Washing hands and social distancing are key to stopping the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19, but a healthy diet plays a role, too. Here are nine foods that provide key nutrients to support your immune system.
The immune system is your body’s great defender. It helps stop incoming attacks from viruses and bacteria. It helps your cells bounce back after illness. It can even help reduce the severity of an illness. That’s why, especially when viruses and bugs are making the rounds in your community or even just in your home, you should pay a little extra attention to your immune system.
One of the best ways to care for your immune system and help make it stronger is with food — but not just any food. Certain nutrients in foods are vital for healthy immune functioning. While focusing on these foods is important when you’re sick, it’s just as important (maybe even more so) when you’re healthy, because this enables your immune system to be at its strongest should it come into contact with harmful viruses or bacteria.
Check out these 5 foods that provide those key immune-boosting nutrients.
A good source of vitamin C and beta-carotene, broccoli also contains sulfur compounds that research suggests may boost production of glutathione, an antioxidant compound. In terms of immune support, glutathione works by attacking free radicals to minimize their potential damage. This allows the immune system to focus on staying healthy, not repairing itself from damage. Other sulfur sources are most cruciferous vegetables that give off slight odor during cooking like cauliflower and kale.
2. Fortified Orange Juice
I’m not usually a proponent of drinking your fruit instead of eating it, but it’s hard to beat the immune punch in fortified OJ. One cup naturally provides 100 percent of your Daily Value (DV) for vitamin C, an antioxidant vitamin that plays a primary role in keeping the immune system healthy, as well as 25 percent DV for vitamin D. This is important since most people have vitamin D levels below ideal, something that research suggests makes one more susceptible to illness.
Adequate protein intake is important to support immune response, and eggs are a great way to do this since they also contain nutrients like vitamin D, zinc, selenium, and vitamin E that the body needs for proper immune functioning. If you can, opt for eggs from chickens that were fed a vegetarian diet. You’ll get ones with slightly higher levels of omega-3s and vitamins D and E. No need for organic or cage-free varieties though, as this doesn’t appear to affect nutrient content.
A healthy source of carbohydrates, bananas boost energy and contain potassium which is important to both your muscles and kidneys. Bananas are also high in B6, a vitamin that benefits immune function.
Because it’s so good for you, spinach is one of the foods you should eat every day. Easily added to salads and other recipes, spinach offers benefits to everything from night blindness to blood clotting. Spinach is also rich in vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, an important nutrient for immune function.