Against respiratory infections: 4 types of foods to boost immunity in a plant-based diet

A healthy, balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, especially fresh ones, lays the ideal base to enjoy an efficient immune system, capable of dealing with bacteria and respiratory viruses.

Viruses and bacteria that affect the respiratory tract pose a challenge to the immune system, especially during the fall and winter. With a plant-based diet we can strengthen the defensive response of our body.

These are the 4 types of foods that help improve the immune system when eating a vegetarian or vegan diet. Take note so that they are not lacking in your diet.


A randomized controlled trial studied how an increase in fruit and vegetable servings could benefit elderly patients, who are generally at higher risk of developing all kinds of pathologies related to respiratory infections.

The researchers asked patients randomly assigned to the experimental group to increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables to five servings per day. Meanwhile, those in the control group were encouraged to continue their normal diets (closer to taking in two servings per day).

The results were clear. Those who ate more fruits and vegetables experienced a significant increase in the intake of the most important nutrients for the immune system, such as vitamin C, lycopene and zeaxanthin, as well as a significantly improved antibody response after being subjected to a vaccination. The researchers concluded that an “achievable dietary goal” can be set to achieve “improved immune function.”


In another study , the effects of high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets (26 percent of calories from fat) and high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets (15 percent of calories from fat) were investigated for three six-week phases, followed by a fourth phase that included caloric restriction.

They concluded that low-fat diets, combined with a loss of body weight, could have “a beneficial effect on cell-mediated immunity.”

Additionally, other research corroborates this relationship between low-fat diets and improved immunity. The study even found a link between low-fat diets (20 percent of calories) and increased activity of natural killer cells, essential in the immune system”s response to fight, for example, diseases such as cancer.


These positive effects are especially encouraging because they were achieved through relatively modest dietary changes. In other words, the changes studied above represent neither the optimal diet nor the optimal immune response. Even better results can be achieved by increasing the daily consumption of fresh plant foods. You can also reduce fat intake up to 10% of calories.

Of course, a strong immune system will never guarantee a quick and complete recovery in all cases, particularly when it comes to new viruses that humans had not yet come into contact with, such as SARS-CoV-2, which caused the pandemic. COVID-19. The usual precautions and advice should also be followed, and taking into account other lifestyle factors such as sleep, exercise and good personal hygiene are very important.

But strengthening our immune system through diet is always recommended. The more plant and whole foods we eat, especially fruits and vegetables, the better. The less fat we consume, the better. The closer we get to these recommendations, the more we can cope with any pathology with less risk of complications.


All fresh plant foods are valuable for immunity. So are whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, loaded with minerals and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory plant compounds. Some foods stand out especially for their effect on immunity, such as:

  • Garlic
  • Green Tea
  • Kiwi
  • Mushrooms

However, keep in mind that these foods should not be considered effective when taken in isolation. The ability of the diet to strengthen immunity should not be attributed only to the properties of individual foods, but to the synergistic relationship between all of those who compose it. Their health benefits will be most profound when consumed as part of a broad and diverse diet.

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