The spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a growing worldwide health concern. We’ve all heard some precautions such as wash your hands regularly with soap and water, use hand sanitizer and avoid touching your face. But In addition to these important steps, eating a healthy diet can boost your immune system, and help keep us healthy. And in case we catch the virus, it’s our immune system that’s our front line of defense to fight it. Specifically, the antioxidant vitamins A, C, E, and the mineral zinc are involved in immune function, so including foods rich in these nutrients can help boost our immune system. Probiotic-rich foods which support a healthy gut may also help to bolster our immune system. It is also important to get ample protein and vitamin D for a healthy immune system.
Citrus fruit such as oranges and grapefruits are high in vitamin C, an immune-boosting antioxidant. Pink grapefruits also contain lycopene, the vitamin A antioxidant. I prefer choosing the whole fruit over the juice as a way to get more fiber. Strawberries and kiwifruit are also a good source of vitamin C.
Yogurt is rich in immune-boosting probiotics along with protein, vitamin B12 and vitamin D which may help bolster immune function. And calcium and vitamins D are great for bone health. To add flavor, crunch, and a dose of vitamin E, add a sprinkling of wheat germ along with your favorite nuts. Wheat germ is also rich in the mineral zinc and B vitamins, while nuts contain heart-healthy fats and will help keep you full.
The more colorful the salad, the more nutrients you will get. The different colors contain different nutrients and antioxidants to help bolster your immune system. I love a spinach salad with tomatoes and shredded carrots. Spinach is high in vitamins A, C and folate. Carrots contain the antioxidant beta carotene and tomatoes are rich in vitamin C and the antioxidant lycopene.
Salmon is high in protein and vitamin D which is important for the immune system. It is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids which helps promote a healthy heart. Broccoli is an immune-boosting powerhouse and is high in vitamin C, beta carotene, B vitamins, potassium, zinc, and magnesium.
Tea contains polyphenols and flavonoids, antioxidants which bolster your immune system. Grate some ginger and add it to your tea for an added bonus. Ginger contains anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties to help fight infections.
I’m a huge fan of miso soup. A staple in Japanese cuisine, miso, which comes from fermented soybeans, is rich in probiotics which promote digestive health and immune function. Other fermented foods to include in your diet include pickles and kimchi. These foods tend to be high in sodium so a little bit goes a long way.
In addition to adding flavor to our meals, spices and herbs including garlic, and oregano can help bolster our immune system. Garlic, for example, contains immune boosting properties along with antiviral properties, and oregano may help fight bacteria.
In addition to eating a healthy diet, get enough sleep, drink lots of water, exercise, and try not to stress out. For more information about COVID 19, please consult the CDC website.
Lisa R. Young, PhD, RDN, is an internationally recognized nutritionist, portion size expert, and adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University. Dr. Young is the author of Finally Full, Finally Slim: 30 Days to Permanent Weight Loss One Portion at Time and The Portion Teller Plan. Major media outlets regularly quote her as an expert voice on nutrition and health. She has been counseling clients for more than 20 years, blogs at www.drlisayoung.com, and inspires her community to make healthy food and lifestyle choices.