The Best Vegetables for Boosting Immunity

by Melanie Christner Natural RemediesComments: 46

best vegetables to boost immunity

By Melanie Christner NTP, CHFS, CGP of Honest Body

Do you wish there was a simple solution that tackled things like cancer AND the common cold?

Time and again, both in my nutritional training and my own experience with my family, I am shown that the kitchen is the first place to begin for getting well.

Helping our little ones and ourselves get strong and well can come from the most modest and unassuming sources. The two immune boosters that I discuss today could not be more humble and are probably available right now in your pantry.

Garlic. Onions.

Thats it!

Garlic and onions are simple and inexpensive – the best vegetables for highly effective immune boosting if applied in a therapeutic manner. 

Garlic and onions are featured as the third of the Top 10 Immune Boosters, taken from the book The Gut and Psychology Syndrome, by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. Simple ways to have robust health.

best vegetables for boosting immunityIf you are unfamiliar with her work, Dr. Natasha is a neurologist in the U.K. with a masters in nutrition. She created a dietary protocol for healing autism, as well as other neurological, chronic and autoimmune issues. She has helped patients around the world and has trained other practitioners to do so as well. The GAPS Diet helps by healing and sealing the gut lining, reducing toxic burden on the immune system, and replenishing beneficial microbes.

Why Onions and Garlic are the Best Vegetables for the Immune System


While not necessarily awesome for those receiving your kisses (!) garlic is an absolute champion for the immune system.

  1. It packs a punch with its phytochemicals and healing sulfur components. These sulfur compounds even chelate toxic heavy metals (like lead & cadmium), binding with them for excretion out of the body.
  2. Garlic has antibacterial, anti-fungal, and even antiviral qualities
  3. It promotes the growth of healthy intestinal microflora
  4. Garlic helps to keep fats from oxidizing. I outlined in previous posts (here) and (here) how important fats are to the immune system.
  5. Garlic acts as a strong antioxidant and guards against DNA damage
  6. It protects against radiation & sunlight damage
  7. Fights worms and parasites
  8. It benefits digestion, which is good for the whole body
  9. It contains many nutrients such as –

Vitamins: C, B1, B2, B3

Minerals: Calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc

Phytochemicals: Allicin, beta-carotene, beta-sitosterol, caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, diallyl-disulfide, ferulic acid, geraniol, kaempferol, linalool, oleanolic acid, p-coumaric acid, phloroglucinol, phytic acid, quercetin, rutin, s-allyl-cysteine, saponin, sinapic acid, & stigmasterol.

As the book Prescription for Nutritional Healing states, it is “Good for virtually any disease and infection”


As a whole, the onion family (garlic included) is an immune boosting plant family. Onions in particular help to decrease phlegm and inflammation in the nose and throat, and when applied as a chest poultice they can help with the inflammation and congestion in the chest, such as from a bronchial infection. Onions also inhibit allergic reactions, which are a sign of imbalance in the immune system.

Some of onion minerals worth noting are:

  1. Manganese
  2. Potassium
  3. Phosphorus
  4. Magnesium
  5. Calcium

Onions also contain a significant amount of Vitamin C and both onions and garlic (especially red onions) are high in quercetin, the antioxidant which helps inhibit cancer cell growth.

Historical usage

Onions and garlic are featured in historical art, medicine, religious application and culinary tradition. Here are just a few examples:

Pre-antibiotics era, garlic was used to treat infections and wounds during World War I. It is one of the oldest recorded remedies and is listed medicinally in ancient texts of the Greeks, Hebrews, Babylonians, Romans and Egyptians.

Onions were used in the Egyptian mummification process (onions symbolized eternity), as well as in their art. The layered circle form of the onion held special significance.

Apart from growing in the wild, onions have been cultivated for at least 5,000 years, showing up in ancient texts of India, Sumeria, Egypt & China.

Garlic and onion belong to the Allium family of plants, which includes 600 – 750 species. Other popular alliums are shallots, chives, leeks, scallions.

How to use onions & garlic therapeutically


Dr. Natasha recommends consuming a whole head of garlic a day for therapeutic purposes (not just a clove!), and she also outlines its usage as a remedy for ear infection, through garlic infused olive oil.

