At this time of year, when cases of flu and COVID are rising, as well as RSV in children, it’s good to be reminded of what we can do to strengthen our immunity and help our body prevent or fight infection. One of the most important ways we can do this is by eating foods that provide the following important nutrients:
Vitamin A/Beta Carotene – Your body converts beta carotene into vitamin A, which helps your body respond to toxins and infections. The richest food sources of beta carotene are yellow, red, orange, and green leafy plants, including: sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, mangoes, apricots, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, and bell peppers.
Vitamin C – Your body cannot make vitamin C, so it must come from the foods you eat. The best sources are citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and grapefruits as well as berries, bell peppers, melons and broccoli. Vitamin C helps to stimulate the production and function of white blood cells, which your body uses to fight off infection.
Vitamin D – Essential to help regulate your body’s immune response. Your body can make vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, and can also get it from a few foods like fatty fish, eggs, and fortified milk and juices. It can also be helpful to take a vitamin D supplement.
Zinc – Helps support wound healing and strengthen immune response. You can get it from beef and shellfish, as well as plant-based sources like wheat germ, beans, nuts, and tofu.
Probiotics – These are the good bacteria that lead to a healthy gut, which is a major component of a healthy immune system. Eat fermented foods like pickles, kimchi, tempeh, sauerkraut, yogurt, and kombucha.
Protein-rich foods – The amino acids from proteins play an important role in immune response. There are excellent plant as well as animal sources, including nuts, seeds, beans, and lentils besides milk, yogurt, eggs, beef, chicken, and seafood.
Water – Your body must be properly hydrated for your immune system to function effectively. You can drink water, tea, or sparkling water and eat high water foods like watermelon, cucumbers, and celery.
In addition to what you put in your body, make sure you get 7 – 9 hours of sleep every day, reduce stress, get regular exercise, and wash your hands with soap and water often.