Last updated November 15, 2022
Now, more than ever, we’re hyper-vigilant about keeping our immune systems high when we are traveling or planning to travel.
Fun fact, the majority of our immune system—roughly 70%—lies in our gut. Therefore, what we eat can have a huge impact on our overall immunity to a variety of diseases and staying healthy when traveling.
I recommend starting cleaning up your gut and foods two weeks before traveling for the greatest effect of boosting your immune system, which can include a plentitude of other Vitamin C, E, anti-oxidative, vitamin-rich foods to consume at home.
Rounding up a list of nine top foods to boost your health when traveling, here’s a breakdown of the immune-boosting foods, their benefits, and some tips along the way for consuming. The following are specifically chosen because they pack and travel reasonably well.
1. Citrus Fruits
Oranges, grapefruits, clementines, lemons and tangerines are all incredible sources of Vitamin C. While most will turn to adding Vitamin C once they’ve gotten sick, it’s actually better as a preventative nature medicine to add and consume in advance.
Tip: cut up and put in a baggie before leaving your home or departure. It’s much easier (and less messy) to eat slices of oranges than peel on the plane.
2. Red Bell Peppers
Similar to citrus, red bell peppers are rich in Vitamin C—and then some. A red bell pepper has about three times the amount of Vitamin C found in a Florida orange. In addition, red bell peppers are high in beta carotene, which converts to Vitamin A in the body for healthier skin and eyes.
Tip: Wash and slice up in advance to tote with you on the plane. If you can’t source a red bell pepper, your next best bet is a yellow or orange pepper. Green is good for hydration but doesn’t have the same Vitamin C power.
3. Tea (Ginger, Peppermint or Green)
Green tea leaves are loaded with flavonoids and antioxidants. One antioxidant it excels in is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which has been proven in studies to boost immune strength.
Ginger can help decrease inflammation and be a healer for nausea. The same goes for peppermint, easy the tummy and calming the body.
Tip: the easiest way to consume all of these when traveling is via teas, in my humble opinion. Pack a few and ask in the lounge, or the attendant on the plane, for some hot water. Just add your tea bag, and you’re golden (like a ginger root).
4. Yogurt (or Probiotics)
What we’re after here are the probiotics that are in the yogurt to line and heal the gut lining. Choose your yogurts with care, steering clear of any that have added fruits, sugars, and lack the probiotic benefits (that’s the whole purpose here).
I don’t eat dairy; hence, I threw in the alternative to add probiotics. These can be great to carry with you throughout your travels in pill form.
Tip: if you choose the yogurt path, you’ll need to buy this after TSA or grab one from a lounge or convenience store in the airport that has a plain, sugar-free option.
5. Nuts and Seeds
My top picks in the immune-boosting foods department are almonds and sunflower seeds. Almonds have a high level of Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant to help maintain a healthy immune system.
In addition to Vitamin E, sunflower seeds also have magnesium, Vitamin B and selenium. Selenium is a sneaky powerhouse for maintaining a solid defense against viral diseases.
Tip: Unsalted and raw (or, better yet, sprouted) are best with the most significant amount of health benefits and antioxidants.
6. Superfoods (Goji Berries and Spirulina)
Loaded with Vitamin C, goji berries are one of my favorite sweet little treats to toss in, like little popcorns. Of course, when traveling, we’re not using our hands to eat such foods, right? Thought so. Instead, grab a spoon to eat 2-3 scoops during your travels.
Spirulina is a blue-green algae that is an endurance booster and all-in-one source of nutrients. In addition, it hosts anti-inflammatory benefits and an immune-enhancing protein with some pretty vegan-friendly powerful benefits.
Tip: get the tablets of spirulina instead of the powder for travel, taking 3-5 of them beforehand. It’s a lot less messy than consuming and packing the powder form.
7. Tropical Fruits (Papaya, Kiwi and Pineapple)
Loaded with sweetness and jam-packed with vitamin C, you’re also getting hydrating benefits from these fruits.
Tip: cut these before flying and have a fork handy. If you’re eating a kiwi, you may be able to get away scooping it with a spoon out of its skin once slicing off a quarter from the top.
8. Sweet Potato
These are so easy to bake and take with you on a flight! In a way, this immune boosting food already comes wrapped in its own little container to eat too.
Loaded with nutrients such as Vitamin A and beta carotene, to name a few, sweet potatoes also can help to reduce stress. And we know how stressful travel, in general, can be.
Tip: My go-to snack for a later afternoon or evening flight that keeps me full is a sweet potato baked with avocado and pre-cooked kale or arugula. Easy to prep and simple to pack in a plastic or sealed container with a bamboo fork on the side.
Like sweet potatoes, the high levels of Vitamin A and beta carotene are beneficial for boosting your immune system and keeping stress levels at bay.
Tip: Serve with a single travel pack of cashew or almond butter — maybe sounds weird, but give it a taste first before you naysay. Option B, purchase a single serving size of hummus after TSA in the airport.