Garlic for ear infection


  • 1 crushed clove of garlic
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons cold pressed olive oil


Place the crushed garlic in the oil and let sit for 30 minutes, then strain. The oil can be warmed slightly by placing it in a cup and setting the cup in warm water (don’t overheat or this will destroy beneficial properties). Use a few drops of this oil hourly in the ears to treat an ear infection. Garlic oil is a safe remedy for children and can also be used daily (just a couple of drops) to soften ear wax buildup.

The book Healing With Whole Foods outlines more garlic usages:

Garlic tea – Simmer 4 cloves of chopped garlic in one cup of water for 20 minutes…(apply both topically and drink internally) use for relieving poison ivy & poison oak & other boil like skin conditions.

Travel – When traveling or eating out, take 2 capsules of aged garlic or chew up a clove of raw garlic prior, to help avoid food poisoning.

For colds, sore throat, & sinus headaches – Hold a clove of garlic in the mouth for at least 15 minutes, then consume it.


Dr. Natasha again gives us simple, time tested remedies.

Onion for ear infection


  • Large white onion
  • Cotton cloth


Chop the onion finely and put it into the cotton cloth. Heat it in an oven until it is hot but still tolerable to touch. Place the wrapped onion on your child’s ear, with a cozy hat over to keep it in place…you can use plastic wrap between the onion and hat to keep the hat from getting onion juice on it. Keep this in place until the onion has cooled and repeat the heating and application on the ear. This is good to do before bed when they can then sleep on the affected ear and keep it very warm. It’s smelly but works well!

For a throat infection

Eggs, onion, & animal fat immune booster (good for any infection)


  • 1 large white onion (sliced)
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons animal fat (such as ghee, goose or duck fat)
  • 2 – 3 high quality pastured eggs


  1. Cook the sliced onion in a pot on low heat, covered with a lid, for about 20 minutes, until onion is soft and sweet
  2. Fry the eggs in generous amounts of the animal fat until the whites are gently cooked but the yolks are still runny.
  3. Serve the eggs and onions together with the fat and an extra drizzle of cold pressed olive oil on top

“This dish is very gentle and soothing on the throat, the fat and the egg yolks will dissolve any damaged tissues and help to remove them; the eggs, fat and cooked onion feed the immune system locally in the throat, and boost systemic immunity as well. Give this dish to your child twice a day, and the sore throat will melt away quite quickly. This is food that should be given to patients in hospitals, whose tonsils have just been removed.” – from The Gut and Psychology Syndrome, by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride

Storage and preparation

The best way to store garlic and onions is in a cool, dark place with good air circulation. This could be in a paper bag, a mesh basket in the cabinet, or an open box in the pantry. Stored carefully, onions and garlic can keep well for a month or much more. Note: When a clove is taken off a head of garlic, its storage life is decreased.

In preparing garlic, if you cut into the garlic clove and then let it sit for 15 minutes you will be allowing time for the enzymes that turn alliin into allicin.

If you are prepping a bunch of garlic cloves at the same time, you can put the garlic in boiling water for 10 – 20 seconds and then put them into cold water. This should make it so that the skins come away easily.

In preparing onions it is helpful to have a good, sharp knife. Here is a video showing how.

Raw garlic is preferable for medicinal purposes. There is some degree of potency that is lost during cooking, but some sulphur compounds are actually enhanced during cooking, so there is still benefit.

How we incorporate onions & garlic

  • I put onions and garlic into almost every soup I prepare for my family.
  • A cheese plate with local artisan cheeses, roasted garlic, dates, fruit & nuts as an at-home date.
  • Roasted garlic soup is one of my favorite soups.
  • I love making a simple dressing for our salads. It’s made with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lots of chopped garlic and a little bit of honey & sea salt.

How do you include these two best vegetables into your daily life? Please scroll down and tell us in the comments below…I’d love to hear about it.


For those of you who are interested in the GAPS Diet for your own family, registration is open for the GAPS CLASS, a class to walk you through the GAPS protocol and help you apply it effectively in your everyday life.

CLICK HERE to find out more and receive a free 30 Day Prep Guide for GAPS for signing up for free updates!

About the Author

View More: delights in helping people apply healing protocols to everyday life, while eating really great food … and becoming friends with their bodies again.

