January 12, 2021 10 min read
While we’re probably well accustomed to a good old whey protein shake, that’s far from the only thing you can drink that’s good for your body.
And while the protein shake will get you jacked, other drinks can ensure that you’re able to perform at the top of your game, by keeping you from getting sick.
Your immune system is a complex machine, and “boosting” it isn’t as simple as it sounds. There’s a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are important for helping you avoid and fight illness.
And just like a protein shake is good for getting you enough protein quickly, these 10 juices and drinks are the perfect immune-boosting shot to take through the day.
Like we’ve mentioned, the immune system is a complex beast with a lot of needs, mechanisms, and connections. So, trying to figure out heads and tails can prove to be difficult. Thankfully, studies have outlined some of the most important nutrients for maintaining a strong immune function.
Many of these nutrients you’ll get from your regular diet (assuming it’s relatively whole), but it’ll never hurt to add some turbocharged goodness into your life—especially if flu season is right around the corner.
For example, vitamin C is the vitamin heavy hitter when it comes to boosting immune function. And preventing scurvy, but that’s not as much of a problem these days. It effectively enhances your body’s ability to create antibodies when it's responding to infections, including supporting the creation of white blood cells.
Vitamin A is also very useful when it comes to taking care of your immune response. It supports various immune functions, while also benefiting the mucous lining of essential organs. Like with vitamin C, vitamin A also boosts the body’s ability to create antibodies.
Vitamin D is also crucially important when it comes to fighting off infections. The “sunlight vitamin” is able to stimulate the immune system while also helping the creation of new immune cells. It’s especially important to make sure you’re getting enough of it if you live in the Northern hemisphere where winters can be dark.
Protein is also crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system. It’s a source of essential amino acids, which are important for both strengthening our body and allowing the immune system to withstand and fight off potential infections.
Anti-inflammatory agents—which we’ll be talking about quite a bit down below—are also important. This includes things such as fish oil, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Along with the nutrients we’ve outlined above, compounds such as catechins, probiotics, and minerals all play important roles in a healthily functioning immune system. So, when it comes to getting a good sample of these nutrients, it’s going to take a variety of different drinks.
Many of the drinks we’ve included are smoothies—which means that eating the fruit or vegetable raw will bestow its effects either way. But combining various ingredients will not only make it a feast for your taste buds, but you’ll also be consuming a wider swath of nutrients.
Here are our 10 juices and drinks for a healthier immune system.
We’re going to start with the basics—and a reminder that you should probably drink a glass of water if you haven’t in a while.
Staying hydrated, while not offering any fancy nutrients or immune-boosting properties, is one of the best things you can do for maintaining a healthy immune response and overall healthy body. Especially since your immune system is just that—a complex system. There are countless ways that the benefits of being hydrated will carry through into helping you avoid illness.
For example, your mouth and throat (and its cells) are one of the first defenders of your body, and therefore they’re primary components of the immune system. If you’re dehydrated, that’s going to affect your mouth and throat and thus, their ability to keep you safe from getting sick.
Staying hydrated also helps to flush out toxins from your body on a regular basis, helping to keep your immune system functioning like a well-oiled machine. Furthermore, hydration is good for your skin among a host of other things.
While plain old water is a good option, making it snazzier can work as well. Most drinks are based on water or the water found in plants, so chances are that you’ll be getting enough. But it’s important to make sure that it’s mostly not caffeinated and unsweetened. A good option is an herbal tea or even just some lemon water.
Lemon juice or water, in particular, is super beneficial for immune function since citrus is not only a good source of vitamin C, but it also contains a ton of zinc. This extra boost will help when you’re both avoiding, and fighting, colds and other infections.
As a terrific probiotic drink, kefir (created from milk), helps to boost your immune system through its vitamins and by improving the health of your digestive tract.
In terms of vitamins, kefir is a fantastic source of vitamin B12. This complex B vitamin is linked to the higher activity of immune cells and also helping the body to determine the proper immune response when we do become sick. Additionally, kefir has been found to have antibacterial properties due to the probiotics found within it—specifically, Lactobacillus kefiri, which is unique to kefir.
And its probiotic properties are its greatest strength.
Maintaining good gut health is super important for immune system function since the two systems are so closely interrelated. A very high percentage of immune system cells are found in the gut, so it makes sense that maintaining a good bacterial environment in the gut is foundational for maintaining health.
Ensuring that you’re getting enough probiotics—whether that’s in the form of kefir, yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut—is integral for fighting off diseases and keeping your body in tip-top shape. And to add to that, kefir is also a good source of protein, calcium, and vitamin D.
If you’re looking to make a healthy drink with kefir, try adding four tablespoons of orange juice to a cup of kefir. Add some ginger and honey to taste, and blend. The addition of citrus, ginger, and honey will all boost the already high nutrients content of kefir to new heights, giving you a drink that’s sure to help your body against illness.
And if you’re working out, the protein will always be a welcome addition to the diet.
While we’ve already touched on herbal teas under staying hydrated, green tea deserves its own place on this list. Having been used for thousands of years, there has been a lot of research done around this drink.
One of its greatest strengths is its antioxidant properties. Oxidative stress, caused by free radicals, has been linked with cell damage that causes different cancers, strokes, and heart disease. While the body produces its own antioxidant compounds, they’re not as effective as something like green tea.
Compared to other teas, the green variety has the highest concentration of these antioxidants (called polyphenols)—also referred to as flavanols and catechins.
Green tea has also been shown to increase the number of regulatory T cells in the body. These cells are a critical aspect of your immune system and its proper functioning, also playing a part in suppressing autoimmune disease.
Lastly, green tea seems to also have antimicrobial properties. This means that it can inhibit the growth of bacteria and viruses within the body. Some studies have even indicated that this tea can improve brain function while also lowering the risk of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer’s.
