What do you get when you combine cold and flu season with a global pandemic?
More sick people. More coughing and sneezing, fevers, sore throats, stuffy noses, aches and pains.
Sounds pretty bad, right? It doesn’t have to be.
Cold and flu season and COVID-19 concerns can also serve as a reminder to boost your immune system by eating healthy foods.
Does your diet look anything like this?
- Fried foods
- Ice cream
- Sugary drinks
It’s the typical American diet, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.1
The problem: Eating this way is a recipe for weight gain, chronic disease, and inflammation that can weaken your immune system.
Research shows eating processed foods high in fat, sugar, and calories (but low in nutritional value), may raise the risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity, and other health problems.2
The solution: You can boost your immune system, reduce inflammation, and improve your health, by making better food choices.
25 nutrient-dense foods to boost your immune system
Want to boost your immune system, improve your diet, and your health?
Keep it simple. Eat less processed foods and more fresh foods. Nutrient-dense foods that can help boost your immune system include foods high in:
Your body needs vitamin A to support digestion and healthy lungs (which is important if you get a cold, flu, or even the cornavirus).
Foods high in vitamin A include:
- Colored bell peppers
- Sweet potatoes
Does taking mega-doses of vitamin C help your immune system fight cold and flu symptoms or speed recovery?
One recent study suggests that the best way to lower the severity, duration, and frequency of colds is eating foods high vitamin C consistently.3 Vitamin C helps the body develop antibodies to support the immune system.
Foods high in vitamin C include:
Your body produces free radicals as a normal part of metabolism (the process of turning food into energy). However, free radicals can damage cells, increase the risk for chronic diseases and certain types of cancer, and advance the aging process.
Is there anything you can do about it? Research suggests that eating foods high in vitamin E help produce antioxidants that fight free radicals and oxidative stress to support the immune system.4
Foods high in vitamin E include:
- Olive oil
- Leafy-green vegetables
When you get sick, zinc is one of the first nutrients the body recruits to fight infection and keep your immune system in check.5
Only about 12 percent of adults in the U.S. are zinc deficient. But as you age, zinc absorption decreases. About 40 percent of the elderly are zinc deficient. Are you getting enough zinc in your diet to support your immune system?
Foods high in zinc include:
- Black beans
- Lean beef
You might think protein is just for bodybuilders to bulk up and build muscle. But you need protein, too.
Amino acids in protein help produce cells your immune system uses to fight pathogens to prevent disease. It’s also important for healing and recovery.6
Foods high in protein include:
- Soy products
- Poultry and lean meats
There’s more than one way to boost your immune system. Getting adequate sleep, and managing stress in healthy ways can help. And so can eating more nutrient dense foods. Now is always the best time to start.
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