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Immune-Boosting Foods for Diabetes

citrus fruit
Anna Panzarella, RDN - Blogs
By Anna Panzarella, RDRegistered dietitian nutritionistJanuary 12, 2021

Every winter, people look for ways to protect themselves against colds, the flu, and other infections -- and with a pandemic happening, having a strong immune system is even more important. This is especially true if you’re living with diabetes. Diabetes can affect your immune response, making you more susceptible to infections. There are several lifestyle habits that can help -- things like consistent exercise, getting enough sleep, and minimizing stress. Controlling your blood sugar is also paramount in maintaining a strong immune response.

Looking for ways to boost your immune system? Consider adding in one of these eight immune-boosting foods to your daily meals.

Citrus Fruits

Many people turn to vitamin C when they feel a cold coming on because it is known for promoting the production of white blood cells, which are necessary in fighting off infections. Fruits like grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, lemons, and limes are wonderful sources of this powerhouse nutrient. Avoid citrus juices, which can raise your blood sugar. Opt for whole pieces of fruit instead to get the added benefits of fiber that aids in blood sugar regulation.

Fermented Foods

Many fermented foods, like yogurt, kimchi, miso, tempeh, kombucha, and sauerkraut, contain high levels of live, active cultures, which are the “good” bacteria that help protect the body from infection. In fact, these microorganisms are responsible for more than 75% of the immune system! Aim to eat a variety of probiotic-rich foods every day to enhance microbial diversity in your gut. Having an array of healthy gut microbes promotes optimal digestion and can boost immune response. 

Nuts and Seeds

Vitamin E is another critical nutrient that helps to maintain immune system function. Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, and sunflower seeds, are excellent sources of the vitamin. Nuts and seeds also contain healthy fats, protein, and fiber, which help regulate blood sugar. 

Chicken Soup

Grandma’s favorite cold remedy may have some healing powers after all! Chicken is high in vitamin B6, which is essential in making antibodies and other chemical reactions in the body that improve immune response. Homemade stock or broth made by boiling chicken bones also contains nutrients that promote gut health and a healthy immune system.


Hot tea is known for soothing a sore throat when you are sick, but it can also contain a ton of immune-boosting nutrients. Green, black, and white tea varieties all contain flavonoids that are powerful antioxidants that fight off free radicals in the body. Fresh ginger tea is another great option, as ginger is known to decrease inflammation and reduce blood sugars.

Onions and Garlic

Onions and garlic are not only good for making meals more flavorful, they are also loaded with antioxidants that fight viruses and bacteria. Garlic also contains unique sulfuric compounds that support the body’s natural detoxification systems.  


Beans and other legumes, like peas and lentils, have many nutritional benefits for those living with diabetes. They contain high amounts of fiber, which provide a sustained source of energy without a spike in blood sugar.

Beans are also a great source of zinc, which is an essential mineral that needs to be eaten regularly since the human body does not store it. Zinc affects many aspects of the immune system and has also been shown to improve glycemic control in those living with diabetes.

Bell Peppers

Bell peppers are another excellent source of vitamin C and help eliminate free radicals from the body. Just 1 cup of sliced red bell pepper contains 130% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. And because bell peppers are a non-starchy vegetable, they have minimal impact on blood glucose levels, making them an excellent snack choice or addition to daily meals like scrambled eggs or a green salad.


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About the Author
Anna Panzarella, RD

Anna Panzarella, RDN, CD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a background in health coaching, disease prevention and management. She has been working in the corporate wellness industry for the past 4 years and helps others to actualize their personal health goals through nutrition education, counseling and goal-setting. Anna is also an ACE Certified Health Coach and Group Fitness Instructor.

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