When all is said and done, green tea is definitely a juggernaut in the immune-boosting world.
A popular form of drink that has popped up in recent years is the use of shots—smaller portions of a drink that are packed with a ton of beneficial compounds and ingredients. One of these is based on turmeric.
Turmeric itself has the active ingredient of curcumin, which is both an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory agent. Furthermore, it boosts probiotic gut health because of its prebiotic-like properties, and it also acts to lower cortisol levels. High cortisol levels have been found to impair the immune system’s functioning.
But while turmeric is good on its own, using it in an easily consumable shot format is an even better way to go.
Mixing it with a smaller amount of lemon or orange juice, honey, garlic, ginger, and black pepper will give you something that tastes as healthy as it is. Honey is both rich in antioxidants and able to soothe sore throats. The citrus is a good source of vitamin C, garlic and ginger help to boost the immune system, and black pepper can better activate the curcumin while also being high in antioxidants and useful as an anti-inflammatory agent.
Another spice that is useful for boosting the immune system is cardamom. It’s specifically high in anti-inflammatory compounds that help fight chronic inflammation.
Ginger is one of the best foods you can add to your diet if you’re looking to give your immune system that extra edge.
It boasts both powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, including the compounds gingerols, paradols, sesquiterpenes, shogaols, and zingerone. It sounds like a magic spell if you say it out loud, but instead of summoning something, it helps to make your immune system stronger.
And if that wasn’t enough, ginger is also useful as an antiviral against upper respiratory infections, also boosting immune response against these invaders.
Apple cider vinegar is another popular remedy that’s often used in homes. It’s able to kill pathogens and it's been used for a long time to disinfect surfaces and treat ear infections, for example.
Combine the above with some water, honey, and cayenne pepper and you’ve got a tea that’s sure to give your immune system a boost. While honey is rich in antioxidants, cayenne pepper is also useful in that it contains a high level of capsaicin—effectively suppressing certain inflammatory processes.
We all know that watermelon is tasty, but its health benefits aren’t as widely appreciated.
Its major claim to fame comes in the form of its lycopene content—an antioxidant compound that’s been linked to decreasing the risk of heart disease, age-related eye disorders, and even cancer. Not only that, but it contains more lycopene than any other fresh fruit or vegetable.
If that hasn’t sold you on watermelon, it also contains a good source of vitamin A and vitamin B6—helping your body break down the protein you eat while also supporting your immune function. Not to mention that it’s also super hydrating.
Along with the added lime, watermelon will also provide a good source of vitamin C which is the vitamin to keep an eye on if you’re looking to boost immune health.
Mint also tastes good, but more importantly (for our purposes at least) it’s got some anti-inflammatory benefits as well. Furthermore, it’s full of antibacterial compounds that have been linked to reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses.
Not a conventional smoothie recipe, but hear us out.
Seeds and nuts are packed with nutrients, that much is obvious. But pumpkin seeds are especially nutritious since they’re one of the highest plant-based sources of protein with every amino acid included.
So they’re good for your gains—that much is obvious. But they also provide a good source of iron, zinc, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A, B, and E. If that wasn’t enough, the seeds also contain powerful anti-inflammatory agents.
A recipe here calls for using whole milk to bring together the pulverized pumpkin seeds, but it’s also a good idea to maybe opt-in for hemp or cashew milk.
Both of these are terrific sources of zinc, which is necessary for helping your immune system fight off bad bacteria and viruses. Furthermore, zinc is essential for the creation of proteins and DNA.
With these two ingredients together (and maybe some honey if you’re feeling it), you’ll have a terrifically rich immune-boosting smoothie.
Another delicious sounding smoothie, this one’s also sure to pack a punch in the immune system department.
To start, strawberries are terrific sources of vitamin C and antioxidants, helping to keep free radicals under control. As we know by now, vitamin C is the vitamin to look out for if you’re looking to make your immune system stronger, but that’s not all strawberries have to offer.
They’re also good sources of potassium and fiber, helping with blood pressure and gut health.
Kiwis are even better sources of vitamin C while also being nutrient-dense. For example, 1 cup of kiwi is able to provide about 270% of your daily recommended value of vitamin C.
If you want to elevate this even further, try adding chia seeds for some extra nutrition.
Whether or not you’re a fan of it, carrot juice packs enough of a punch to hold its own in the juice world.
Carrots are particularly rich in the compound carotene, an antioxidant that helps to fight free radicals inside the body. This contributes to better skin health as well. However, the antioxidants found in carrots are especially useful, since they have a unique role in supporting your immune function.
As always, feel free to spice things up with the addition of some other vegetable or spice, or add the carrot juice to a different drink.
We started with water and here we are finishing off with the classic bloody mary, but it’s not as bad as it seems.
Tomato juice is packed with nutrients and antioxidant compounds—being one of the best sources of lycopene you can get. Other immune-boosting compounds also include carotene, folate, vitamin C, flavonoids, and vitamin E.
Horseradish also has antibiotic properties and can help fight the common cold. Vodka is a tougher sell, so it’s best to drink these without.
But if you’re looking to add another immune-boosting ingredient to justify this drink, look no further than a shrimp garnish.
Shellfish in general are an amazing source of zinc, which is extremely important for your immune function. Putting it all together, you’ve got one hell of a contender for best immune-boosting beverage.
Ensuring that you’re eating and drinking the right stuff is the best way to maintain a healthy immune system. Preventative measures that boost your immune system can help you prevent sickness, keeping you from missing any training days.The best way to keep a healthy immune system is a healthy diet—as we’ve seen above. But it also takes a holistic approach to your overall well being. That means getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and taking care of your mental health. Only once all these pieces are in place can you really reap all the rewards of a healthy lifestyle.