8 Nutrients to Support Immune Function

Be Healthy & Strong!

by Renata Murphy, MS

Since the start of the pandemic, one of the questions my colleagues and I get often is about what foods to consume to support immune function. It is well known that lacking certain nutrients in the body can weaken immune functions. Some of the immune system’s roles are safeguarding our bodies from infections, getting rid of injured tissue, and monitoring malignant cells. Research indicates that increasing consumption of specific nutrients may benefit immune function optimization.1

Here is a list of nutrients that support the immune system:

1. Vitamin D - adequate levels of vitamin D improve the body’s ability to protect against infection. Vitamin D is made in the skin when exposed to sunlight.1 A 15-minute sunbath a few times a week should be enough to produce vitamin D. People with darker skin need more time in the sun to produce vitamin D. A good rule of thumb is when the skin feels warm when you are exposed to the sun. Make sure to protect your face with sunscreen and hat to avoid premature aging. Some vitamin D food sources are egg yolk, pink salmon, fortified milk and orange juice.2

2. Vitamin E - is a fat-soluble antioxidant that is present in high concentrations in the immune cells, which prevents oxidative damage.1 Foods with high amounts of vitamin E are sunflower oil, safflower oil, olive oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, peanut butter, tomato sauce, cranberry juice, dried apricots, avocados, spinach, asparagus, swiss chard, broccoli, and blackberries.2

3. Zinc - its deficiency diminishes the body’s ability to fight pathogens. Foods with a high zinc
content are oysters, meats, fortified oats, soybeans, pine nuts, cashews, yogurt, sunflower
seeds, pecans, brazil nuts, chickpeas, milk, cheese, almonds, and beans.2

4. PUFAs, omega 3-fatty acids (EPA and DHA) - anti-inflammatory and inhibitory of
inflammatory substances. Sources of omega-3 fatty acid are herring, salmon, sardines,
flaxseed oil, chia seeds, and walnuts.

5. Selenium - its deficiency is linked to weakened immunity and chronic inflammation. Food
sources of selenium include brazil nuts, tuna, seafood, meats, brown rice, sunflower seeds,
whole wheat-bread, and milk.2

6. Vitamin C - also plays a role in immune function.3 Primary vitamin C sources include kiwi,
strawberries, orange, sweet red pepper, broccoli, grapefruit, brussel sprouts, white potatoes
with skin, tomato, banana, and spinach.2

7. Probiotics - are live organisms that live inside our gastrointestinal system and regulate
immune and inflammatory responses. Good sources of probiotics are kefir, kimchi,
kombucha, fermented yogurt, miso, tempeh, pickles, and sauerkraut.1

8. Green tea and Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate (EGCG) - its anti-inflammatory quality inhibits
pro-inflammatory molecules.1

The best source for these vitamins is the food containing high contents of the vitamin.
Consider increasing the intake of these fruits and vegetables, before you consider taking
supplements. Also, before taking any supplements talk to your physician, dietitian, or nutritionist
and do blood work, a dietary and a gut health assessment to know if you need supplements. Taking
high amounts of supplements can result in toxicity and several unwanted side effects.

1. Wu D, Lewis E D, Pae M, Meydani S N. Function: analysis of evidence, mechanisms, and
clinical relevance. Frontiers in Immunology. 2019(9)3160:1-19. doi:
2. Orange State University. Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center.
3. Gropper S, Smith J. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. 6th ed. Belmont, CA:
Wadsworth, 2013.

Disclaimer: The content in this newsletter is intended to provide educational
information. It is not intended to give medical advice. If you have questions
about a medical condition, look for your physician or a qualified healthcare

Renata Murphy is a Nutritionist Intern with a Masters Degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport and has been providing nutritional counseling for the past year. Renata is currently enrolled in the Mind Body Eating Coach Certification Training. Renata helps clients to improve their health through science-based nutrition to support healing. Renata’s professional interests include educating her clients in proper nutrition, focus on wellness. Renata’s current goal is to become a Certified Nutritionist Specialist (CNS) by next December. Renata is a member of the American College of Nutrition and active in the Health & Nutrition industry. 


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