Proper nutrition is essential for a strong immune system. Although you may not be able to fully prevent illness, a healthy immune system is one way to give your body extra protection. Focusing on the following nutrients will help you and your family stay one step ahead:
- Protein plays a role in the body’s immune system, especially for healing and recovery. Eat a variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, yogurt, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
- Vitamin A helps regulate the immune system and protect against infections. Get this vitamin from foods such as sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach, red bell peppers, apricots, eggs, or foods labeled “vitamin A fortified,” such as milk or some cereals.
- Vitamin C supports the immune system. Include more sources by choosing citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, red bell peppers, papaya, strawberries, tomato juice, or foods fortified with vitamin C.
- Vitamin E works as an antioxidant and may support immune function. Include vitamin E in your diet with fortified cereals, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, almonds, vegetable oils (such as sunflower or safflower oil), hazelnuts, and peanut butter.
- 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. Be sure to get daily sunshine as our body synthesizes Vitamin D.
- Zinc helps the immune system work properly. Zinc can be found in lean meat, poultry, seafood, milk, whole grain products, beans, tofu, wheat germ, seeds, and nuts.
- Probiotics are “good” bacteria that promote health. They can be found in cultured dairy products such as yogurt and fermented foods such as kimchi. See my previous article on Prebiotics & Probiotics for You and Your Family!
In addition to a balanced eating plan, focus on the following to help keep your immune system healthy:
Good hygiene and hand-washing. This will 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.
Stress management. Find healthy ways to cope with stress, such as meditation, listening to music, or writing. Check out my previous article Taking Time to Manage Stress.
Physical activity. Being physically active 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. Read more about Physical Activity for Children.
Sleep. Be sure to get enough sleep. A lack of sleep contributes to a variety of health concerns, such as a weakened immune system. 7-9 hours is recommended each day for adults, and children need 8-14 hours, depending on their age. See my article Get Sleeping!