The 7 Best Snacks for a Healthy Immune System
These days, immunity is on our minds more than ever before. And though there's no "magic pill" to fight off illness, a healthy diet should offer all of the necessary ingredients for optimum immune system function. To find out more about immunity and its snacktime applications, we tapped two experts, Sheri Vettel, RD, a registered dietitian at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Nailah Abdulbaaqee, M.D., a provider at One Medical.
Both experts agree that people should look for foods containing immune-supporting nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, iron, zinc and selenium. Abdulbaaqee says, "These micronutrients can support our immune system by supporting various cellular functions that promote removal of scavengers and oxidative stress."
While there are key immune-supporting nutrients to eat more of, it's also important to eat a well-balanced diet, stay hydrated, get enough sleep and try to reduce stress in your life. When you're looking to get more of those important nutrients in your diet, choosing the right snacks can help.
Here are some tasty snack picks that pack nutrients to support a healthy immune system, according to experts.
Best Snacks for Your Immune System
Vettel says, "Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of zinc, a mineral important for immune cell function and antiviral support." We love to snack on roasted seeds on their own or include them in homemade snack bars or energy balls. Don't feel like making them yourself? You can snag a bag of seeds on Amazon Prime (buy it: $6.99 for a 1-pound bag, Amazon).
"Fatty fish is a great source of vitamin D, which modulates the immune response. In fact, a vitamin D deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of infection," Vettel says. She especially loves bell pepper slices and carrot sticks dipped in salmon or tuna salad (for vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin D).
For a grab-and-go snack option, Vettel says Chicken of the Sea (wild catch) is a winner since it packs plenty of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and immune-supporting vitamin D (buy it: $19.99 for 8 packs, Amazon).
Vettel loves avocado toast topped with diced strawberries and sesame seeds. This snack will earn you some vitamin C (from the avocado and strawberries) and zinc (from the bread)—both nutrients are associated with immune support. Plus, it's a downright tasty combo!
Kefir is a type of cultured milk smoothie that contains probiotics, which makes it a great dietary choice for the gut (which has a large impact on the immune system). Most kefir brands contain both beneficial Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium cultures. Plus, there are options available for those wishing to choose organic dairy and products with no or limited amounts of added sugar. You can find kefir at most grocery stores near the yogurt section.
Another filling snack choice is Nellie's Sous Vide Egg Bites or Free Range Eggs. Vettel says she likes that this company offers eggs coming from chickens on farms that have Certified Humane free-range standards, since eggs from pastured or free-range hens are typically more nutrient-dense and contain more vitamin A, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, which are great choices for overall immune health. Each egg also delivers 6 grams of protein, and protein is another nutrient that's important for your immune system.
Trail mix is a great way to get some immune-boosting nutrients on the go. This one from Amazon (buy it: $27.60 for six, 5.5-ounce bags) contains pumpkin seeds, which are rich in zinc, and each serving only has 5 grams of added sugar.
You could also make your own trail mix to control the ingredients. Vettel says she likes a handful of cashews or pumpkin seeds for zinc, a few Brazil nuts for selenium and some raisins for a vegetarian iron source.
Fruits and Veggies
Abdulbaaqee says she likes to make a colorful plate of fruit and vegetables to snack on (citrus fruits, broccoli, kiwi and bell peppers are all great sources of vitamin C). She adds, "Although consuming these in raw form provides an optimal amount of micronutrients, juiced and smoothie forms are excellent sources, too. My recommendation is to try to combine natural, raw ingredients if possible, such as in smoothies or juiced forms to keep ingredients fresh."
The Bottom Line
Abdulbaaqee says that a healthy immune system is key to help us feel our best every day. Having a healthy immune system allows our bodies to fight off infection and recover from illness, but it takes daily investment through eating a healthy diet, being physically active and getting good rest. This combination will allow for optimal performance that can help us to look and feel our best.