5 Nutrients to Boost Immunity

Written by: Melissa Hawthorne, MS, RD, CDCES, LD

In the last few months, the world has become much more aware of how important proper hygiene can be in protecting ourselves from disease,

Especially good handwashing. As hand sanitizer flies off the shelves and people try to protect themselves, it is important to also remember that our environment and what we put in our bodies is just as important. Indeed, the food that we eat actually contains natural medicine that can boost immunity and fend off potential illnesses.

Our immune system is a complex system of signals sent and received that ensures foreign molecules are destroyed in an attempt to prevent illness. A disruption in the system leaves the body more susceptible to infections. Several factors can create this disruption and weaken the immune system, including, among other things, external factors like cigarette smoke, poor air quality, pesticides and internal factors caused by a poor diet. A weakened immune system allows free radicals to increase in our bodies. Free radicals can damage cells, making them unstable and more prone to infection. Eating a healthy diet of foods containing antioxidants can help prevent cell damage and, in some cases, actually repair cell damage, all with the benefit of creating a stronger immune system. So, it is important to include healthy foods and take in nutrients to promote overall health and bolster your immune system.

Some great examples of key nutrients that can help boost immunity are below:

1) Probiotics. Foods containing live active cultures such as lactobacillus and bifidobacterium strains colonize in the intestinal tract and help create a barrier that can destroy disease-causing cells. Foods containing probiotics include yogurt, kefir, supplements and fermented foods such as kimchi.

2) Beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a plant pigment (carotenoid) that gives food a beautiful red-orange color. This specific carotenoid helps regulate the immune system and protects from infections by keeping skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines and respiratory systemhealthy. Beta-carotene also acts as an antioxidant as it converts to Vitamin A in the body. Foods high in beta-carotene/Vitamin A are sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, cantaloupe, kale, spinach, red bell peppers and apricots.

3) Zinc. Zinc enhances the function of helper T-cells that identify antigens and alerts other cells in the immune system of foreign invaders. Zinc may also help wounds heal faster by controlling inflammation. Foods high in zinc are lean meat, poultry, seafood, as well as vegetarian sources such as wheat germ, tofu, beans and nuts.

4) Protein. Protein helps build and repair tissues that protect against viral and bacterial infections. A diet low in protein can lead to a weaker immune system as the needed tissue building and repair remains lacking. Animal and plant-based protein foods include lean meat, poultry, seafood, dairy items, eggs, beans, quinoa. lentils, nuts, seeds and soy.

5) Vitamin C. This vitamin boosts immunity by stimulating the formation of antibodies and can also provide antioxidant benefits as well work as an anti-inflammatory agent. Foods high in vitamin Care oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, and lemons, red bell pepper, papaya, berries, tomatoes and leafy greens.

Overall, maintaining a diverse diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein is the body’s best defense system when it comes to building a strong immune system. While the nutrients themselves are important, it is widely recommended for overall health that nutrients and antioxidants be consumed via food first, not from supplements alone. While the above tips and food advice can kick start your road to building a better immune system, if you need more detail and specific direction, consider contacting a registered dietitian to help you in your wellness journey.

Grilled Halibut with
Peach and Pepper Salsa

Grilled Halibut with Peach and Pepper Salsa

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients: For the Salsa:

  • 2 ½ cups yellow peach, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/3 cups red bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ cup green onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup arugula, chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 habanero pepper, seeded and minced (optional if you like spice)

For the Fish:

  • For the Fish:
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 (6 oz.) skinless halibut fillets
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • Avocado or olive oil spray


To prepare the fish combine the lemon juice, olive oil, paprika and garlic cloves in a shallow dish, Tupperware or large plastic bag. Place the fish in the mixture and then turn it over so both sides get coated. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes. While the fish is marinating, combine all the salsa ingredients in a bowl and toss together. Remove the fish from the marinade and sprinkle with the salt and black pepper. Place the fish on a heated grill or grill pan coated with cooking spray and cook for about 3 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Serve warm with the salsa on top.

Nutrition Information: Yield:

Yield: 6 servings

Serving Size: 1 fish fillet with 2/3 cup salsa

Amount Per Serving: ● Calories: 267 ● Total Fat: 9 g ● Carbohydrates: 12 g ● Protein: 35 g