COVID-19 – This pandemic has turned life as we know it upside down. Daily messages from our government officials and news outlets tell us the importance of social distancing and handwashing to help slow the spread of the virus. While we must heed this important advice, supporting your immune system is another important step to help keep this virus at bay. Your immune system depends on key nutrients to function properly, so while we are all keeping our social distance and staying home these days, it’s the perfect time to start focusing on improving your diet.
Check out these five immune enhancing foods and nutrients.
- Vitamin D: 35% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, and seniors are at a greater risk for deficiency. This is troubling as they are more likely to be hit hard by the coronavirus. This vitamin is pivotal in modulating our immune system, so a deficiency is worrisome. Our bodies make vitamin D from the sun, but in winter months (and during extended quarantine) it becomes a challenge to get enough sun, especially if you live in a northern climate. Choose cod liver oil, mushrooms, fatty fish, egg yolks and vitamin D fortified products. Additionally, talk to your doctor about supplementing with at least 2000 IU of vitamin D3.
- Ginger: This warming, anti-inflammatory spice has long been used in traditional medicine for its healing properties. The active compounds in ginger – gingerols and shogaols – have powerful anti-microbial properties that can create a negative environment for viruses to multiply. A recent study has shown that fresh ginger has specific anti-viral activity against a form of human respiratory illness. Sip ginger tea, add fresh ginger to smoothies or use it to add flavor to dressings, marinades and stir-fried veggies.
- Garlic: This kitchen staple is truly an immune-boosting superstar. It has been shown to stimulate immune cells, enhancing immune function. Liberally add garlic to sautéed dishes, sauces, and salad dressings.
- Citrus: Vitamin C is an important player in our body’s immune system and a deficiency could result in impaired immunity and increased risk of infections. Oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes are popular citrus fruits loaded with vitamin C. If citrus isn’t your thing try strawberries, kale, kiwi, and bell pepper.
- Probiotic-rich Most of us don’t think of the gut as part of our immune system, however, it is a key player in our body’s immune response. Rotate kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir and kombucha into your diet regularly to help keep your gut and immune system healthy.
Jen Scheinman, MS, RDN is an integrative and functionally trained Registered Dietitian, with over 20 years of helping people improve their health through the foods they eat. Using real food and lifestyle design she helps her clients navigate their way towards optimal health.