Nourishing Immune System Resiliency

Right up there with taking care of our heart and our brain is the need to optimize our immune system’s ability to defend us against attacks from viruses, other microbial pathogens, and cancer.  In this time of a coronavirus pandemic, we need to do all we can to keep our immune system strong. Compounding the threat posed by the coronavirus is the emotional, physical, and mental stress associated with the uncertainty of how this pandemic will play out and the ways it has disrupted life as we know it, forcing us into isolation as social distancing is the new norm.  Exposure to prolonged emotional, physical, and mental stress is known to have detrimental effects on our cardiovascular system, our brains, and our immune system. One of the most important things we can do to keep our heart, brain and immune system healthy and strong is to consume more plant-based foods.  


There is substantial research showing plant-based foods have the ability to optimize the health of our hearts, brains, immune systems, and even help us to feel good in these not so good times.  Consuming plenty of vegetables and fruits are common to the Mediterranean Diet, the DASH Diet and other diets shown to boost immune system functioning. Consuming a good daily dose of vegetables (e.g., leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, bell peppers, peas, and brussels sprouts) and fruits (e.g., oranges and other citrus fruits, strawberries, cantaloupe, kiwifruit, and papaya) is like giving your immune system a daily booster shot of immune-enhancing micronutrients (e.g., carotenoid, flavonoid, and vitamin C).  Although fresher is better, frozen vegetables and fruits work too.  


Consuming almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts and sunflower seeds deliver a good dose of vitamin E, which, like vitamin C, is a powerful infection-fighting antioxidant.   Bananas, whole-grains, beans, and chickpeas are good sources of vitamin B6, another micronutrient critical to building and maintaining a strong immune system. The list goes on and though they are micro, many of the mighty nutrients in plant-based foods help boost the immune system in multiple ways that help make us stronger than the pathogens of our time.



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Catherine Féart, Cécilia Samieri, and Pascale Barberger-Gateau. Mediterranean diet and cognitive function in older adults.  Current Opinion In Clinical Nutrition And Metabolic Care, 2010;13(1): 14.

Christy C. Tangney. DASH and Mediterranean-type dietary patterns to maintain cognitive health. Current Nutrition Reports, 2014;3(1): 51-61.

Jaime Lee, Matthew Pase, Andrew Pipingas, Jessica Raubenheimer, Madeline Thurgood, Lorena Villalon, Helen Macpherson, Amy Gibbs, and Andrew Scholey. “Switching to a 10-day Mediterranean-style diet improves mood and cardiovascular function in a controlled crossover study.” Nutrition 31, no. 5 (2015): 647-652.

Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD.  8 vitamins & minerals you need for a healthy immune system: don’t rely on supplements, diet is key.  Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. January 15, 2015. 

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Dr. Stephen Almada 

Health Psychologist

[email protected]