Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Boost Immunity with Plant-based Foods for Wellness

Immunity Boosting Plant-based Foods

It's especially important to boost our immune system and prevent catching colds, the flu, or even the COVID-19 virus by eating for wellness. 

Post updated 12/27/2023

Kitchen table wisdom and savvy nutritionists tell us to enhance health by eating at least 5-9 servings of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, beans, and a portion of nuts and seeds each day. 

Science confirms that eating whole food plant-based is an effective way to increase the quality of nutrients in our diet. 

This post shows you how to be more mindful of what you're selecting to eat to maintain your stamina and ward off illness. 

Learn how to update ideas about good nutrition so you'll be better prepared to feed your hunger and prevent or reduce the severity of illness, if you should contract one.

A recent study conducted by the University of Illinois backs this up. It shows those who eat foods high in fiber improve digestive system regularity, and strengthen the immune system.

An additional study published online by the NIH indicates that foods containing zinc boosts immunity by functioning as an anti-oxidant. Zinc has a role in the prevention of free radical-induced injury during inflammatory processes. Plant-based sources of zinc are provided below.

Tips to Boost Immunity and Wellness

Eat the rainbow, especially since a variety of dark green, purple, blue, red, orange, and red assures you get adequate amounts of whole food plant-based protein, whole food plant-based carbohydrates, and whole food sources of fat including avocado, nuts and nut butter, and seeds. 

Colorful fruits and veggies help heal us. Read How to Create Flavorful Filling User Friendly Vegan Salads for recipe ideas.

Health promoting foods contain many different nutrients and fiber, and work together to fuel your body.  Vitamin pills don't have that same mix.

When you amp up fresh fruits and vegetables in meals, you are being proactive. Produce contains naturally occurring digestion enzymes, phytochemicals, and antioxidants that are especially important during stressful times for boosting the immune system. 

Key Ingredients 

that Strengthen


Vitamin A 

A 2018 study published online by the NIH illustrates the role of Vitamin A in the immune system. Results show Vitamin A helps promote and regulate both the innate immune system and adaptive immunity. This substance provides an enhanced defense against multiple infectious diseases.

As increasing evidence appears with time, Vitamin A will likely play a more critical role in modern therapeutics. 

Your body can produce vitamin A from carotenoids found in plants. These carotenoids include beta-carotene and alpha-carotene. 

Plant foods rich in these substances are sweet potato, winter squash, cooked kale, turnip greens, carrots, mango, cantaloupe, and pink or red grapefruit.

For additional tips read Why We Need to Eat Orange and Yellow Fruit and Veggies Daily

Vitamin C and E

Fruits and vegetables especially rich in Vitamin C and E are those that contain flavonoids. It's found in the soft white skin of citrus fruits including grapefruit, oranges, lemons, tangerines, and limes. 

Citrus fruits have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, increase saliva production, and boost your immune system.   

Vitamin C is also in the skin and close to the skin in many other fruits. My advice is to buy organic and eat the skin as well as the flesh of fruits. Don't eat conventionally grown apples, grapes, blueberries, tomatoes, pears, and nectarines as all contain pesticides. Eat organic ones instead.

Other sources of vitamin C include red peppers, beets, sweet potatoes, broccoli, spinach, and mangoes. 

Vitamins C and E contain antioxidants to help destroy free radicals and support the body’s natural immune response. 

Certain nuts and seeds are good sources of Vitamin E. They include sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, and peanuts. 

You'll get a good amount of vitamin E from beet greens, broccoli, avocado, spinach, and Swiss chard as well.


Zinc is a mineral that boosts immunity and functions as an anti-oxidant, stabilizes membranes, and has a role in the prevention of free radical-induced injury during inflammatory processes.

Whole grains are packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals including zinc. Just ½ cup of cooked steel-cut oats has 6 percent of the daily value for zinc. The same amount of cooked brown rice has 4 percent, and a slice of whole wheat bread contains 3 percent. 

Chickpeas, soy products, beans, and lentils all contain substantial amounts of zinc. Here's an awesome recipe for Chickpea Salad that's healthy and delicious.

Beans and legumes are excellent sources of protein, and protein plays an important role in building cells, including those of your immune system.

In fact, lentils have the second highest level of antioxidants (behind black beans) among all tested legumes and offer significant levels of proteinironzinc, and folate. 

Heating, sprouting, soaking or fermenting plant sources of zinc like legumes can increase this mineral’s 
bioavailability. For more see vegan sources of zinc. 

Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy, red and green cabbagearugula, radish, and Cres contain sulforaphane, an amazing liver-enzyme detox-boosting compound not found in appreciable amounts in other vegetables. 

Another benefit of a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables is they contain indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a common phytochemical. 

