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Immune Boosting Snacks For Feeling And Sleeping Better

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Turn these 5 immune-boosting foods into tasty snacks that promote wellbeing and quality sleep.

Looking for ways to naturally boost your immune system? The easiest and tastiest way, of course, is through the foods we eat and the quality of sleep we get.

Let's start with sleep, or the lack thereof. Exhaustion makes the brain's hunger and fullness hormones go haywire, which explains why you might find yourself mindlessly raiding the fridge late at night.

The following tips and options can help you make healthier choices and find snacks to help you sleep and boost the immune system.


Pick Immune-Boosting Foods as Often as Possible

Make it a habit to reach for food packed with the good-for-you properties of vitamins C, D, zinc and selenium. These can include slices of fresh citrus fruit, kiwis, veggie sticks including red bell peppers, carrots, broccoli florets, or a handful of roasted nuts and seeds.

Immune-boosting powerhouses C and D, as studied in this report published in the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, are being linked with the ability to metabolize in our immune system to help fight the good fight.

Beta carotene, oxalic acid and other beneficial nutrients naturally found in a variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, complex carbohydrates and fish are also key to helping the gut's own microbiome produce antimicrobial proteins that help the body ward off any pesky virus.

Here are five immune-boosting pantry staples (including that cold pantry, the fridge) and ways to turn them into tasty snacks or light meals:


Naturally low in sugar, Greek yogurt is a body's dairy-friendly "bestie." It contains calcium, protein, probiotics (for your gut health), iodine, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. The latter helps regulate the immune system and boosts the body's natural defenses against illness.

A study published in 2017 found that those who consumed yogurt “could improve immune function based on its composition of probiotics, zinc, vitamin B6, and protein, which are associated with immune enhancement."

Get Your Daily Dose:

  • Make a quick breakfast parfait: layer plain Greek yogurt with a drizzle of maple syrup, slices of fresh banana, mango and blueberries or strawberries. Add a few magnesium-rich pepitas or dry-roasted nuts on top for crunch (magnesium helps nerve and muscle function).
  • Top a big, hearty bowl of multi-bean chili or your favorite soup with yogurt instead of sour cream.
  • Add to casseroles, pasta or rice dishes instead of cream for a probiotic kick!



Apart from being a key spice in everyone's pumpkin spice latte, cinnamon (we're talking about "true" or Ceylon cinnamon), is also prized for its health benefits. It contains high levels of cinnamaldehyde, known to ward off bacteria and infections.

In fact, cultures around the world use cinnamon as a natural food preservative. High in antioxidants, it's also an anti-inflammatory that helps fight infections and repair tissue damage.

Get Your Daily Dose:

  • Swirl Ceylon cinnamon into your favorite herbal tea or even a good cup of coffee (think of it as your very own Mexican-style coffee).
  • Sprinkle onto cubed and roasted butternut, acorn or gem squash.
  • Use in root vegetable-based soups, curries and stews.
  • Add to your mid-afternoon smoothie with one whole banana, a cup of fruit juice, a half cup of Greek yogurt, 1/4 teaspoon of Ceylon cinnamon (plus extra for sprinkling on top) and a heaping cup of ice cubes. Blend, pour, dust with a little extra cinnamon, sip and savor!



Citrus is high in vitamin C, which increases the production of white blood cells used to fight off infections.

Squeeze every drop of goodness from oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, mandarins, pomelos, tangelos and the like!

Did you know your body doesn't store or produce this vitamin? So, make sure you enjoy your citrus fruits daily!

Get Your Daily Dose:

  • Lemon and lime juice brighten up anything from a salad dressing, freshly grilled piece of fish, chicken, pork, taco, dip or drink.
  • Use citrus zest in desserts, homemade granola or with fresh herbs for a rub, marinade or drizzle.
  • Squeeze the juice of tart citrus (lemon or lime), add fresh ginger and honey, and warm in a small saucepan, then let it cool. This elixir becomes the perfect way to add an immune-boosting punch to a cup of herbal tea or mixed with water for a refreshing drink.


