Foods to Boost Your Immune System During Winter Months

Doctor Q&A

In the battle for better health, your immune system is your army. And the food you eat can provide the ammunition needed to win. Although a strong immune system is important year-round, wintertime calls for extra reinforcements.

Here are some powerful weapons to use in the war against cold and flu season:


Onions contain compounds that have antibiotic properties and serve as anti-inflammatory agents, helpful in reducing the severity of respiratory congestions associated with the common cold.

Fermented foods

Fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha and yogurt contain live bacteria known as probiotics, which help restore and maintain beneficial intestinal flora, enhancing the activity of immune cells located in the intestines.

Chicken soup

Long regarded as a remedy for symptomatic upper respiratory tract infections, chicken soup could also include benefits as diverse as accelerating mucus clearance and improving hydration and nutrition.


Although elderberry won’t necessarily prevent a viral infection, it has been proven to decrease the severity and/or duration of viral infections, such as the flu. Elderberry is easy to harvest and is popular and effective when used in the form of a medicinal syrup. The more concentrated the elderberry, the stronger the medicine.

Learn how to make your own elderberry syrup here.

For a trusted source of elderberry concentrate that is 100 percent pure, with no added sugar, alcohol or preservatives check out Wyldewood Cellars, a small company based in rural Kansas:

Orange-colored produce

Foods such as sweet potatoes, butternut squash and cantaloupe are rich in Vitamin A, which is critical for cells in the respiratory tract to stay tightly positioned against each other, forming a barrier to viral particles attempting to enter the body.

Shiitake mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms contain the phytonutrient lentinan, which has been found to power up the immune system and strengthen its ability to fight infections.


The body’s immune cells depend on zinc to function optimally. This is especially true for children.

Try these foods that are high in zinc content:

  • Mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Shrimp
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Broccoli
  • Oysters

Vitamin D

Among the many theories as to why cold and flu season hits hard in the winter months is the notion that in winter, we are deprived of sunlight-making Vitamin D. In fact, research has shown that patients with normal Vitamin D levels going into cold and flu season will have HALF the chance of infection as those with Vitamin D deficiency. 

These tasty foods contain Vitamin D:

  • Salmon
  • Canned tuna
  • Egg yolks
  • Mushrooms

How much and how often?

Some of these immune boosters can be pricey and have a short shelf life. Try buying one or two and incorporate them into your diet throughout the week. For example, buy a bag of baby carrots and take them to work every day for your mid-afternoon snack. Or buy a bag of sweet potatoes to use as a side dish for your dinner that week.

Regarding portion requirements, there are none – the more, the better, within reason. Load up!

To make an appointment, call the AdventHealth Whole Health Institute at 913-632-3550.