As the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to maintain and strengthen our immune system. Focusing on nutrient-rich foods and healthy lifestyle behaviors can help you and your family stay a step ahead.
The following nutrients play a role in the immune system and can be found in a variety of foods:
- Beta Carotene is found in plant foods, such as sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, mango, broccoli and tomatoes.
- Vitamin C rich foods include citrus fruits, berries, melons, tomatoes, bell peppers and broccoli.
- Vitamin D is found in fatty fish and eggs. Milk and 100% juices that are fortified with vitamin D also are sources of this important nutrient.
- Zinc tends to be better absorbed from animal sources such as beef and seafood, but also is in vegetarian sources such as wheat germ, beans, nuts and tofu.
- Probiotics are “good” bacteria that promote health. They can be found in cultured dairy products such as yogurt and in fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut.
- Protein from both animal and plant-based sources, such as milk, yogurt, eggs, beef, chicken, seafood, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils.
Consuming a varied diet balanced in carbohydrates, protein, and fats will ensure an adequate intake of all the essential vitamins and minerals necessary for good health. And don’t forget to drink up! Hydration is essential to immune health as well. Spice up your water with flavorful infusions like berries and orange slices or mint and cucumber or blend frozen fruits with Greek yogurt or milk for a protein packed, vitamin rich smoothie. Good hygiene and hand-washing help prevent the spread of germs. Remember to wash produce before eating or using in recipes. Clean glasses, forks, spoons and other utensils to reduce the spread and growth of bacteria.
Find healthy and appropriate ways to cope with the stress and anxiety you may be feeling. Meditation, listening to music, and exercising physical activity is a great way to help manage stress and may help reduce the risk of some chronic diseases that could weaken your immune system further.
Lack of sleep contributes to a variety of health concerns and a weakened immune system. Seven to nine hours is recommended each day for adults, and children need eight to 14 hours, depending on their age.
Many herbal remedies are marketed to help fight colds or shorten their duration but check with your health care provider before taking any supplements or medications. Remember, despite label claims, no one food or supplement can prevent illness. But eating right, limiting stress, getting adequate sleep and exercise can all work together to prevent illness.