Now more than ever, people are looking for ways to boost immunity and prevent illness. While there are many products and supplements that promise to protect against colds, flu and possibly COVID-19, it is important to know if those claims are backed by scientific evidence.
Our immune system works to protect against viruses and bacteria. Several lifestyle factors can influence that system. The first line of defense is good hand washing, of course, but we can also make a few changes to our diet and other habits, such as sleep, to help our bodies fight potential illness.
Several nutrients have the potential to support the immune system: probiotics, zinc, Vitamins D and E, omega-3 fatty acids and green tea. It is important to note that consuming more than the recommended dose of these nutrients doesn’t provide additional benefits and can sometimes be harmful. The immune system is impacted when there is a deficiency. When we consume a colorful variety of foods, it is easy to obtain these nutrients without the need for supplementation in most individuals.
Probiotics act as the good bacteria in our gut to protect against any unwanted bacteria. Found in fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut, as well as yogurt with live cultures and kombucha, probiotics help to support immunity. Eating foods high in soluble fiber like oats, apples, asparagus and legumes helps provide prebiotics, which act as food for the probiotics. Soluble fiber may also help to fight inflammation.
Building a balanced salad is an easy way to obtain those nutrients or functional foods that may support our immune system. Adding chicken or beef provides zinc, salmon is full of Vitamin D, leafy greens, eggs and nuts provide Vitamin E, and nuts, seeds and fatty fish are sources of Omega 3s. Pair your salad with a yogurt (with live cultures) or kombucha for added probiotics.
Maintaining a balanced diet may not cure the common cold, flu or COVID-19, but it will provide the right nutrients to support overall health and wellness.
Wessels, Inga et al. “Zinc as a Gatekeeper of Immune Function.” Nutrients vol. 9,12 1286. 25 Nov. 2017, doi:10.3390/nu9121286
Wu, Dayong et al. “Nutritional Modulation of Immune Function: Analysis of Evidence, Mechanisms, and Clinical Relevance.” Frontiers in immunology vol. 9 3160. 15 Jan. 2019, doi:10.3389/fimmu.2018.03160