Your immune system is at its best when you are at your healthiest. A healthy lifestyle includes a general healthy diet, plenty of sleep each night, staying hydrated, exercising, and managing stress. A healthy immune system is dependent on a variety of vitamins and minerals over time rather than a quick boost from a supplement before cold season starts.
Healthy Body & Life = Strong Immune System
- Maintain a general, healthy diet with a variety of fruits and veggies.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day
- Follow a normal sleep pattern and get plenty of sleep each night
- Stay active and exercise on a regular basis
Along with nutrition, you can also be mindful of lifestyle habits to help support health and immunity! In order to decrease your exposure to germs and reduce your risk of infection/illness:
- Wash your hands regularly
- Practice good food safety to prevent foodborne illnesses
- Take care of yourself and practice good hygiene & personal care
What is Nutrition’s Role?
Good nutrition is essential to a strong immune system, as it helps protect and regulate normal immune functions. No one food or supplement offers more protective effects over another; supporting your immune system with a balanced diet overall helps build your immune strength.
A healthy, balanced diet includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources, whole grains, and healthy fats. Phytochemicals, a component of fruits and vegetables that give them color and flavor, act as antioxidants to protect the body from damage. These compounds support the immune system by creating healthy cells and eliminating damaged cells.
Vitamins C and E also act as antioxidants and have essential roles in immunity. In general, its best to get your vitamins and minerals from foods rather than supplements. Whether produce is fresh, frozen, or canned, the products have the same nutritional value! Below is a list of nutrients and their functions that benefit the immune system, along with foods that are a good source of the nutrient.
Nutrients that “Boost” Your Health and Immunity
|Protein: Protein is used to build and repair tissues in the body, supporting enzyme production that function in the immune system and general healing or recovery.||Choose a variety of protein sources: lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans or peas, nuts and seeds, or soy products.|
|Fiber: Supports bowel regularity, eliminating toxins in the GI tract, and stabilizing blood sugar.||Whole grains and legumes (beans, peas, and lentils) are an excellent source of fiber.|
|Vitamin C: Vitamin C has been popularized as the “immune boosting” nutrient since it supports the immune system as an antioxidant and stimulates formation of antibodies.||Found in many foods – citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit and tangerines, red bell pepper, papaya, strawberries, tomato juice or products fortified with vitamin C. Also found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale, and brussels sprouts.|
|Vitamin E: Vitamin E is an essential nutrient that works as an antioxidant to support a healthy immune system and fight off infections.||Vegetable oils, nuts & seeds (almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts), fortified cereals, and peanut butter. Green leafy vegetables like spinach and broccoli are also a good source.|
|Vitamin A: We may know vitamin A as the nutrient that helps us see, but it is also essential in helping regulate our immune system by responding to and protecting against infections.||Orange and yellow foods are a good source of vitamin A (carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cantaloupe and squash). Vitamin A is also abundant in eggs, meat, liver, seafood, fortified foods and cod liver oil.|
|Vitamin D: Vitamin D is a little harder to find in food, so supplementation is often recommended by providers. It essential to keeping bones strong and regulating hormones.||Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines) and fortified foods such as milk, orange juice and cereals are good sources. You can also get vitamin D from sunshine!|
|Folate/Folic Acid: Folate (natural form) or folic acid (synthetic form) helps create and repair cell’s DNA.||Beans, peas and leafy green vegetables are good sources of folate. Folic acid is found in fortified or enriched products, especially whole grains.|
|Iron: Iron supports blood production which enables your body carry oxygen to cells.||Lean beef, chicken and turkey, seafood, beans, spinach and kale, nuts, and iron-fortified cereals and breads are good sources of iron|
|Selenium: Selenium helps the immune system by supporting thyroid gland function and DNA production.||Seafood, meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, broccoli and whole grains have selenium. Brazil nuts, tuna and sardines are the best source.|
|Zinc: Supports the immune system by creating cells, helping wounds heal and controlling inflammation.||You can find zinc in oysters, crab, red meats, poultry, a variety beans, nuts, and seeds, and fortified cereals.|