Having a robust immune system can be a significant plus during cold and flu season and the current COVID-19 pandemic. While quality sleep, regular exercise, proper hand-washing, and social distancing are all essential factors that contribute to a healthy immune system. The foods you eat can also play a key role.
So, you’ll want to eat foods containing essential vitamins and minerals that help strengthen the immune system such as vitamins A, C, and D, as well as zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants.
Adding beans to your meals, like black beans, garbanzo beans, white beans, or lentils, can offer several benefits. One cup of fiber-rich beans offers 13% of the daily recommendation of zinc. Consuming sufficient amounts of zinc can help shorten the duration of a cold. Grains also provide micronutrients, like iron, magnesium, phosphorus, B-vitamins, and folate, as well as plant-based protein.
Berries for a healthy immune system
Berries, including blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, contain vitamin C. And also there are a variety of flavonoids and antioxidants, compounds that help neutralize damaging free radicals in the body and can lower the risk of chronic disease. Further, Flavonoids can help reduce the incidence of upper respiratory infections.
Broccoli is a nutrient-dense cruciferous veggie rich in vitamins A, C, and E. Consuming raw broccoli yields a higher vitamin C content. However, cooking it releases more vitamin A.
Try it: Add broccoli to pasta, breakfast hash or egg muffins or snack on it raw with a healthy dip like hummus.
Eggs (including the yolk) are a nutritious, immune system-fueling food to add to your diet. Most nutrients like vitamins A, D, zinc, and selenium can be found in the yolk. And also eggs are a great protein-rich snack and can be great for any meal, from breakfast to dinner.
Try it: From scrambled eggs to avocado toast and quiche, there are countless ways to enjoy eggs.
Fatty Fish leads to having a healthy immune system
Fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, and herring, are fabulous sources of omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA. This can help with the activation of specific immune cells and decrease inflammation. Oily fish are also natural sources of vitamin D and zinc; one serving of wild salmon meets the daily recommendation for vitamin D.
Try it: Make a quick sheet-pan dinner or use smoked salmon instead of deli meat.
Ginger is known for its many medicinal properties, some of which include helping reduce sore throats and inflammation and helping to optimize immune function. This may also help decrease inflammation in respiratory infections.
Try it: Grate fresh ginger to add to soups or use it in tea.
Greek Yogurt for healthy immune system
Greek yogurt is an excellent source of probiotics, bacteria that can help keep your gut healthy. Having a proper balance of “good” bacteria is essential for a healthy immune system to help fight off invaders. Look for Greek yogurt or other types of yogurt with “live and active cultures” that contain a variety of probiotic strains and several billion CFU’s (colony forming units). Yogurt is also one of few food sources offering vitamin D, which can help improve the immune response to infections and boost mood levels.
Try it: Use yogurt as a low-cal alternative to mayo in chicken salad, in breakfast bowls, or for a healthy frozen yogurt treat.
Raw honey, which undergoes less processing than traditional honey, contains more antioxidants and antibacterial compounds. These compounds help stimulate immune cells and fight allergies.
Try it: Add a spoonful to warm water or tea to stay hydrated or use it as a natural sweetener for baked goods, oatmeal, yogurt, and smoothies.
Healthy immune system and Leafy Greens
Leafy greens like kale, spinach, and collard greens, are excellent sources of vitamins A and C. Vitamin A plays a critical role in enhancing immune function, regulating cellular immune response, and decreasing inflammation. Leafy greens are also packed with several antioxidants and flavonoids.
Try it: Use them in salads, stir-fries, smoothies, and soups.
Lean meat and poultry are excellent sources of zinc and B-vitamins, which play a role in many reactions in the body and aid the healthy immune system. It’s also a great source of protein, an essential building block to repair body tissue and fight inflammation.
Try it: Add chicken or beef to soups (you can also use the broth) along with plenty of veggies.