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Immune Boosting Foods for Student-Athletes

With the fluctuation of changing temperatures coupled with student-athletes in high-training mode, nagging colds and illness are prevalent. A strong nutritional game plan can serve as a defense to ward off sickness while also increasing energy.

Student-Athletes are at risk for illness during competition season due to:

  • Frequent and extended travel
  • High-training volume and competition with less recovery time
  • Different climates and altitudes
  • Inadequate sleep
  • Anxiety about performances
  • Insufficient intake of food and fluids
  • Air borne pathogens in planes, busses and vans

Here are some immune boosting foods:

Food Source


Daily Recommendation

Citrus fruits

High in Vitamin C

Aids white blood cell production to fight infections

½-2 cups citrus fruits


Contains calcium, potassium and sulfur compounds

Protects against bacteria and infection

1-2 cloves

(1-2 teaspoons minced)





2 tsp fresh ginger

½ tsp powdered ginger

Spinach, Kale, Swiss Chard, Beets

Rich in antioxidants and nitrates which protect cells and guards against inflammation

1-3 cups raw veggies

1 cup cooked veggies

Green tea

Rich in flavonoids and contains L-theanine which protects against bacteria

2-3 cups

Greek yogurt, Kefir

Helps protect against diarrhea and upper respiratory tract infection

1 cup Greek yogurt

1 cup Kefir

Meal and Snack Ideas:

  • Scrambled eggs with spinach and garlic
  • Greek yogurt with orange slices, strawberries, kiwis
  • Green tea instead of coffee
  • Top salad with beets or citrus fruits
  • Add sliced lemon to water bottle
  • Sprinkle powdered ginger on rice
  • Add dark greens or beets to recovery smoothie

Immuno Boost Shot

  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ¼ tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp powdered ginger
  • ½ tsp curcumin powder
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp honey

Shake in blender bottle and enjoy!

Source: United States Olympic Committee Sports Nutrition Team


This article has been clinically reviewed by Lora Edwards, MEd, RD, LD, CSSD

Learn more about Sports Medicine at Children's Mercy.