How Does the Immune System Work?

Keeping your immune system healthy is crucial to living a long and happy life. Our immune system is responsible for detecting and fighting against harmful pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Each pathogen has different antigens, proteins found on the surface of the pathogen, on top of them. But how does the immune system fight off pathogens? The immune system releases antibodies that are specific to the antigen. From there, the antibodies engulf and digest the pathogen.

Certain foods actually boost the immune system and can help strengthen immunity to operate at maximum efficiency. These immune system boosting foods contain vitamins that are essential for our body’s health. Luckily, these foods are probably already in your kitchen pantry or just a short grocery store stop away.

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Citrus Fruit

Citrus fruits contain arguably the most important vitamin for your body, vitamin c. It reduces the duration of common cold symptoms by increasing the production of white blood cells in the body. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that is needed for growth and tissue repair.  Thankfully, this powerful vitamin is found in many common citrus fruits that are rich in vitamin C include:

  • Oranges 
  • Grapefruits 
  • Tangerines
  • Lemons
  • Limes

Vitamin C cannot be stored in the body naturally, because it is a water-soluble vitamin. So, we need to consume vitamin c through food or supplements every day.

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Salmon is a great source of vitamin B6. B6 is vital for the biochemical reactions that occur within our immune system as well as helping the body’s ability to store energy. Therefore, vitamin B6 is also super beneficial for workout recovery.  Salmon is an easily accessible food packed with B6. Except, a vegetarian-friendly b6 substitute is spinach and chickpeas.


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Spinach is known as one of the “super-foods” because they contain many different types of nutrients. It contains fiber, vitamin c, and folate. Folate helps in the creation of new cells and DNA repair. 



A blueberry will bring a bright color and a sweet flavor to your meal. They also bring to the table, vitamin c, manganese, and K6.



Shellfish has high proteins and low-fat levels. AS well as that, they contain vitamin B-12, Vitamin A, vitamin B6, Vitamin B3.



Besides just easing nauseous, ginger is also full of antioxidants. Vitamins B3, B6, potassium, zinc, and folate are all found in this potent root.



Garlic is more than just a boost of flavor for your foods, it’s a boost of vitamins. Garlic contains vitamins b and c, manganese, selenium, and potassium. Except, you only get the benefits of consuming whole garlic, not garlic powder. 



Almonds are packed with vitamin E. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that can increase our immuno-efficiency. This vitamin is necessary to keep our immune system running as it should.

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    The role of our diet

    Of course, none of this means anything if we do not keep a healthy eating habit. A good rule of thumb is to try and make meals as “colorful” as possible. That means trying new combinations, new recipes, whatever the case may be, to ensure you eat a wide variety of foods.  If your palette is colorful, it’s likely you’re consuming at least some of the best foods to boost your immune system.  The Cleveland Clinic sat down with registered dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, and asked how to make the most of our meals.

    Try to eat a wide variety of foods, and aim to eat fruit and vegetables from every color of the rainbow,” Zumpano says. “Your plate will be more enticing to look at, and you will ensure that you’re getting as many health-boosting vitamins and nutrients as possible.

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