Nobody wants to get sick. But it’s not like you always have a choice: Pathogens are lurking everywhere and don’t ask permission to attack. You can, however, support your immune system in its efforts to fight back. A balanced diet supplies your body with the nutrients – such as vitamins – it needs to remain resilient. To find out which vitamins best support your immune system, StudyFinds reviewed multiple expert opinions.
“Be prepared” is not only the scouts’ motto. Your (well-supported) immune system is always ready to strike! “For example, observing images of sick people can already trigger activation of the immune system,” says Patricia Lopes, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Chapman University. Thanks, but false alarm.
The immune system’s best line of defense are T-cells, a type of white blood cell. These amazing cells not only recognize and eliminate pathogens and cancer cells; they also regulate inflammation, suppress hyperactive immune responses, AND create long-term memories of viruses and bacteria they encounter, to be able to fight them even better the next time around!
With your body working so hard to protect you, giving it what it needs is kind of the least you can do. StudyFinds researched ten expert websites to provide you with a list of the top five best vitamins for your immune system. What do you think of our list? Let us know in the comments.
The List: Best Vitamins For Your Immune System, According To Experts
1. Vitamin C
All experts recommended Vitamin C to strengthen your immune system – no surprise here. “When it comes to health and immunity, one of the first vitamins most people think of is vitamin C,” goes Forbes. “This water-soluble vitamin is known for its ability to ward off sickness and can help shorten the duration of colds once contracted.”
Health Essentials writes that “vitamin C is one of the biggest immune system boosters of all. In fact, researchers say vitamin C deficiency can make you more prone to getting sick. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, meaning it can protect your body from toxins that cause inflammation in your body.”
“Since humans cannot manufacture vitamin C and it’s not stored in the body, it needs to be constantly replenished,” advises CNBC. “A good dose to start with is 500 milligrams twice daily for maximum absorption.”
While zinc is not a vitamin but a mineral, it’s an indispensable immune system booster and this list wouldn’t be complete without it. “Zinc is essential for immune health. Some studies suggest that zinc supplements may reduce severity and length of symptoms from the common cold, but more research is needed,” states Verywell Fit.
Healthline explains that immune cells need zinc for “development and communication and [it] plays an important role in inflammatory response. […] A deficiency in this nutrient significantly affects your immune system’s ability to function properly, resulting in an increased risk of infection and disease, including pneumonia.”
According to Mayo Clinic, “zinc tends to be better absorbed from foods such as beef and seafood, but it’s also found in plant-based sources, including wheat germ, beans, nuts, and tofu.”
3. Vitamin D
The sunshine vitamin helps you stay healthy in the winter, too. “This superstar vitamin modulates so many aspects of our immune function. It makes our innate immune system more efficient in killing bacteria and viruses, and can reduce the frequency of upper respiratory infections (CNBC).”
Healthline goes into a little more detail: “Vitamin D enhances the pathogen-fighting effects of monocytes and macrophages — white blood cells that are important parts of your immune defense — and decreases inflammation, which helps promote immune response. […] Low vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of upper respiratory tract infections, including influenza and allergic asthma.”
According to Forbes, “we get 90% of our needed vitamin D from our skin exposure to the sun; however, during the winter […] supplementation is often recommended.”
4. Vitamin B6
This lesser-known vitamin is part of the vitamin B-complex. “B vitamins, including B12 and B6, are important for [a] healthy immune response. Yet, many adults are deficient in them, which may negatively affect immune health,” so Healthline.
“Vitamin B6 helps regulate the immune system,” writes Men’s Health. “It spurs the production of white blood cells and T-cells that help your body fight bacteria, viruses, and other harmful substances. It also has anti-inflammatory benefits.”
The best foods for vitamin B6, “in order from most B6 to foods with lower (but still good amounts!) of B6,” are chickpeas, beef and beef liver, cold-water fish, chicken breast, fortified breakfast cereals, potatoes, turkey, bananas, bulgur, cottage cheese, and winter squash, per Health Essentials.
5. Vitamin E
Another lesser-known yet essential vitamin concludes our list. “Vitamin E is another fat-soluble vitamin with powerful antioxidant properties to help support immune cell production,” informs Women’s Health its readers.
“Vitamin E protects you from free radicals, which can cause illness,” knows Men’s Health. “It’s one of the most important nutrients in immune function and helps your T-cells, a type of white blood cell, work at their best.”
According to Health Essentials, supplements are not a good way to get your vitamin E, as they could be harmful. Its experts recommend you “load up” on wheat germ oil, seeds, nuts, broccoli, kiwi, mango, tomatoes, and spinach.
You might also be interested in:
- Best Vitamins for Healthy Skin
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- Best Vitamin D Supplements
- Best Stress Supplements
- Best Vitamin C Serums
- Health Essentials
- Men’s Health
- Women’s Health
- Mayo Clinic
- UnityPoint Health
- Verywell Fit
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This post may contain affiliate links.