She writes at As a mom of four children herself, she works with moms and their kiddos to help them feel their best and to have all the life and energy they were meant to have.

Melanie is an NTP, Certified GAPS Practitioner, and Healing Foods Specialist in Vermont. For fun she creates in her kitchen, Nordic skis, or swims in the Green Mountain rivers with her family.


Sources and More Information

How to make an onion poultice

Prescription For Nutritional Healing Book

Healing With Whole Foods Book

Gut and Psychology Syndrome

Top 10 Ways to Boost Immunity

The 11 Best Natural Antibiotics and How to Use Them

Elderberry Syrup to Boost Immunity

How to Boost Immunity with Greens

Juicing 101: Why Do It, the Best Juicers, and Recipes to Try

Think Raw Veggies are Best? Think Again

Picture Credit

Comments (46)

  • Melanie Christner, NTP, CHFS, CGP

    Thank you, Aldape :)

    September 23rd, 2014 12:35 pm Reply
  • Melanie Christner, NTP, CHFS, CGP

    Thank you, Natural Health & Wellness :)

    September 23rd, 2014 12:35 pm Reply
  • Sue Duffy Arroyo via Facebook

    I pop a garlic clove daily. and a shot of Fire Cider. my motto “It Can’t Hurt You”

    September 19th, 2014 10:29 am Reply
  • Heidi JB via Facebook

    We ferment just about all of our garlic. It stores well and is much easier to eat raw. At the first sign of a cold, a few bulbs a day work better than any modern medicine.

    September 19th, 2014 6:47 am Reply
  • Celina Davis via Facebook

    salad most days

    September 19th, 2014 6:08 am Reply
  • Tze Kin via Facebook

    Wonderful tips….as aways

    September 19th, 2014 5:27 am Reply
  • Lynne

    I both ferment and pickle (in raw organic apple cider vinegar) raw organic garlic cloves. My husband eats the fermented garlic right out of the jar. I use the pickled garlic in our veggie smoothies. I would use the fermented garlic in the smoothies, too, but the husband likes to just eat those plain.

    September 19th, 2014 2:37 am Reply
    • Melanie Christner, NTP, CHFS, CGP

      Sounds great, Lynne!

      September 23rd, 2014 12:35 pm Reply
  • Anita Messenger via Facebook

    And try to eat them raw as much as possible instead of cooking them.

    September 19th, 2014 2:32 am Reply
  • Andrea Round

    Hi Melanie, am really looking forward to trying your garlic soup recipe. Could you please let me know whether Kyolic Garlic capsules have any benefit? Warm regards, Andrea. (New Zealand).

    June 3rd, 2014 4:27 pm Reply
    • Melanie Christner, NTP, CHFS, CGP

      Hi Andrea,
      Thanks for commenting and I hope you like the soup!

      I’m a fan of food before supplements, but Kyolic garlic capsules do have benefit, yes. Thanks for the question.


      September 23rd, 2014 12:37 pm Reply
  • salwa

    Jessica T, just read your post, your process is very similar to mine!

    March 21st, 2014 10:46 pm Reply
  • salwa

    I chop up garlic real tiny, let it sit for a minute or two then scoop it up in a spoon, drizzle a healthy oil on it, and swallow it along with some liquid (tea, water, etc). The oil helps it go down smoothly and swallowing it instead of chewing it keeps my breath normal :-)

    March 21st, 2014 10:44 pm Reply
    • Melanie Christner, NTP, CHFS, CGP

      Thanks for sharing what you do, Salwa. That sounds great.


      September 23rd, 2014 12:38 pm Reply
  • Ткаченко

    I and my friends are using it and not get sick. They also use more than 100 herbs and treating people from different infections.

    February 5th, 2014 12:30 am Reply
  • Jessica T

    I cut up a clove of garlic as small as I can and then wait 14 min. After the wait, I put the garlic on a spoon, pour some raw honey over the garlic and then swallow it all. The honey helps all the little garlic pieces go down at once and without any gagging. I do not experience garlic breath or garlic burps with this method. I do this at night before bed.

    February 2nd, 2014 9:21 pm Reply
    • Melanie Christner, NTP, CHFS, CGP

      Thanks for sharing, Jessica! That sounds like a kid friendly idea as well.


