These Immunity Boosting Recipes are filled with fresh, nutritious foods made with the ingredients that will help your immune system function as well as possible! These vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, and refined sugar-free dishes taste great while offering your system the support it needs to fight off anything yucky going around.
Does it feel like everyone is getting sick lately? Between a second wave of COVID and nasty summer colds, it seems like so many people I know are under the weather. Since my solution to everything is to head into the kitchen, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to round up my best Immunity Boosting Recipes! For a strong immune system, the body requires essential energy, nutrients from vitamins, minerals, and herbs (source).
It is important to understand that a strong immunity is not built overnight. It's made by consuming healthy foods that have high nutritional values on a regular basis. "Variety in our diet is important not only to gain the benefit of eating a wide array of essential vitamins and minerals, but also to prevent one from eating too much (or too little) of a particular nutrient" (source).
Whether you're preventing sickness, trying to feel better through the worst of it, or on the mend, I've got recipes packed with the nutrition your healing body is craving, all grouped by the ingredients that your system needs when it's fighting sickness. And since health and wellness are my biggest passions (I have a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree and I am a Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) as well), I'm sharing evidence-based immune system and nutrition info in case you're interested in the science behind these recipes!
An Immune System Overview
On a daily basis, we are constantly exposed to potentially harmful microbes of all sorts. Our immune system, a network of intricate stages and pathways in the body, protects us against these harmful microbes as well as certain diseases. It recognizes invaders like bacteria, viruses, and parasites and takes immediate action. The immune system is our first line of defense against disease-causing microorganisms and other noxious substances. It is a multifaceted system of cells and proteins that protect you from infections. There are many factors that influence staying healthy or becoming sick based on each person's individual immunity.
Immunity: Innate vs. Adaptive
Humans possess two types of immunity: innate and adaptive. Your innate immunity is your body's first-line defense from pathogens trying to enter your body, and includes things like your skin, mucus, stomach acid, and even the enzymes in your sweat and tears. Chemical cells can rapidly raise the alert and begin to fight off the virus. The symptoms for COVID-19, such as sore throat, body aches, cold, cough, and fever are not caused by the virus itself, but triggered by our own body, as part of innate immune response.
Adaptive immunity is the system regulated by your cells and organs that learns to recognize pathogens and prevent their growth. This kicks in once a virus gets past your innate immune system. Usually this is given in the form of vaccine. Your adaptive immunity system is the one creating antibodies that lead to immunity and white blood cell creation (source). Herd immunity protects us indirectly from infections during an epidemic or pandemic through vaccinations or previous infections (source), while nutritional immunity limits the pathogens causing infections by including minerals in the diet (source). A diet rich in fruits and vegetables has been shown to reduce inflammation and promote healthy immune functioning. Prebiotics (such as those found in cultured products) are important for both metabolic and immune function. Overall, nutritional immunity promotes eating a balanced diet that nourishes the body from a variety of plant-based foods.
For this roundup of Immunity Boosting Recipes I've grouped recipes according to the beneficial ingredient that it's offering your body (and since I love nutrition and food education, I included a little bit about how each ingredient is so helpful!). All the information in this blog post comes from evidence-based, credible sources.
Every single recipe in this round-up is vegan (meat-free, dairy-free, egg-free), gluten-free, soy-free, and refined sugar-free. These foods are meant to give you a nutritious boost when you need it most!
Turmeric & Ginger: Anti-Inflammatory Immunity Boosting Recipes
Turmeric, in particular, has a very long history of medicinal use (dating back nearly 4000 years!). In ancient cultures, medical practitioners focused on herbs for promoting the body’s immune system. Turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for many conditions, including breathing problems, rheumatism, serious pain, and fatigue. Modern medicine has begun to recognize its importance, mostly as a dietary supplement for inflammation, arthritis, and other conditions including stomach, skin, liver, and gallbladder problems (source). Curcumin (the orange-yellow component found in turmeric) has been shown to enhance antibody responses. This suggests that curcumin's reported beneficial effects in arthritis, allergy, asthma, atherosclerosis, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and cancer might be due in part to its ability to modulate the immune system (source). Turmeric is rich in antioxidants and has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal activity (source).
Pro Tip: black pepper and a fat increases the bioavailability of turmeric's healing compounds as our bodies have difficulty absorbing it on its own.
In many countries ginger is used to raise the immune system. The health-promoting perspectives of ginger are well known. It can treat a wide range of diseases via immunonutrition and anti-inflammatory responses (source). Plus, ginger is wonderfully soothing on an upset stomach and is often used to calm nausea.
