Healthy eating positively supports your entire body, including your immune system. The immune system relies on specialised cells to help prevent and fight off infections and some other diseases that can make us ill. Like all cells in the body, these immune cells rely on a careful balance of energy, protein, and micronutrients for optimal functioning.

Healthy lifestyle choices can help you maintain a healthier immune system, here are three principles to keep in mind:

  • 1Take steps to avoid obesity.  Obesity is a very complex health issue that can increase risk of many health conditions and diseases.
  • 2Ensure you are eating enough food. Undernutrition can lead to compromised immune function, reducing the body’s ability to fight  off harmful pathogens. 
  • 3Consume nutrient-rich foods. Certain micronutrients,  vitamins and antioxidants are important to help maintain healthy immune system function. Nutrient deficiencies can increase susceptibility  to infectious pathogens. 

Eating for a healthy immune system

Brightly coloured fruit and vegetables

Brightly coloured fruit and vegetables contain many important nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and E; carotenoids and flavonoids (organic pigments that give colour to plant parts); and more. These nutrients help the immune system function properly and may help protect immune cells and tissues against damage.

Some options include:

  • leafy greens (e.g., spinach, kale, rocket, broccoli)
  • citrus fruit (e.g., oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit)
  • berries (e.g., blackberries, blueberries, raspberries)
  • other fruit and vegetables (e.g., sweet potato, pumpkin, capsicum, mango)

Oily fish

Oily fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help to regulate immune function and reduce chronic inflammation. 

Some tasty fish options include:

  • salmon
  • sardines
  • mackerel
  • trout

Poultry and shellfish 

Poultry and shellfish are great dietary sources of zinc and other nutrients. Zinc plays an important role in many aspects of immune system function. 

Some popular options include:

  • chicken
  • turkey
  • oysters

Whole grains and legumes

Whole grains and legumes are also great sources of zinc and other nutrients.

Some readily available options include:

  • quinoa
  • rice
  • oats
  • chickpeas
  • lentils
  • beans

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds contain many different micronutrients that help maintain immune system function, including zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and more.

Here are a few options:

  • almonds
  • cashews
  • walnuts
  • sunflower seeds
  • sesame seeds
  • chia seeds

Herbs and spices

Herbs and spices are great at enhancing the flavour of other healthy foods; but some also have properties that may help support our immune systems.

Some common herbs and spices include:

  • garlic
  • turmeric
  • rosemary
  • saffron
  • basil
  • sage

Listed food suggestions are deigned to promote a healthy, balanced diet, but may not suit everyone's individual dietary, nutritional or medical requirements. Food types and examples are general in nature and should not be considered exhaustive or absolute. The above information is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. Please consult a healthcare professional before making changes to your diet.

NP-AU-NA-WCNT-210006 Date of GSK Approval: June 2021

  • References

    • Aw D et al. Immunology 2007;120:435–46. 
    • Storey M and Jordan S. Nursing Standard 2008;23:15–17:47–56. 
    • Childs CE et al. Diet and immune function. Nutrients 2019;11(8):1933. doi: 10.3390/nu11081933. 
    • Chandra RK. Nutrition and the immune system: an introduction. Am J Clin Nutr 1997;66:460S–3S. 
    • de Heredia FP et al. Obesity, inflammation and the immune system. Proc Nutr Soc 2012;71(2):332–338. 
    • Wolowczuk I et al. Feeding our immune system: impact on metabolism. Clin Dev Biol 2008;article 639803. doi: 10.1155/2008/639803. 
    • Calder PC and Kew S. Br J Nutr 2002:88:S165–76. 
    • Carr AC and Maggini S. Nutrients 2017;9(11):1211. 
    • Lewis ED et al. IUBMB Life 2019;71(4):487–94. 
    • Chew BP and Park JS. J Nutr 2004;134(1):257S–61S. 
    • Khan N et al. Resveratrol and bioactive flavonoids in immune function. In: Watson RR et al. (eds) Dietary components and immune function. New York: Springer Science    Science+Business Media, LLC; 2010. 
    • Gutiérrez S et al. Int J Mol Sci 2019;20:5028. 
    • Wessels I et al. Nutrients 2017;9(12):1286. 
    • De LC. Int J Recent Sci Res 2020;11(6):38877–81. 
    • Lai PK and Roy J. Curr Med Chem 2004;11(11):1451–60.