      September 23rd, 2014 12:39 pm Reply
  • Sarahyour name

    The recipe for onions and eggs is deliceous! I had a mildly swollen throat with mucous so I made it for breakfast twice. It is so comforting and soothing!

    January 31st, 2014 10:46 am Reply
    • Melanie Christner, NTP, CHFS, CGP

      Thanks for trying and sharing, Sarah!


      September 23rd, 2014 12:40 pm Reply
  • Kathy

    Question: Does one have to chew the garlic clove to get the benefits?- or could one simply chop up the clove tiny with a knife and swallow the little bits whole?

    January 24th, 2014 10:02 am Reply
    • Melanie Christner, NTP, CHFS, CGP

      Hi Kathy,

      Thanks for the question…I don’t see a need to chew the garlic (unless perhaps you were trying to treat something in your mouth?) Chopping tiny with a knife and swallowing would be fine.


      September 23rd, 2014 12:41 pm Reply
  • Melinda

    I appreciate the good advice here, but the idea that someone would chew up a clove of raw garlic before going out to eat is laughable. Who would do that? If you’re so afraid of restaurant or friends’ food, stay home! That would certainly be better than going around with such foul breath. Ugh.

    January 23rd, 2014 5:09 pm Reply
  • Jennifer Saines

    Do you have any advice for a FODMAP sensitive eater? I would love to be able to consume onions and garlic both for the taste and nutritional benefits but they cause serious digestive distress.

    Thanks for any suggestions.

    January 23rd, 2014 4:18 pm Reply
    • Melanie Christner, NTP, CHFS, CGP

      Hi Jennifer, I would recommend the GAPS protocol to help move out of the FODMAP sensitivity. You may need to limit garlic and onions (and other high FODMAP foods) for a while, but ultimately you want to move towards being able to have these cleansing, healing foods again. It has been done :)

      January 24th, 2014 4:04 am Reply
      • Jennifer Saines

        Thank you, Melanie. I have been on GAPS for over a year now but am still unable to digest the FODMAPS. Will just keep trying, I guess.

        January 26th, 2014 10:54 pm Reply
  • Crystal

    Hi! love this information:) Would you have a good onion soup recipe? My onions from summer are starting to sprout and I need to use them up soon. Thank you!!!

    January 23rd, 2014 1:50 pm Reply
  • Christina Renee Bryan via Facebook

    Kelsey Yvette Davis

    January 23rd, 2014 12:00 pm Reply
  • vineeta

    I love this blog. What great suggestions! Thanks a lot.
    I’m Indian and grew up eating raw onions and garlic with our meals, in addition to using them in our cooking. Both garlic and onions are also used in traditional Indian medicine to help one recover from coughs and colds. My father used to make us drink raw onion juice when we were sick. And he would make a garlic “kheer” cooking plenty of garlic lightly with turmeric and some sugar colds.
    However, while Indian garlic is quite mild, and I could easily eat several cloves raw with my food there, I find the garlic in the U.S. is very pungent and can’t tolerate it raw. I grow my own garlic and use it in Indian cooking, in pestos, and roasted. I’d love to learn how to ferment garlic especially since it is organic and fresh from my garden.

    January 23rd, 2014 10:32 am Reply
    • Melanie Christner, NTP, CHFS, CGP

      Hi Vineeta,

      Thank you for sharing about your childhood and traditional Indian medicine. The difference between Indian garlic and American garlic is interesting!


      September 23rd, 2014 12:45 pm Reply
  • Joy

    There is a 2 minute video at
    How to peal a whole head of garlic in 20 seconds — this trick comes from Martha Stewart but presented by Chef John. Very cool. Check it out.

    January 23rd, 2014 8:34 am Reply
    • Melanie Christner, NTP, CHFS, CGP

      Hi Joy,

      Thanks for sharing the video!

      January 24th, 2014 3:54 am Reply
  • terry

    great article. I ferment my garlic, and eat it raw. Especially good if I feel a cold or sore throat coming on, I eat a large clove at bedtime, and in the morning feel completely well

    January 23rd, 2014 12:57 am Reply
    • Megan

      Terry, would you mind sharing how you ferment the garlic? I do cabbage and other veggies, but have never done garlic. I’d like to try!

