As we approach the fall and flu season, having a healthy immune system is important for maintaining overall good health and for fighting off or lessening the impact of viruses like colds, flu, and COVID-19.
Your immune system is just that – a system of organs, tissues, cells, proteins (antibodies), and other chemicals that allow your body to fight off disease-causing microorganisms. A healthy, well-balanced body typically does a pretty good job at producing an immune response against disease.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle has been scientifically linked to enhancing immune system response. Quitting smoking, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, minimizing stress, and getting plenty of sleep are great healthy-living strategies. Another way to improve your overall health, well-being and to develop a healthy immune system is by eating a well-balanced diet, including reducing refined sugar. Making healthy changes to your eating habits helps to fuel your body with necessary micronutrients in the same way that fueling up your car and maintaining proper oil levels helps it perform efficiently!
Boost Your Immune System Using Nutrition
Keeping our immune systems strong is always important and can be done with some basic, consistent, nutrition habits. It is important not to wait for a cold to start and then decide to add in immune-boosting foods. We all know eating fruits and vegetables is great for our bodies and when we eat them consistently, we get the most benefits! Here are a few vitamins and minerals to make sure you are enjoying in your daily meal plan to keep your immune system going strong:
Vitamin C. This vitamin helps prevent and shorten our infections. Citrus fruits (i.e., oranges and grapefruit) offer a good dose of vitamin C, but so do kale, bell peppers, strawberries, papaya, and spinach.
Vitamin E. A powerhouse antioxidant helps our bodies fight off infections. Think high-fat plant foods to find your vitamin E: almonds, peanuts, peanut butter, vegetable oils, and sunflower seeds.
Vitamin A. Typically, we think of this vitamin for healthy vision, but it is also an essential fighter for our immune systems. It can be found in fish (tuna is a great source), meat, and dairy. Plant sources include carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cantaloupe, dark green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin D. Also known as the “sunshine vitamin” because UV light from the sun stimulates vitamin D synthesis through our skin. Good food sources of vitamin D include salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, and fortified milk, orange juice, and cereals.
Folate (natural form)/Folic Acid (synthetic form). Supports production and maintenance of cell growth. Good sources include beans, lentils, avocado, and leafy green vegetables. Also enriched bread, pasta, and rice.
Iron. Helps your body carry oxygen to cells, but it also activates and proliferates immune cells. Heme iron found in meats is more easily absorbed by the body and good sources include red meat, mussels, canned light tuna, chicken, turkey, and oysters. Vegetarian iron sources include beans, broccoli, kale, and iron-fortified cereals.
Selenium. A mineral important in preventing infections. Animal foods are the best source, but Brazil nuts have more than 100% of the daily value in one nut! Good sources of selenium include seafood, meat, liver, poultry, and cottage cheese.
Zinc. Helps in formation of new immune system cells. Found predominantly in animal foods, but also in some vegetarian food choices. Good zinc sources include oysters, crab, lean meats and poultry, baked beans, yogurt, and chickpeas.
So many wonderfully tasty, juicy fruits and vegetables to incorporate into your daily meal plans. A favorite powerhouse salad recipe (taken from iheartvegetables.com) to enjoy includes zesty lemon, antioxidant-filled kale, and healthy fat sources:
Lemon Kale Salad
- 6 C raw kale (stemmed and torn into bite size pieces)
- 1 T olive oil
- Juice from ½ lemon
- 1 small avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced
- 2 T pine nuts or almonds
- Shredded parmesan cheese to taste (limit if you follow a low sodium diet)
- Salt to taste (avoid if you are on a low sodium diet)
Drizzle olive oil and lemon over kale leaves and massage into the leaves with your hands. Top with avocado, nuts, and parmesan cheese.
Optional: Add grilled chicken or other favorite lean protein.
Our immune system needs daily maintenance so include healthy food choices accompanied by good sleep and plenty of water every day.
Eating a balanced diet, including immune boosting foods, is an important piece of the puzzle to building a healthy immune system over time. In addition, healthy eating and vaccines work together to help your immune system fight infections faster and more effectively.
If you are interested in learning more about healthy eating, consider making an appointment with Plessen Healthcare’s Registered Dietician Nutritionist, Colleen Cooke.
Ms. Cooke has over 20 years of experience working in clinical and community settings and holds a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition. Most recently she earned a Certificate in Chronic Kidney Disease Nutrition Management.
From cardiac rehab patients to Tour de France athletes she brings a wide variety of nutrition experiences to our community. She also has extensive experience working with eating disorders – anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. Ms. Cooke enjoys helping patients to live healthier lives while incorporating their favorite foods into their daily routine and encouraging an active lifestyle.
Most appointments take place via telemedicine where you can meet right from the comfort of your own kitchen! Appointments are also available in person at Plessen Medical Center in Orange Grove.
In your first one-hour appointment, you can expect to discuss health and nutrition history, set goals, and schedule a follow-up appointment if needed. Providing advanced lab work is helpful.
Referrals are not necessary to book an appointment, however, services may be covered by insurance for diagnoses such as diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease. Plessen Healthcare accepts Medicare, MAP, most insurance and offers affordable self-pay rates.
To book an appointment please call 340-715-7720 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
At Plessen Healthcare, our multidisciplinary team is committed to providing the highest quality of care for our patients. We work to improve clinical outcomes through educating, empowering, and guiding every individual on their health care journey and providing an experience that improves the quality of life and well-being. We call this the “Plessen Way”. Sign Up for Plessen News & Healthcare Tips