These recipes below use either turmeric, ginger or both. I also love using temperature to soothe different sickness symptoms! Cool and refreshing drinks feel great on sore throats, while warm and soothing foods feel comforting and nourishing.
- Turmeric Ginger Immune Boosting Wellness Drink (that actually tastes good)
- Creamy Split Pea Turmeric & Red Lentil Soup
- Easy Vegan Turmeric Golden Milk Latte
- Creamy Vegan Iced Vanilla Turmeric Latte
- One-Pot Sweet & Spiced Quinoa Lentil Salad
- Easy Vegan Tikka Masala
- Turmeric Eggnog
- Sweet and Spiced Roasted Chickpeas (with turmeric and cumin)
- Turmeric Spiced Millet Veggie Burgers
- Easy Vegan Sweet Potato Curry
- Easy One-Pot Vegan Pumpkin Curry
- Easy Detox Smoothie (with ginger root!)
- Creamy Carrot Ginger Soup
- Vegan Apple Pie Smoothie (with ginger root!)
- Vegan Chai Latte
- Slow Cooker Vegan Gingerbread Steamer
- Homemade Spiced Apple Cider (with ginger root)
Garlic Recipes for Immunity
The active ingredient in garlic, allicin sativum, is proposed to have antiviral and antimicrobial effects on the common cold (source). Garlic is a prebiotic, meaning it feeds the microbes that break down fibers into short chain fatty acids, stimulating immune cell activity (source). These work in tandem with probiotics to promote gut health (source). Garlic exerts immune potentiating effect by stimulating natural killer cell activity (source). As a bonus...garlic tastes delicious and adds so much depth to my favorite savory recipes. Here are a few of my faves featuring garlic!
- How to Roast Garlic
- Creamy Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Roasted Garlic
- One-Skillet Garlic Asparagus
- Garlic Pumpkin Hummus
- Mashed Cauliflower with Roasted Garlic
- Creamy Garlic Mushroom Fettuccini
- Creamy Pumpkin Garlic Pasta
- Creamy Garlic Cilantro Lime Sauce
- White Pizza with Roasted Garlic and Caramelized Onions
- Mini Hasselback Potatoes with Garlic & Herby Vegan Aioli
- Vegan Spaghetti Aglio e Olio (aglio means garlic in Italian!)
- Easy Sesame Garlic Sautéed Purple Cabbage
Smoothies & Frozen Treats
Smoothies and frozen treats are soothing on a sore throat while being incredibly refreshing and hydrating, which is extra important when you're trying to stay healthy. These frozen treats are go-to Immunity Boosting Recipes in our house! They're a great way to get fevered kiddos to drink something cool and strengthen their little bodies. If your household loves smoothies, or you want more variety in your blender, be sure to check out my Rock Your Blender smoothie cookbook! You can order it on Amazon or download it immediately as an e-cookbook.
- Sunshine Smoothie
- Orange Creamsicle Smoothie
- Creamy Tropical Kiwi Smoothie
- Lemon Blueberry Smoothie
- Wild Blueberry Almond Butter Smoothie
- Green Aid
- Tropical Green Protein Smoothie
- Easy Dairy-Free Dole Whip
- Easy Homemade Mango Sorbet
- 2-Ingredient Strawberry Sorbet
- Watermelon Popsicles
Recipes High in Vitamin C
A lot of people think orange juice when it comes to vitamin C, but so many of your favorite fresh fruits and veggies are also high in the immunity-boosting vitamin...like bell peppers, blackberries, strawberries, cauliflower, tomatoes, honeydew melon, lime, watermelon and broccoli! Here is a comprehensive list of fruits and veggies high in vitamin C. Be sure to search my website for your favorite ingredient from this list to find all the recipes that use it! I included a couple of my favorites below.
Deficiency of this vitamin makes your system more prone to various types of infections. Vitamin C supports the function of various immune cells and increases their ability to protect against infections. It is also necessary for cellular death which helps to keep the immune system healthy by flushing out old cells and replacing with new ones. Isn't that incredible?! Vitamin C also acts as a powerful antioxidant (source).
- Perfectly Steamed Broccoli
- Creamy Broccoli & Zucchini Pasta Salad
- Vegan Enchilada Stuffed Bell Peppers
- Mini Peppers Stuffed with Roasted Sweet Pepper Hummus
- Greek Orzo Salad
- Southwestern Jicama Slaw
- Whole Roasted Cauliflower
- Green Juice in a Blender (No Juicer Required!)
