- On March 26, 2020
In the midst of all the chaos with COVID-19, it is important to keep ourselves and our families happy and healthy. The best way to do that right now is to keep a diet that is healthful to our bodies and our immune systems.
The best vitamins and minerals to support immune function are Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Zinc.
But where do we find these vitamins and minerals in every day foods that we now have stock piled in our kitchens?
You probably stocked up on canned foods, frozen fruits and vegetables, and wide variety of snacks (let’s be honest, we all have a stash of cookies in our pantries).
So, let’s dive in. Which foods that may already be in your kitchen will be best to support a healthy immune system?
Tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, and mango, of the fresh, frozen, or canned variety, have in them what is called beta-carotene. You’ve probably heard of that term before. It is also known as vitamin A. It is a pigment found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, such as the ones listed. Vitamin A, or beta-carotene, is scientifically known to boost immune cell function. This is because vitamin A is considered an antioxidant that rid of free radicals in the body. All this means is that this vitamin fights off bad molecules in your body that can make us sick, which is exactly what we are looking for!
Berries, broccoli, bell peppers, and citrus fruits, again in the fresh, canned, or frozen variety, are high in vitamin C. We probably all know that vitamin C is good for our immune health. That’s why orange juice has been cleared from the shelves at the grocery stores. But orange juice isn’t the only way to get vitamin C. All kinds of fruits and vegetables have some amount of vitamin C in them, some just more than others like the ones listed. Vitamin C is another antioxidant. Essentially, it has the same effects on our body as vitamin A does.
Milk (both plant based and cow’s milk), eggs, and high fat fish, such as salmon or sardines, are foods that are high in vitamin D. We can also get vitamin D from the sunlight! Again, we have all probably heard that milk is high in vitamin D (notice that milk is also vacant on the grocery store shelves). Vitamin D processes in the body to strongly fight against harmful bacteria.
Nuts, nut butter, and vegetable oils are all high in vitamin E. And you guessed it! Vitamin E is, once again, an antioxidant that supports our immune function.
Beef, seafood, tofu, nuts, and seeds are all great sources of zinc. Zinc also has similar antioxidant effects by working on T helper cells in the body. Again, all this means is that zinc has the ability to keep us healthy and fight off infections.
Look for other minerals such as iron, folate, and selenium that also have immune boosting properties in our bodies.
All in all, here are your just some of the best foods to
consume to enhance your immunity:
- Leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach
- Nut butters
- Sweet potatoes
- Fatty fish such as salmon or tuna
- Milk (Plant Based or Cow’s Milk)
- Citrus fruits including oranges/orange juice and lemon
- Whole grain foods
All of this to say that you have some type of foods at home that already that contain plenty of immune support! Be creative with your meals. Practice having at least one fruit or vegetable with every meal. It does not matter if it is fresh, frozen, or canned. Just watch out for added sodium and sugar. Not only is this good practice for everyday life, but especially now while we try to stay healthy!
Macie Thornhill Dietetic Intern, University of Delaware
Bachelors of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics
University of North Florida Bachelors of Science in Public Health, Stetson University
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