How to Keep Your Immune System Healthy

Immune-Boosting Nutrients:

  • 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.

  • Protein comes from both animal and plant-based sources, such as milk, yogurt, eggs, beef, chicken, seafood, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils.

Immune-Boosting Snack ideas: Remember this formula: Protein + Produce.

• Apple and 2 tablespoons almond butter • 1 cup organic steamed edamame {produce with protein!} • ½ cup cottage cheese + ¼ cup mango peach salsa • ½ cup Greek or Icelandic yogurt + ½ cup organic blueberries + 1 tablespoon chia seeds • Smoothie: 1 cup Vit D fortified milk + ½ frozen banana + 1 cup baby spinach + 1 tbs. chia seeds + ice • ½ cup sliced cucumber, ½ cup bell pepper (can substitute ½ cup plum tomatoes, carrots or broccoli) + 3 tablespoon hummus

Jam-packing each meal with immune-boosting foods is a great way to reduce your risk for getting sick and decrease the number of sick days. Preparing everything once or twice a week will save you time and ensure that a nutritious and delicious meal is ready when you’re hungry.

Focus on Balance

  • To help keep your immune system healthy all year long, focus on a balanced eating plan, adequate sleep and stress management.

  • Aim for five to seven servings of vegetables and fruits daily to get immune-boosting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

  • 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 stress, such as meditation, listening to music or writing. Physical activity also 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, such as 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.

What About Herbals?

Best to get your nutrients from natural food/beverage sources. 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.

Adapted from article reviewed by Sarah Klemm, RDN, CD, LDN Eatright.org

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