Everything from daily movement to consuming nourishing foods and de-stressing with a good book can help you avoid getting sick and improve your immune system. The same goes for hydrating beverages that feature key vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Here, experts chime in on the best immunity-supporting drinks.
Check out our Support Your Immune System Plan to get day-by-day guidance on how to stay as healthy as you can be.
Water serves many important purposes; our bodies are made of about 60% water, and every major system is influenced by fluid balance. “Water helps support the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals from the foods we eat, critical for basic function, ” says Gena E. Kadar, doctor of chiropractic, author of “A Manner of Living” and Dean of the School of Nutrition at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and Health Sciences. “Water also helps remove waste products from the body and reduces the effect of various chronic diseases and health conditions, which can further reduce the burden on the immune system.” If you find plain water boring, you can always jazz it up with fresh fruit slices or by adding carbonation.
“Citrus fruits like orange and grapefruit are rich in vitamin C, which supports a healthy immune system,” says Elizabeth Huggins, RD. She recommends blending 1 cup (150g) of fresh or frozen fruit (berries rich in antioxidants, too) into a homemade smoothie with vegetables to gain extra vitamins and minerals. “Plus, the fiber in whole foods is critical in promoting a healthy gut microbiome, which in turn plays a role in our immune system.”
Ginger has been studied for many health benefits, including stimulating digestion, positively affecting cholesterol levels and reducing nausea and inflammation (which is why we conventionally lean into it for belly aches or flu-like symptoms). One study even found ginger carries anti-viral properties. “Ginger is a powerful antioxidant that protects cells from oxidative stress and damage,” says Megan Wong, RD. “Cells are then more resilient and able to carry out immune-boosting functions.”
Try making your own shot by blending 1/4 cup (15g) finely chopped raw ginger with 1/2 cup (120ml) lemon juice (also rich in vitamin C). Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve. This makes enough for four shots. You can keep the mixture in the fridge for up to a week or add a serving to your fruit smoothie.
If you’re looking for something savory, try low-sodium V8 or tomato juice. “It’s a low-calorie option that is convenient and shelf-stable,” says Higgins. “It also contains more than half of the day’s recommended value of vitamin C and is an excellent source of folate.”
“Coffee contains antioxidants, which inhibit the release of harmful substances that can work against immunity,” says Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD. “Drinking black coffee can also reduce your risk of several chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes.”
The key here is keeping coffee to the basics, meaning skipping the extras like added cream, syrups and sugar, which can quickly turn your cup of joe into a calorie bomb. Even added artificial sugars should be minimized since they can harm your gut health.
Green tea contains several plant compounds called flavonoids, which act as antioxidants. In particular, green tea is rich in epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which counters the disease-causing effects of free radicals and reduces inflammation. One popular form of green tea is matcha (Think: trendy matcha lattes). Since matcha powder is made using the whole tea leaf it’s higher in antioxidants and also contains more caffeine.
A popular Indian spice, turmeric is lauded for its anti-inflammatory properties. The curcumin it contains is believed to help cure colds, fight disease and settle upset stomachs. Try making this golden turmeric latte, which features cinnamon, ginger, coconut milk and black pepper, which helps the body absorb the herb’s nutritional benefits.