Growing up, I was actively involved in club soccer and learned early the importance of proper nutrition – specifically, the impact it has on physical strength and overall well-being. It became clear to me that a balanced, nutrient-dense diet was key in successfully powering through those long summer tournaments in the heat of Dallas, Texas. While pursuing my degree in Nutritional Science, I learned that if we want our bodies to perform optimally, consuming plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and lean protein is key – and this applies not only to athletes, but everyone looking to support their immune system.
Due to the strong relationship between nutrition and the immune system, there has been an increased interest in this topic and how we can keep ourselves and our families healthy.
Most information tells us that people with weakened immune systems are at greatest risk for contracting a virus such as COVID-19. This naturally leads to the question: How do we strengthen our immune system?
In general, your immune system does a remarkable job of defending you against disease. However, the ability to strengthen a person’s immune system has proven elusive due to the fact that it is such a complex system and not a single entity.
According to research, these lifestyle strategies show promise with supporting a healthy immune system:
- Maintain a Balanced Diet – include a variety of fiber filled fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and a combination of prebiotic and probiotic foods that support a healthy microbiome such as yogurt and bananas.
- Get Adequate Rest – Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night to allow your body to recover from stress and exercise. Try to keep a sleep schedule by waking up and going to bed around the same time each day.
- Exercise – Daily moderate activity (30 min/day) can help boost your immune system.
- Hydrate – According to the Institute of Medicine, most women and men need about 9 and 13 cups of fluids per day, respectively. Plain Water is the best choice but if you’re looking for an alternative without the added sugar choose fruit infused water, either bottled with fruit essence, or made the old fashioned way by squeezing sliced fruit into your glass.
- Manage Stress – Set time aside to unwind and decompress through meditation, deep breathing, listening to music or talking with a friend.
- Wash Your Hands – Wash with soap for 40 seconds. Make sure to cover your palms, backs of hands, under fingernails and wrist.
The good news! Leading a healthy lifestyle which includes proper nutrition, getting enough sleep, managing stress, good hygiene, and being active will keep your immune system strong and healthy.
Research on nutrition and the immune-connection is still new and not conclusive, however certain ingredients show promise. Over the coming weeks, stay tuned in to our social media channels, as our Registered Dietitians will be taking a deeper dive into these functional ingredients and their role in supporting a healthy immune system – vitamins, minerals, proteins, omega 3 fatty acids, and probiotics.
Leah Gayowski, MS, RD, LD
Leah is the Regional Wellness Director for Eurest National Accounts Division. She supports two of our global contracts by creating, engaging and tracking various wellness initiatives that support her client’s well-being and goals. Leah has a passion for showcasing our Food with Purpose mission through our Wellness Events and Chef’s Tables. Now more than ever, customers want to know ingredient transparency and the science behind nutrition. Leah believes food is something we’re all connected to and she loves being the catalyst that helps our employees, customers and clients live a healthier and happier lifestyle.