4) TEA

Grab a cuppa and drink up, because tea — whether green, black or white — delivers antioxidants, disease-fighting polyphenols and flavonoids in every sip.

Tea is being studied for its ability to naturally affect the number of regulatory T cells, which can improve immune function. Credit goes to polyphenols derived from tea, fruits and veggies which even lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Whether tea or water, staying hydrated is always a good call because thirst can be mistaken for hunger since the same part of the brain, the hypothalamus, controls both sensations.

Hydrating after a rough night's sleep, especially, can help keep cravings at bay.

Get Your Daily Dose (Beyond the Cup):

  • Steep your favorite tea in coconut milk, cream or any other liquid to infuse its flavor into anything — from rice puddings, ice creams, custards, risottos, soups and poached fish to vinaigrettes.
  • Use dry black or green tea leaves to smoke meat or fish — the flavor it imparts is unique and delicious.
  • The tannins in strong-brewed black tea make a great meat tenderizer. Marinate your meat for several hours before grilling or roasting for next-level results.



This soluble fiber-rich, cholesterol-lowering superfood (it's true, check out this Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health report), is good most any time of the day, in a variety of ways.

Research has shown that eating the first meal of the day not only provides a pick-me-up when you're exhausted, it's also linked to your ability to make healthier food choices throughout the day.

Extra points for the beta-glucans naturally found in oats, which help boost infection-fighting blood cells. Oats also contain zinc and selenium, two nutrients known for helping to keep infection at bay.

Oh, and thanks to the tryptophan found in oats (an amino acid the brain turns into serotonin), your body can relax so that you can get a better night's sleep!

Get Your Daily Dose:

  • A savory oatmeal with 1 cup of cooked steel cut oats, one soft-boiled egg, a handful of garlic-sautéed vitamin C-rich greens (baby kale, spinach or chopped Swiss chard), 2 slices of smoked salmon, a drizzle of olive oil, freshly ground black pepper and a dollop of Greek yogurt with a snip of fresh chives makes for a filling, tasty light lunch.
  • Combine quick oats with your favorite nut butter, dark chocolate chips, honey, dried fruit, chopped walnuts, warming spices like cinnamon or ginger, and you've got energy balls that work as hard as you do!
  • Throw a handful of rolled oats in your meatballs, meatloaf or burgers instead of breadcrumbs. You get a fiber boost and the nutty nuance of oats — a win-win.


Don't Forget Healthy Swaps

When you're craving junk food, try to find nutrient-rich alternatives.

Sweet cravings can be satisfied with a frozen banana or a glass of chocolate milk. If you want a salty, crunchy snack, reach for kale chips or cucumber slices dipped in Pico de Gallo salsa or hummus.

Making healthy swaps is also a great idea if you're sleepy and need an energy boost. Before you reach for your snack though, have a glass of water, go for a walk or take a power nap.


When to Eat Your Immune Boosting Snacks

Giving your immune system a helping hand is as delicious as it is good for you.

Get your daily doses throughout the day, but remember not to eat heavy meals or snacks right before bed. According to Sleep Number research, Sleep Number 360® smart bed sleepers who rarely eat within an hour of going to bed are the most restful overall and get the highest (a.k.a best) SleepIQ® scores.*

Like diet and exercise, quality sleep has a profound impact on our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Because no two people sleep the same, Sleep Number 360® smart beds, with SleepIQ® technology, sense your movements and automatically adjust firmness, comfort and support to keep you both sleeping comfortably and provide proven quality sleep. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night's sleep, and if you own a Sleep Number® bed, log in to your InnerCircle℠ Rewards account to see your exclusive offers, refer friends and more.

*Based on SleepIQ® data from 1/2/21 to 1/1/22 and self-reported responses of sleepers using SleepIQ® technology from 5/12/19 – 1/13/22.


Colombian-born, Canadian raised Mary Luz Mejia is a twice nominated NATJA nominated freelance food/travel journalist, certified chocolate taster, Gemini-nominated former food TV producer and food content marketer. She has written for enRoute,, the Toronto Star, Travel+Leisure, Ensemble Vacations, The Globe and Mail, and Toronto Life, to name a few.


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