Nutritional strategies to boost your immune system

As winter moves in and temperatures drop, we are more prone to getting sick. We tend to have less exposure to fresh air; dry nasal passages are less effective at keeping out germs; constricted blood vessels make it more difficult for immune cells to travel; and we have less exposure to the sunshine vitamin: vitamin D. 

Besides regular hand washing, moderate exercise and getting adequate amounts of sleep and hydration, there are additional nutritional steps that we can take to keep our immune systems strong.

The pros of protein: make sure you eat adequate amounts

Eating an adequate amount of protein is not a concern for the average American. However, certain subgroups of people, like vegetarians, the elderly, body builders, and people with certain illnesses, may or may not be consuming enough protein to maintain a healthy immune system.  Protein serves as the building block of new white blood cells (a key type of immune cells). Without adequate protein intake, our ability to produce enough white blood cells will be strained. Use the following link as a guide as to how many grams of protein you should aim to consume in a day . Here are some good sources of protein:

Eat the rainbow

Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables and using a variety of herbs and spices will arm you with a wide variety of immune boosting, antimicrobial nutrients. Below are several common foods with immune boosting nutrients:

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The sunshine vitamin: Vitamin D

Most people recognize vitamin D for its bone health benefits. However, new research also shows that vitamin D also has immune benefits. Unfortunately, most people have low vitamin D levels during the winter months. While some foods such as fortified milk products and milk substitutes (almond milk, etc), mushrooms, sun dried vegetables (tomatoes), fish and egg yolks do carry vitamin D, the level of vitamin D in these foods is minimal and many people require supplementation.  Keep in mind, vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, so take it with your meals to promote maximum absorption. To make sure you are within range, ask your doctor to check your vitamin D level when they do blood work.

A gut feeling

About 70% of our immune system lives in our guts. Think about it, if your gastrointestinal system is not working properly, it will not kill off or keep out toxins adequately and will not absorb nutrients that are critical to keeping a healthy immune system. In addition, much of our lymphatic system, the circulatory system for our immune fighting white blood cells, lies within our guts. Keeping a healthy gut will help enhance your ability to stay healthy. Do so by eating foods rich in probiotics or taking a probiotic supplement, avoiding gut-inflaming additives like sugar alcohols and carrageenan, and eating nutrient dense foods that contain gut healing nutrients including glutamine.

Probiotic rich foods:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Sauerkraut
  • Pickles
  • Kimchi
  • Apple cider vinegar

Other super immune boosting foods/herbs of interest : note-discuss any herbs with your medical team before starting:

  • Local honey
  • Bone broth
  • Elderberry
  • Astragalus
  • AHCC/mushroom extracts
  • Monolaurin
  • Colostrum
  • Colloidal silver
  • Oil of oregano


Immune boosting recipes:

Carrot ginger soup


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 6 (1kg) carrots, peeled, chopped
  • 5cm piece ginger, peeled, finely chopped
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken stock


  • Sautee onion, celery, garlic and carrots in olive oil for 1 min, add 1 cup of stock and let simmer until soft
  • Add ginger and rest of stock
  • Blend up and serve!

Bone broth in a slow cooker


  • 2-3 roasted chicken carcasses (approx. 2 lbs. of bones); include any leftover skin or pan drippings
  • 1 or 2 medium onions, unpeeled & quartered
  • 1 head of garlic, unpeeled, cut in half crosswise
  • 2 celery ribs, cut in 1 to 2 inch pieces
  • 2 carrots, cut in 1 to 2 inch pieces
  • 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 5 sprigs of fresh parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar (1 tablespoon per pound of bones)
  • 2 to 2-1/2 quarts water (enough to immerse above ingredients)\


Add all of the ingredients to a 6 quart (or larger) slow cooker. * Cook on low for 12 hours (or more). While still hot, use tongs or slotted spoon to remove large pieces from broth. Then pour through a wire mesh strainer to remove the remaining solid bits. 
NOTE: This is a salt-free broth. Add salt to taste, as desired.
*If your slow cooker is smaller, you can halve the recipe using 1 chicken carcass and half of the remaining ingredients.


Super immune juice:


  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • ½ apple
  • 1 beet
  • Handful of spinach
  • 2 drops of mushroom extract if available
  • 1 tsp elderberry if available
  • Water to fill


  • Blend and enjoy!


Honey cinnamon mixture kefir

  • Mix 1 tbsp of local honey with 1 tsp cinnamon in to 8-10 oz kefir


Nutty coconut oranges


  • 1 orange
  • 1 tbsp of coconut flakes
  • 1 tsp local honey
  • 2 brazil nuts, crushed
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon


  • Sprinkle coconut, cinnamon, brazil nuts and cinnamon over them—enjoy!


Cayenne portabella burgers


  • 4 portabella mushroom caps
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Sprinkle of mozzarella cheese


  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Clean and layout mushrooms
  • In a separate bowl, mix olive oil, garlic, cayenne, salt and pepper
  • Even spread into each mushroom cap
  • Bake for 35 minutes or until soft
  • Serve on sourdough bread and with steamed or sautéed kale for additional immune benefits