrition counseling for weight management, diabetes, and sports nutrition. Lynn earned a bachelor’s of science in Nutrition with a minor in Kinesiology/Exercise Science from The Pennsylvania State University. She earned a M.S. degree in Human Nutrition from Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Lynn is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Sports Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists, Dietitians in Functional Medicine, and holds a certification in Integrative and Functional Nutrition through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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