Can the foods you eat influence whether or not you avoid getting sick? Maybe – to some extent. While many of us are familiar with vitamin C, there are also additional nutrients that play a role. Let's explore.
Fermented and probiotic-rich foods, like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi and miso, can help support the “good” bacteria in your GI system.
Prebiotics are also important for gut health and immune support since they promote the growth and balance of probiotics. Prebiotics are compounds that “feed” probiotics, and can be found in asparagus, bananas, apples, onions, barley and oats.
While known as the “sunshine” vitamin, vitamin D is technically a hormone that can support the immune response to infections. Vitamin D-rich food sources to add to your diet include fish, egg yolks, dairy products, fortified orange juice and cereals.
Adequate vitamin D is difficult to get through foods, so supplementation is often necessary, especially in the winter months or for those living in northern latitudes.
Colorful produce items, like blueberries, raspberries, dark leafy greens and sweet potatoes can provide antioxidants. Frozen and canned varieties also count. Frozen produce is often picked at peak ripeness when it's most nutritious.
The antioxidant, beta carotene, found in red/orange foods like sweet potatoes, carrots and winter squash, is a potential immune defender. Beta carotene is a precursor to vitamin A, which is crucial for healthy immune function.
Polyunsaturated omega 3 Fatty Acids, like DHA and EPA, can also play a role in enhancing the immune system and decreasing inflammation. Eating fish twice weekly can help provide the recommended amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
If you’re not a seafood eater, adding chia seeds, flax seeds or walnuts to yogurt, oatmeal or smoothies can also provide DHA and EPA.
Vitamin C-rich foods, like tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, citrus, kiwi and peppers, can help boost the immune system. Add peppers to your sandwich or salad, snack on broccoli or add citrus fruits to your breakfast to up your intake.
Like vitamin C, zinc has also proven to be a key nutrient for immune function. Zinc is found in animal meats and seafood, as well as sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
Herbs and spices, like garlic, ginger, turmeric and rosemary, have properties that may naturally boost your body’s defenses and help fight inflammation. Sipping on ginger tea or adding spices to stir-frys and roasted vegetable dishes, is an easy way to get 'em!
Drinking adequate fluids and staying hydrated is another important measure to help boost the immune system, as dehydration creates additional stress on the body and immune system.
In summary, while eating all of these foods won’t prevent illness (especially if you’re not practicing proper hand-washing or social distancing), they will help bolster your mood and support a strengthened immune system. Plus, many of these foods provide many other additional necessary nutrients for optimal functioning.
Note: We also recommend discussing your health goals with your licensed healthcare professional. They can best provide you with the diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition and assist you as well in deciding whether a dietary supplement will be a helpful addition to your regimen.