Updated: Oct 20, 2022
Now more than ever, it’s important for our immune systems to stay in top shape. Although your immune system alone cannot prevent you from contracting COVID-19 to the same extent as social distancing, washing hands and wearing a mask will, it still plays a major role. Did you know that a strong immune system can help you fight infection and make your symptoms less severe? One of the best ways to support your immune system is through food. According to registered dietitian Charlotte Hunter, “Balanced nutrition can enhance your ability to resist infections and remain healthy.”
Below is a collection of nutrients and their sources that were shown to improve the immune system. It’s important to remember that too much of any good thing may be harmful, and diet doesn’t replace practices such washing hands frequently! In order to minimize the chances of side effects, try to prioritize vitamins from food over supplements, and talk to your doctor.
Stimulates the production of antibodies that help fight pathogens
May shorten the duration of colds and act as a natural antihistamine and anti inflammatory
Top sources: citrus fruits, strawberries, red bell pepper, kiwi, broccoli, and tomato juice
Immune strengthening nutrient that reduces the risk of colds and flu
Maintains strong bones and helps fight off infections
Top sources: salmon, mushrooms, fortified milk, cereals and breads.
Vitamin A (Beta carotene)
Assists with health of your intestines and respiratory system
Protects from infections by keeping tissues, mucous membranes and skin healthy
Top sources: carrots, sweet potato, apricots, spinach, broccoli and red bell peppers
Fights cell damage
Promotes neutralization of free radicals as an antioxidant
Top sources: nuts, vegetable oils, seeds and avocado.
Works as an antioxidant and helps to heal wounds
Zinc deficiency is linked to immune dysfunction due to many zinc-dependent enzymes
Top sources: beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, meat, poultry and seafood.
An antioxidant that lowers oxidative stress, which enhances immunity
Studies show that higher blood levels of selenium are associated with a better immune response.
Top sources: Brazil nuts, seafood, pork, red meat, chicken, eggs, mushrooms
Relieves minor inflammation of mucous membranes
Antioxidant properties and microbial effects help with cough and sore throat
Can be added to tea or hot water with lemon
May reduce the severity of upper viral respiratory infections
May help prevent viral infections
Can be taken fresh, as a supplement or aged extract
Contain good bacteria that support gut health and function of immune system
Can reduce the number of respiratory infections, especially in children
Top sources: yogurt, kefir, kimchi,tempeh, miso, kombucha, sauerkraut
Specific amino acids found in protein are necessary for T cell function
T cells protect the body against pathogens
Top sources: Meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds
Look out for the listed products and sources when making or buying lunch in the cafeteria to boost your immune system!