With the current COVID-19 outbreak making headlines globally, nationally and locally we are all looking for ways to keep ourselves and our families healthy. Most information tells us that people with weakened immune systems are at greatest risk, which naturally leads to the question of how do we strengthen our immune system?
Does what we eat impact our immune system?
Absolutely, but maybe not in the way you would expect. The clearest connection is that being deficient in certain nutrients, or being malnourished in general can decrease your immune system’s ability to function normally. Fortunately, this is not an issue for the majority of Americans. With your immune system, more is not necessarily better. You certainly want your immune system to work the way it is supposed to, but you can’t boost your immune system beyond its normal capacity by eating or drinking certain products. Beyond nutrition, getting enough sleep, managing stress and being active are important too.
Which foods are involved?
Research on the nutrition – immune connection is still very new and not conclusive, but certain ingredients show promise. Sometimes referred to as functional ingredients, examples include Zinc, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Probiotics and Green Tea. Each of these play a role in supporting a healthy immune system. Being deficient in these ingredients could negatively impact immune function. On the flip side, taking in too much of certain of these ingredients can also hurt immune function. For this reason, it is usually a good idea to stick to food sources instead of supplements. If you think you might need a supplement, discuss this with your healthcare provider first.
Try out some of our favorite recipes below featuring foods and drinks with these functional ingredients:
- Foods: Whole grains, seafood, yogurt (with live cultures), beans, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, eggs
- Drinks: Green tea, kefir, kombucha, yogurt based smoothies
Remember that even with a healthy immune system, you still could be at risk for COVID-19 or other illnesses. There are no foods, drinks or supplements that can prevent, cure or treat COVID-19. Washing your hands often, keeping your hands away from your face and avoiding close contact with people who are sick is still your best defense.
- 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
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