Keen to avoid the flu? These 23 foods to boost immunity might help

Flu season is upon us - here, top experts share their go-to foods.

A woman eating a thymus gland food
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It seems as though everyone has a cold right now. So it's no wonder there's a high search for thymus gland food on Google. Why? Because the thymus gland is arguably one of the most important parts of your immune system. 

According to research - including this 2019 study published in Thorac Surg Clin. - your thymus gland is key to boosting your immunity (aka avoiding the dreaded flu).

How so? Well, the thymus gland is a small gland in your lymphatic system which, fun fact, produces white blood cells. These cells - called T-cells - are key for boosting your immune system and making sure your body is able to fight both disease and infection.

"It also increases the production and activity of infection-fighting white blood cells and has direct anti-viral properties," shares Nina Omotoso, Revital nutritional therapist.

So yep, eating foods that boost your thymus gland can be key for avoiding colds and viruses, such as the flu (read how to nip a cold in the bud, here). While we're all for New Year, same me and ditching harmful diet fads, including health-boosting meals where you can will only improve your energy levels, immunity, and more.

Ready to avoid the flu? Keep scrolling for the best foods to fill your plate and boost your immunity, according to the experts.

Thymus gland food: your guide

While there are no specific thymus gland foods, per se, research has shown that foods that boost general immunity in turn positively impact the thymus gland. 

Such as? 

1. Foods rich in zinc

"Pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc, which in turn promotes the function of the thymus gland," explains Omotoso. 

Also add kidney beans, cashews, almonds, and chickpeas to basket. 

Fun fact: Zinc is one of the most important immune-boosting minerals, and is found in all five foods above. 

2. Garlic

"Have a clove or two of garlic a day in your meals," says Patrick Holford, nutritionist and author of Boost Your Immune System

Why? Because it's naturally anti-viral and anti-bacterial, he shares.

3. Herbs and spices

A healthy lunch packed full of thymus gland food

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Did you know? Herbs and spices contain immune-supporting nutrients, explains Holford. 

Try this: try adding turmeric to rice or grating ginger into a stir fry.

4. Foods rich in Vitamin C

Such as? Oranges, kiwi, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, sprouts, cabbage and leafy greens. 

Eating just two kiwi gives you around 160mg of vitamin C, which is great when it comes to helping our bodies fight coughs and colds, explains Omotoso. 

"Vitamin C enhances our immune response by increasing the production of white blood cells and antibodies," she explains. "It also increases enzymes, and strengthens connective tissue and cell membranes, making it more difficult for viruses to spread through the body and enter cells."

6. Foods rich in Vitamin A

Similarly, foods rich in vitamin A are known to boost immunity.

Opt for foods like kale, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, mango and melon, if you're keen to give them a try.

7. Cocoa beans

"Eating a few cocoa beans a day could give your immune system a boost," shares Omotoso. "It’s rich in flavonols, a type of antioxidant that can stimulate the immune system."

Do note: while a chocolate bar may sound tempting, it won’t provide the same benefits, shares the expert. That's because there’s less cocoa and more sugar in a regular chocolate bar, so it’s better to stick to the raw bean, if you can find it.

What foods help the thymus gland?

As above, generally speaking, foods that boost your immunity generally will also boost your thymus gland. Think foods rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and zinc and you're on the right track.

Bottom line: aim for a balanced diet of protein, fat, carbs, and fibre and you'll likely be getting enough immunity-boosting foods without having to think about it. 

The NHS advises at least five fruit and veg portions a day, but new research indicates thirty different varieties a week is actually best for optimal health.

Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.