- Cucumber Melon Spritzer
- Creamy Vanilla Blackberry Pudding
- Key Lime Pie Smoothie Bowl
- Our Favorite Fresh Homemade Juices
- Homemade Lemonade (refined sugar-free)
Comforting, Nutrient-Filled Soups
If you DO get sick, you need nutrient-dense comfort soups that will get you on the mend as quick as possible! Soups are light and easy on your stomach when your appetite is low. They also provide fluids and electrolytes to prevent the dehydration that can occur with a fever (source). You can add spice to most soups, which helps clear stuffed sinuses! Most of these Immunity Boosting Recipes for soup start with onions and garlic, which are also super beneficial for protecting yourself against sickness.
- Vegan Thai Curry Coconut Soup with Zoodles
- Moroccan Tomato & Chickpea Soup
- Chickpea Soup for the Soul
- Creamy Carrot Ginger Soup
- Easy Vegan Blender Pumpkin Soup
- Speedy Creamy Vegan Broccoli Soup
- Quinoa Minestrone Soup
Vitamin E-Rich Recipes
Vitamin E is important in regulating and maintaining immune system function. Avocados, almonds, dark leafy greens, and sunflower seeds all contain this important nutrient! Sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and brazil nuts also contain selenium, which play a role in immune function and inflammatory regulation (source). I'm hoping this means we can count my hazelnut-filled Vegan Homemade Nutella as an immunity-boosting dish!
- Creamy Citrus Matcha Green Protein Smoothie
- Healthy & Creamy Key Lime Pie Popsicles
- Dark Chocolate Avocado Truffles
- Easy Almond Flour Crackers
- Quinoa & Mango-Stuffed Grilled Avocado
- Minty Kale Smoothie
- No-Bake, Instant Sunflower Energy Balls
- Super-Seed Granola
Vegan Foods High in Zinc
Zinc helps your immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses (source). Since I eat all vegan foods, I rely on nuts, seeds, spinach and legumes to provide the zinc I need to stay healthy! Luckily, some of my favorite ingredients are high in zinc. Cashews contain 3 milligrams of zinc in on 56-gram package, and one serving of chickpeas (100 g) contains 1.5 milligrams of zinc! This is great news, because I use both cashews and chickpeas all the time, and I love pumpkin seeds for a nutritious snack.
- Sweet & Spiced Roasted Chickpeas
- Classic Chickpea Hummus
- Vegan Cauliflower Chickpea Shawarma Bowl
- Easy Homemade Cashew Milk
- Creamy Vegan Cinnamon Vanilla Fruit Dip (this contains cashews and is also a great way to get apples and other fruit into your diet!)
- Sweet & Salty Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
- Easy Homemade Vegan Cashew Cream
- Speedy Creamy Vegan Broccoli Soup (contains cashew)
- No-Cook Blackberry Vanilla Pudding (contains cashew)
- Iced Vanilla Mint Moringa Latte (Moringa contains zinc and this drink is incredibly refreshing)
- Asparagus and Green Pea Soup with Parsley and Spinach
- Cauliflower Steaks with Lemony Mashed Peas and Mint
Green Tea Recipes
Cell studies have shown that tea catechins such as those found in green tea can prevent flu and some cold viruses from replicating and can increase immune activity (source). Green tea can also provide a natural energy boost, which can be nice when you haven't been feeling your best!
- Creamy Vanilla Bean Matcha Popsicles
- Vegan Dalgona Whipped Matcha Latte
- Creamy Citrus Matcha Green Protein Smoothie
Variety is the key to proper nutrition, so remember that eating just one of these foods won’t be enough to help fight off viruses and other infections, even if you eat it constantly! Pay attention to serving sizes and recommended daily intake so that you don’t get too much of a single vitamin while receiving too little of others. Proper sleep, proper hydration, and stress management are also key for overall immune health and preparing your body to fight diseases (source). In other words...be good to yourself!
I hope these recipes help power you through any colds you encounter! Please remember that I am not a doctor and none of these recipes are intended to act as a substitution for medical diagnosis and care from your physician. These dishes are only intended to provide your body with nutrition and support as your immune system works hard. I'd be forever grateful if you left a review on any recipes you try, and please tag me on Instagram so I can see your delicious creations!
Disclaimer: no recipe will cure or prevent disease. With the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, it’s especially important to understand that no supplement, diet, or other lifestyle modification other than masking, vaccinating, physical distancing, also known as social distancing, and proper hygiene practices can protect you from COVID-19. Currently, no research supports the use of any one supplement to protect against COVID-19 specifically.