- December 17, 2020
- Modified On: September 14, 2022
- by Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
- 0 Comments
The Best Vitamins for Your Immune System
Wondering what are the best vitamins for your immune system? Look no further than this dietitian-approved list!
When your immune system functions are working properly, this internal defense system will help protect you from disease- and illness-causing microorganisms.
That’s why I put together this list of the best vitamins for your immune system, plus some immune-boosting tips.
The importance of a strong immune system
With the help of a nutrient-packed diet—hello fruits and vegetables!—you can strengthen your immune system and better fight off pesky germs.
After all, more than 200 viruses exist that can cause symptoms of the cold such as sore throat, runny nose, and red eyes.
Sometimes, though, you don’t get everything that you need from food. Or sometimes you need a boost that’s in addition to food. And this is where vitamins for your immune system come in.
The nutrients in certain foods and supplements help your immune cells fight off bacteria and viruses that make their way into the body.
How to boost your immune health
Before we get into the best vitamins for your immune system, let’s talk about other ways to boost immunity.
Practice good hygiene
You probably already know about taking simple precautions like washing your hands—say the alphabet slowly as you wash, folks! Yes, you need to scrub for that long, per the public health folks at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
You can also take precaution when traveling by disinfecting spaces like offices and hotel rooms. Chairs and phones are two of the most heavily contaminated surfaces (versus computer mice, computer keyboards, and desktops), per research in PLoS One.
And interestingly, offices inhabited by men are germier, versus those used by women.
Keep some disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer around—it’s not a bad idea to disinfect your phone and chair after guests visit and to sanitize or wash your hands after visiting a coworker’s office.
While you’re at it, disinfect your hotel room, too, once you start traveling again. Research shows that a virus can easily spread from one hotel room to the next, as well as communal areas.
This happens when the housekeeping staff moves from one room to the next and when guests travel throughout the building, shows the study in Food and Environmental Virology.
Getting enough sleep
Make sure you’re getting enough hours of sleep. A German study clearly shows how shut-eye can affect immunity: Researchers had a small group of people either sleep or stay awake the night after receiving a vaccination against hepatitis A.
Four weeks later, people who slept the night after being vaccinated had significantly more antibodies against the viral liver disease, versus subjects who stayed awake.
Other studies show that being sleep deprived can make you more susceptible to getting sick after exposure to a virus.
Eating the right food
Vitamins for your immune system are great, and you can get these from food in addition to supplements.
If you eat an apple a day, could this really keep the doctor away? Apples have a lot of health attributes—they’re a good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber and immune-helping vitamin C—so the years-old question is valid.
Researchers from New Hampshire, Michigan and Vermont set out to answer it. The answer: Nope, according to the scientists’ study, out in JAMA Internal Medicine. But they did find a health benefit from eating an apple a day: It helps keep the pharmacist away.
The scientists looked at 24-hour dietary recalls from 8,399 adults. The people who consumed the equivalent of at least one small apple daily were considered daily apple eaters, and 753 adults made this mark.
Note that volunteers were excluded from the analysis if their apple intake was derived entirely from apple juice and applesauce.
Apple eaters were slightly more likely to avoid needing prescription meds than non-daily-apple eaters.
This is a preliminary finding, as study authors say that more research is needed to truly understand the health effects of apple intake. But it’s an interesting finding, nonetheless.
Many fruits, nuts, and whole grains can work wonders to boost your immunity, too (ahem, coronavirus!). Want to learn how to feel better faster without skimping on flavor? Say goodbye to the sniffles!
As well, eating the rainbow has benefits, as the antioxidants in colorful fruits and vegetables can help fight off free radicals and more. And you may need to supplement with vitamins for your immune system, which we’ll talk about in a moment.
Getting enough exercise
In one study by Seattle researchers, 115 overweight and obese postmenopausal women were asked to do 45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week for a year or to stretch once weekly for 45 minutes.
Guess what happened? The exercisers ended up with a lower risk of catching a cold, versus the stretchers. Plus, regular exercise provides other benefits, such as ones for your blood pressure as well as lowered risk of heart disease.
Now, let’s talk about the best vitamins for your immune system!
The 5 best immunity vitamins
Without further ado, here are the best vitamins for your immune system. I have all of these in my pantry!
1. Vitamin C
I’m sure you’ve heard of taking vitamin C for immune health! It really is one of the best vitamins for your immune system. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps keep your immunity strong and may help reduce the duration of the common cold.
We all need a baseline amount of vitamin C in our diets. So if you’re not eating a lot of fruits and veggies, one of the main sources of vitamin C, you may want to consider a supplement.
This is a mineral that we all need in minimal amounts in our diets. There’s some research to show that it may improve immune health when you’re feeling under the weather.
So this is a supplement I recommend for short-term use in those certain instances. The short-term is important, as you can overdose on zinc.
You may have never heard of monolaurin. It’s derived from coconut, and preliminary research reveals that it may help fight against viruses and may have other immunity benefits, per the Natural Medicines database.
This supplement has been gaining steam lately, and for good reason. Elderberry comes from a tree that’s grown in North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.
In supplement form, you may use it short term when you feel that you’re starting to get sick, as it may help quell flu-like symptoms.
5. Vitamin D
This one is last but not least. If you’re deficient in vitamin D (you can get a blood test to determine this), it’s a good idea to take a daily supplement.
Research has shown that vitamin D may help immunity. It really is one of the top vitamins for your immune system.
When it comes to the best vitamins for your immune system, you have many options at your disposal.
These should be in addition to eating a healthy, immune-boosting diet and making lifestyle changes––such as getting enough sleep and exercise.
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Natural Medicines database
- Research in PLoS One
- A study in Food and Environmental Virology
- Association Between Apple Consumption and Physician Visits Appealing the Conventional Wisdom That an Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away, JAMA Internal Medicine
- Apple Phytochemicals and Their Health Benefits, Nutrition Journal
- National Institutes of Health
I’d love to hear from you! Which of these vitamins for your immune system have you tried?
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