      January 25th, 2014 2:18 pm Reply
  • Patrick

    Just pointing this one out, but allicin, one of the most (if not THE most) active compounds in garlic and onions both, degrades when heated. You MUST eat it raw to get the benefits of this wonderful and medically potent substance.

    Chop the garlic finely, let it sit for a minute or two, and eat the bits. This is the best way to maximize allicin content.

    January 22nd, 2014 9:57 pm Reply
    • Melanie Christner, NTP, CHFS, CGP

      Hi Patrick,

      Thanks for the comment. It is important to note that the sulphur compounds are also very important in garlic and onions, and cooking can enhance these sulphur nutrients. So all is not lost by cooking.

      January 24th, 2014 3:50 am Reply
  • Barbi

    I was just reading the other day about fermenting garlic, and something about it being 13x stronger in benefits (of something… can’t remember.) Know anything about that?

    January 22nd, 2014 9:23 pm Reply
    • Melanie Christner, NTP, CHFS, CGP

      I haven’t heard the 13x number but fermenting makes more nutrients available, so it wouldn’t be surprising. Thanks for commenting!

      January 23rd, 2014 9:05 pm Reply
  • Jen

    Lots of great information in this post!

    I make raw garlic honey for colds and sinus congestion. I very gently warm 1/2 cup of raw honey (not too much heat!), with 3 large crushed cloves of garlic. Remove from heat and let stand about 1 hour, then remove the garlic. Store in the refrigerator, and take a spoonful as needed. My children love this “medicine honey”, and it clears your sinuses right away.

    When sniffles, sneezes and sore throats begin to appear in my family, I place chopped onion in small bowls in every bedroom on the nightstand, and leave it there overnight while we sleep. If I do this early enough, the symptoms don’t progress to anything worse, but your house will smell very pungent!

    There is barely a meal in our home that doesn’t begin with lots of garlic and onion. One favorite is guacamole with chopped tomatoes, lots of chopped raw garlic and red onion, lime juice, salt and cilantro. YUM!

    January 22nd, 2014 1:49 pm Reply
    • Pat in TX

      Yum, thanks for the ideas!! I am big on cooking with onion and garlic, but don’t have a kitchen this winter and everything has to be ultra simple. We are feeling the effects of the change in cooking style this winter, I am afraid:-/

      January 23rd, 2014 3:20 pm Reply
    • Melanie Christner, NTP, CHFS, CGP

      Yum is right, Jen! Thanks for sharing.

      January 23rd, 2014 9:03 pm Reply
  • Melanie Christner, NTP, CHFS, CGP


    Lol! Yes, eating a lot of garlic can do that, but its worth it to not have days and days of being sick, eh? Thanks for commenting.

    January 22nd, 2014 1:10 pm Reply
  • Magda

    Growing up we did ‘onion syrup’ for colds. Simply slice an onion and layer in a jar with sugar and wait for it to release the juices. It was actually very yummy (at least to my kid-self). We also ate sliced raw onion on bread (with plenty of butter). DH grew up eating raw garlic on bread, the same way!! Nowadays I use garlic oil for the occasional ear infection (kids are age 4 and 9 and had maybe 3 ear infections between them) and make this simple spread: mayo, Parmesan (grated or shredded) and garlic put through a microplane (as much as you can stand!!). Delicious and beneficial!!

    January 22nd, 2014 12:35 pm Reply
    • Rheesa

      My aunt used to do the “onion juice extracted by sugar” cure for colds when I was a kid. I’ve never heard of anyone else doing it until now!

      January 22nd, 2014 1:36 pm Reply
    • Melanie Christner, NTP, CHFS, CGP

      Hi Magda,

      I love hearing about the remedies that have been used in the past. I’m also going to try the mayo, parmesan, grated garlic…that sounds delicious (and really good for you, if you are making home made mayo with healthy oils)

      January 23rd, 2014 8:56 pm Reply
  • jmr

    Great article! Thanks! I’ve used heated onion for an ear infection and it works great. Just before Christmas, I came down with the flu (fever, sore throat, headache, congestion)…I spent day in bed eating onion, garlic, ginger & bone broth soup and also eating raw garlic. The next morning, I was well enough to get on a plane to visit family for the holiday and by that night, I was completely well. I didn’t smell very good, however.

    January 22nd, 2014 11:25 am Reply

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