Nutrients for the Immune System

Our immune system needs to be nourished, just like every other part of our body. Here are some nutrients and foods that are particularly good at doing just that!

Vitamin C
Considered to be one of the safest and most effective nutrients known, its benefits range from immune system defense to heart disease, and one recent study noted that higher blood levels of vitamin C might be the ideal indicator for a person’s overall health. An average dose is 500 mg daily, in addition to your daily servings of organic fruits and veggies. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so the body does not store it. For this reason, it is important to take small frequent doses. I recommend using a supplement that contains both Vitamin C and flavonoids, as they are best absorbed together. When we are under stress from life, such as overwork or illness, our bodies need higher doses of vitamin C.

Foods High in Vitamin C:

  • Hot peppers and bell peppers
  • Fresh herbs including cilantro, chives, thyme, basil and parsley
  • Dark leafy green vegetables such as kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, watercress, chard and spinach
  • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts
  • Yams
  • Fruits including kiwi, papaya, oranges, strawberries, cantaloupe and guavas

foods high in C




Vitamin D3
Technically not a “vitamin,” Vitamin D3 is actually a secosteroid hormone, and its role in immune health is proven. Winter is the time of the year when many of us should be supplementing our Vitamin D3, especially if you live in a northern climate. How much Vitamin D3 should one take? It really depends. The Vitamin D council recommends the following: Healthy children under the age of 1 years should take 1,000 IU vitamin D3 per day–over the age of 1, 1,000 IU vitamin D3 per every 25 pounds of body weight per day. Well adults and adolescents should take 5,000 IU vitamin D3 per day. You can have a 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 blood test to see where your levels are. It is hard to get adequate Vitamin D3 levels from food. Exposing our skin to sunshine is a must and even then many people may need to supplement with a good D3 vitamin as well.

Foods High in Vitamin D:

  • Fatty fish such as herring, salmon, mackerel and sardines
  • Eggs
  • Mushrooms
  • Cheese
  • Beef liver
  • Cod liver oil

foods high in D





Zinc is an essential trace element that influences growth and affects the development and integrity of the immune system. Zinc-deficient persons experience increased susceptibility to a variety of pathogens. It is crucial for normal development and function white blood cells.

Foods High in Zinc:

    • Meats such as liver, beef, turkey, and lamb
    • Seafood such as crab, scallops, shrimp, and oysters
    • Seeds including pumpkin, watermelon, and squash
    • Dark chocolate
    • Peanuts
    • Mushrooms including crimini and shiitake
    • Maple syrup
    • Vegetables such as spinach, chard, asparagus, and peas

foods high in zinc








Next to air, water is the most necessary element for human survival. Did you know that a normal adult is 60 to 70 percent water? All of our organs need water in order to function properly and eliminate wastes. The minimum amount of water for a healthy person is 8 to 10 eight-ounce glasses a day. Make sure to drink more if you are sick or have a fever. The body also uses water to thin overly thick mucus and to moisten mucus membranes, both essential for health. Remember, broths and herbal teas count! Choose mineral-rich herbs such as nettles, red clover, peppermint, chamomile, alfalfa, spearmint and raspberry to support electrolyte balance.

© Elaine Sheff, Clinical Herbalist 2013

IMG_3077Elaine Sheff has been studying medicinal plants since 1987. A Clinical Herbalist, she is a graduate of both the Rocky Mountain Center for Botanical Studies and the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine. She is passionate about the inherent healing connection between people and plants. Elaine has a longstanding clinical practice providing herbal consultations for individuals with health concerns. A best selling author, Elaine teaches herb classes throughout the United States and is the co-founder of Meadowsweet Herbs. She is a certified instructor of Natural Family Planning, a safe, effective birth control method used to avoid or achieve pregnancy.   You can often find Elaine in her garden, homeschooling her children, or cooking some delicious gluten-free meal

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