Contact: Jamie Leszczynski
Recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other state and federal organizations have centered on washing hands, avoiding touching your face, and staying home; but did you know
that your diet could also help protect you from illness?
1. Season with immune-protective herbs and spices. Ginger, garlic, onions, oregano, rosemary, and thyme all have been shown in studies to help fight off viruses and harmful bacteria and give the body’s immune system a helping hand. Try making some homemade garlic hummus, sip raw ginger tea, and season meats and roasted vegetables with oregano and rosemary.
2. Choose more orange foods. Carrots, sweet potatoes, and butternut squashes all are rich in beta-carotene, which can help increase lung function and act as a strong defender against bacteria and viruses. Beta-carotene gets converted to vitamin A in the body, which is critical for immune function. Bright-colored fruits and veggies of all kinds have antioxidants that can offer protection and increase the body’s infection-fighting mechanisms.
3. Eat foods high in vitamin C. Vitamin C isn’t only found in citrus and citrus juices like orange juice. Red peppers, broccoli, and kiwi are all great sources of vitamin C. Try starting your day with an orange or add sliced peppers to a salad or sandwich. Studies show that consuming vitamin C can help prevent illness.
4. Try some zinc. Zinc is key for immune function, and it is often found in cold and flu supplements like Emergen-c and Airborne. It also who don’t eat meat like vegans or vegetarians. High amounts of zinc can be found in meat and seafood and in moderate amounts in sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
5. Get your vitamin D. At this time of year and for those of us living in more northern climates, our vitamin D levels can decline. Vitamin D is essential for optimal immune function and has been shown to help address respiratory infections. Vitamin D also can be found in mushrooms, fatty fish, and eggs. Discuss with your doctor before adding a new medication to your routine.
6. Minimize alcohol, sugar, and processed foods. Not only can the consumption of these foods suppress the immune system, but eating them is often in place of more health promoting foods. Try adding more whole foods diet instead of heavily processed foods. Limit these treats to only a few times a week.
7. Cook safely. Keep refrigerated items cold, 34 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and make sure groceries make it into the fridge within 2 hours of leaving the store. Cook foods to proper temperatures, use a food thermometer to check. Dispose of unused foods by their proper date or when they appear to have gone bad. Reheat leftovers to proper temperatures as well.
Ali Olsen RD CDN
Bariatric Dietitian | Center for Weight Loss and Surgery