7 Best Drinks For Your Immune System, Say Experts
These days, there’s no shortage of immune-supporting supplements to choose from, and Americans are reaching for them in droves. About 58% of people over age 20 say they take supplements in general—and the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements reports that sales of immune-targeted supplements markedly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic as folks hoped to ward off sickness. But some of the best sources of immune-boosting vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and probiotics aren’t pills, capsules, or gummies, but whole foods—including beverages! When you choose the right drinks for your immune system, you’ll not only load up on important nutrients for immunity, you’ll add flavor and novelty to your daily diet. (All that without shelling out cash for fancy supplements.)
According to health and nutrition experts, a few beverages are best when it comes to helping fight illness. Raise a glass to your health with these best drinks for the immune system.
1. Prune juice
You probably associate prune juice with getting your digestive tract moving, but the beverage has more than just bathroom benefits.
“Prune juice is a highly beneficial beverage when it comes to supporting the immune system because it contains an array of essential nutrients,” says Jessie Hulsey, RD, LD.
Specifically, prune juice is a rich source of vitamin C and zinc, both of which are known to enhance immune function.
It’s fizzy, it’s tasty, it’s trendy—and it’s a top drink for the immune system. Kombucha’s immune-boosting potential comes from its fermentation process.
“Kombucha is a fermented beverage chock full of beneficial bacteria that help maintain a balanced gut microbiome, which in turn promotes a healthy immune system,” says Kristen White, RDN, CLT, of Balance to Flourish Nutrition.
For the most gut-friendly choice, look for kombucha with minimal added sugar.
3. Ginger tea
Brewing up a pot of tea while you’re under the weather? Make it a zingy ginger. “Ginger tea can be a great drink for your immune system because ginger is antioxidant and antimicrobial,” says Amanda Sauceda, MS, RD. One study found that a ginger supplement significantly reduced the length of hospital stays in people with COVID-19!
You don’t even need a tea bag to make an immune-supporting ginger “tea.” Simply steep a piece of peeled ginger in hot water for several minutes to reap the root’s benefits. Sauceda’s easy-peasy tip: “Store chunks of ginger root in the freezer. When it comes time to make your tea, it’ll be easy to peel the ginger.”
If you’re not familiar with kvass, it’s an Eastern European non-alcoholic beer-like beverage that dates back to the Middle Ages. Kvass may be a bit tough to track down at American grocery stores, but it’s worth a try if you can find it. Your immune health will thank you!
“Kvass is typically made from fermented rye bread, water, and sometimes fruit or herbs,” explains Wan Na Chun, MPH, RD, of One Pot Wellness. “During the fermentation process, beneficial bacteria and yeast develop, which create a rich source of probiotics. These live microorganisms help support a healthy gut microbiome, which plays a crucial role in immune function. Diverse and healthy gut microbiota can enhance the body’s defense mechanisms, improve nutrient absorption, and regulate inflammation.”
5. Orange juice
Some drinks for the immune system just so happen to be delicious! Sweet, fruity OJ’s reputation as an immune booster is well deserved. Orange juice is famously rich in vitamin C, often containing 100% or more of the Daily Value in a single 8-ounce glass. While vitamin C may not cure the common cold or banish the flu, it is a key player in immune function, ousting harmful free radicals and helping create white blood cells.
Fortified orange juice also boasts plenty of vitamin D, another all-star nutrient for immunity. Getting enough daily D helps modulate innate and adaptive immune responses. Having low levels is also associated with greater susceptibility to infection and increased autoimmunity. So get squeezing!
Drinkable yogurts aren’t just for kids. Kefir is a fermented dairy drink much like a thinner version of yogurt. You can purchase it plain or in an array of flavors, any of which may help you shake off illness.
Research shows kefir has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and can stimulate the immune system.
“On top of that, kefir can be a source of probiotics, making it good for your gut health, too,” says Sauceda. She recommends drinking your favorite flavor all by itself or adding kefir to smoothies or your morning oatmeal.
7. Green tea
Another tea that could elevate your immunity: the green variety.
“Packed with antioxidants and bioactive compounds, green tea helps support a strong immune response,” says Maya Oueichek, MBA, RDN. “The polyphenols in green tea have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. These compounds help protect the body against harmful pathogens and reduce the risk of infections.”
Additionally, Oueicheck says green tea’s copious antioxidants reduce cell damage, further supporting immune function. And since green tea is inexpensive, easily accessible, and full of flavor, why not drink up?