To enhance your immune defences against viral infections, it’s important to be mindful that the foods you are eating are encouraging a healthy immune response, and not suppressing it.

Specific vitamins and minerals have been shown to support a healthy white blood cell count and their activity to fight viruses.

Lastly, this post wouldn’t be complete without discussing the importance of your microbiome and gut health for a strong immune system!

Nourishing Your Body with Whole Foods

The food that you eat and nourish your body with can have a profound effect on a healthy immune response. To ensure you are supplying your body with adequate nutrition for optimal immunity, aim to do the following:

1. Eat a variety of colourful vegetables and fruit from each colour group per day

Aiming for 5-7 serves of vegetables per day (1 serve = 1/2 cup of vegetables) and 2 pieces of fruit

  • Purple/Blue: beetroot, eggplant, purple carrots, purple cabbage/cauliflower (if you can get your hands on it!), blueberries, blackberries, plums.
  • Red: red capsicum, radish, rhubarb, tomato, red grapes, red apple, watermelon, cherries
  • Orange/Yellow: pumpkin, sweet potato, capsicum, carrot, oranges, lemon, squash, peaches, nectarines, mandarins, mango, apricots, grapefruit.
  • Green: asparagus, bok choy, broccoli/broccolini, celery, cucumber, kai lan, green beans, brussel sprouts, kale, silverbeet, spinach, parsley, zucchini, watercress, kiwi fruit, avocado.
  • Brown/White: cauliflower, garlic, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, ginger, parsnips, brown pears.

2. Support Your Gut Health and Immunity

Did you know that 70% of your immune system is found in your digestive system? Gut health is absolutely essential for protecting your body against the invasion of pathogens.

If the balance between beneficial bacteria and pathogenic bacteria (bad) are out of sorts, your ability to fight infections will be greatly reduced.

Supporting a healthy microbiome by ensuring you are eating a varied plant-based diet to provide a variety of fibre based foods for your microbes to feed on, will ensure you are encouraging the growth of the right bacteria to enhance your immunity.

To effectively do this, aiming for 30 – 40 different types of plant foods has been shown to greatly enhance the numbers of beneficial bacterial species in your digestive system.

If you are up for the challenge, download my 40 plant-based food tracker and track your total plant intake per week to see how close you get (scroll to the bottom of this post to join!).

The closer you are to 40 and consistently, the more you will support the growth of beneficial bacteria to improve your immunity and overall health.

3. Eat a palm-sized portion of protein at your main meals

Protein is essential to help your immune system fight both viral and bacterial infections. Aim for a minimum of 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.

An easy way to roughly calculate this is to ensure you are eating a palm-size portion of protein at each main meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner)

Food sources: Organic chicken breast/thighs/whole chicken, free-range eggs, fish, lentils, legumes, slow-cooked lamb, beef, a scoop of plant-based protein powder

4. Key Nutrients for Healthy Immune Function

Ensuring your body has the building blocks it requires to effectively mount a healthy immune response to viruses, it’s important to intake the following vitamins and minerals from certain food sources:

  • Supports the development of white blood cells.
  • Food sources: Oysters, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds almonds, brazil nuts, green leafy vegetables, red meat, and mushrooms.
  • Supplementation: 25 mg of zinc bisglycinate or zinc citrate after dinner. Higher doses may be used dependent on blood test results (recommended to monitor with a Naturopath)
Vitamin A
  • Supports normal function of immune cells including NK cells (anti-viral).
  • Food sources: Liver, liver pate, egg yolks, cod liver oil, orange and yellow vegetables (contain beta-carotene that are converted to vitamin A) such as carrots, sweet potato, and pumpkin.
Vitamin C
  • Stimulates white blood cell production and NK cell activity.
  • Food sources: Citrus fruits, blueberries, strawberries, guava, red chilli peppers, parsley, cabbage, papaya.
  • Supplementation: 1 – 2000 mg twice daily
Vitamin D
  • Stimulates white blood cell proliferation.
  • Source: Spending 20 – 30 minutes with sun on your skin between 11 – 1 pm (without burning) per day
  • Supplementation: 2000 IU of vitamin D capsules per day. Higher dose recommendations should be based on individual blood testing and levels.

5. Keep Hydrated 

  • Aim to drink 0.30 ml per kilogram of body weight of filtered water per day (ideally from glass or stainless steel water bottle)
  • Drink fresh vegetable juices with vitamin C and anti-inflammatory ingredients such as turmeric, ginger and citrus fruits.
  • Drink green tea which has been shown to exert anti-viral activity (ideally organic and loose leaf – e.g. Madura Organic Loose Leaf Green Tea found at Coles or Woolworths).
  • Drink warming hot drinks in general as it may prevent the virus from taking hold.
  • Immune boosting smoothie containing ingredients high in vitamin C such as blueberries, spinach, lemon, and kiwi fruit.

6. Limit or Avoid These Foods That Negatively Impact the Immune System

  • Refined sugar, cane sugar, glucose syrup in packaged foods, soft drinks
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee – limit to 1 -2 maximum per day. If you are feeling particularly stressed, caffeine will exacerbate your stress response and reduce your ability to fight infections.


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