Epidemiological and dietary studies suggest eating indole-rich cruciferous veggies increases the capacity for the human body to detoxify and inhibit carcinogens that cause prostate cancer. 

Cruciferous vegetables are a good source of vitamin A, C, and E. These powerful veggies support the work of antioxidants and fiber.


Mushrooms come in many colors, shapes, and sizes but most are high in selenium and B vitamins, including riboflavin and niacin. 

Mushrooms also contain selenium, an antioxidant that helps lessen oxidative stress, reduces inflammation and enhances immunity. 

Many mushrooms contain Vitamin B6 to support important biochemical reactions in the immune system. 

Do you know how to include more mushrooms in your eating plan? Read Hearty Healthy Vegan Mushroom Roundup for easy menu planning ideas.


Ginger possesses antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as adding a spicy kick to many recipes.

It has earned a reputation for curing motion sickness, diarrhea, nausea, and indigestion. It helps calm colic, irritable bowel, poor circulation, menstrual cramps, colds, and flu.

Ginger helps stimulate your appetite. If you need to settle your stomach and nourish your mind, body, and spirit, this spice may be just the thing for you. Brew a cup of ginger tea, and read How to Use Ginger in Recipes for Healing and Flavor.

Cocoa/Dark Chocolate

Cocoa, the main ingredient in dark chocolate, can be made into a delicious drink that’s packed with flavonoids. Just use one teaspoon or cocoa powder and I packet of stevia (a plant based sweetener that’s healthier than refined sugar). Mix into a cup of boiling water and away you go.

Dark chocolate (at least 70%) has been shown to boost heart health, seems to play a role in lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, and helps keep your coronary arteries healthy.

Chocolate is loaded with antioxidants, can elevate mood, is tasty, and so good for your health. 💓

Watch for upcoming posts with information and research about additional vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, spices, and herbs that are powerful immune boosters as well.  

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” ― Hippocrates

Before you go, please comment. Do not put a link in your comment, as it can't be published that way. Thanks for understanding.

How many of these plant-based foods do you eat on a regular basis?

What new things are you willing to try to help your immune system perform at its peak? 

Please re-share on social media with a link back to this post. 

Your support and kind words mean the world to me. 💓

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  1. Hi Nancy - I think we all benefit from healthy eating. It's easy to slide into the trap of processed food or eating out, but when we step back and eat the rainbow, choose healthy foods, and take the time to put in a little meal prep, we reap the benefits in so many ways.
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I've shared on my SM 😊

    1. Thanks Leanne. Be well, eat well, and stay sheltered and serene.

  2. We'd all be a lot healthier if we'd eat more frusits and veggies. Thanks so much for linking up with me at my #UnlimitedMonthlyLinkParty 11, open April 1 to 26. All entries shared on social media if share buttons installed. I’d like to invite you to check out my other current link parties!

    1. Thanks Dee for hosting this swell link party. So important to keep up our body's natural immune response and veggies and fruits sure are loaded with health promoting benefits. Be well, eat well, stay sheltered and serene.

  3. Thanks for this, Nancy, it's full of helpful facts and resources. We certainly need to keep our natural immunity strong during this difficult time. I pinned for more thorough reading (and maybe a few recipe links) later. :) Stay safe and be well. #MLSTL

  4. Happy to hear from you Candi and now know you are well. Yes, we do need to keep our natural immunity strong during this difficult time. Thanks for the social support and please be well, eat well, stay sheltered and serene.

  5. Hi Nancy, I noticed that the supermarket was almost empty of processed foods yet there was an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. We eat a healthy balanced diet and I agree it certainly helps boost our immune system. Take care especially during this time and thank you for sharing some very useful information at the #MLSTL link up. xx

    1. So glad to hear you eat a healthy well balanced diet. I wrote this piece to help others see how important plant-based foods are in boosting our immune systems. I appreciate your observations and thank you for hosting #MLSTL. Please stay well, eat well, and stay active. All these things boost the immune system. Hugs, Nan

  6. Nancy,
    What an excellent and educational post. We are on the same page, girl friend! I eat almost everything you mention and have been supplementing with extra Vitamins such as zinc, vitamin D3 and some others. Let's hope we all stay safe and well!

    1. Thanks so much for the affirmation Judee. Yes indeed, we think alike. Please stay well, eat well, and stay active. We'll get through this one day at a time.

  7. Great post! Thank you! I choose a word every year to focus on and this year I chose Healthy. I appreciate the information here - pinned it to read again. My first goal from this is to eat at least 7 fruits and grains a day. Thanks for sharing this post at the What's for Dinner party. Hope your weekend is wonderful.

    1. Thanks so much Helen for hosting What's for Dinner party, and your kind comment. Wishing you a very HEALTHY Happy New Year.