When you eat clean, you’re already naturally boosting your immune system, because you’re giving your body the vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and other nutrients it needs to keep your cells healthy and to protect your body from cancer-causing agents like environmental toxins and pathogens like cold viruses. Eating clean also reduces inflammation in the body, another condition that has been linked to cancer and other diseases.

But if you want to ensure you’re getting enough of the nutrients that are known to keep the immune system functioning optimally, here’s what you should focus on:


Foods rich in vitamin C

Vitamin C increases the production and activity of white blood cells, strengthening the immune system. Good sources include broccoli, bell peppers, strawberries, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, and Brussels sprouts.


Foods high in vitamin E

Vitamin E neutralizes harmful free radical molecules that cause cell damage, enabling the immune system to focus on healing. Good sources include nuts, seeds, vegetable oil, spinach, and tomato products.


Foods rich in zinc

Zinc is essential for proper T cell and natural killer cell function and proper lymphocyte (small white blood cells that play a role in the body’s immune response) activity, and it may be directly involved in antibody production to help you fight infections. Good sources include lean meats, liver, poultry, shellfish, black beans, green peas, whole grains, yogurt, wheat germ, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, and peanuts.


Foods rich in beta carotene and other carotenoids

Beta carotene supports the thymus gland (a gland in the upper chest cavity that processes lymphocytes), making it one of your most important sources of immunity. Good sources of beta carotene and other carotenoids include orange fruits and vegetables, including carrots, apricots, nectarines, mangoes, pumpkin, and yams.


Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids

These essential fatty acids fight inflammation and boost the immune system, but when consumed in excess, they may have the opposite effect, suppressing the immune system. If you get your omega-3 fatty acids from food sources, you’re unlikely to get too much. Find this nutrient in marine foods, such as salmon, sardines, and herring; seeds and nuts; and canola and flaxseed oils.



Garlic contains allicin, a pungent antioxidant that can fight a variety of pathogens and serves as a natural antibiotic. It also has anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, garlic contains selenium, which has been referred to as the “immune system mineral.”

Selenium stimulates the development and function of all types of white blood cells and enhances the ability of lymphocytes and natural killer cells to activate and respond to invaders, such as bacteria and viruses. Allicin is best obtained from freshly chopped or crushed garlic. Selenium can be found in garlic, lean meats, shellfish, vegetables, and grains.