by Erin Sheridan, MS, RD, LDN, George School’s registered dietitian
We’ve all heard that good nutrition is essential to strengthening our immune system, but what exactly does “good nutrition” mean? Here’s some information about the key nutrients your body needs to fight off infection. Keep in mind, there are many vitamins and minerals that play a role in immunity, so it is important to eat a variety of healthy foods every day.
Protein plays a role in many functions in the body, including our immune system functions. Find protein in foods such as lean meats, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts, and some soy products. These foods also tend to be a good source of zinc, which helps the immune system work properly, and aids in skin health and wound healing, keeping bacteria out of our bodies, literally.
Vitamin A helps regulate the immune system. It also acts as an antioxidant that eliminates free radicals, which can damage your immune system cells. Get vitamin A from sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, apricots, and eggs. Vitamin E is another antioxidant that eliminates free radicals, so your immune cells can focus on doing their job to keep us healthy. The best sources of vitamin E are nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils (like sunflower oil).
Vitamin C plays a role in the formation of antibodies, thus boosting immunity and speeding up the recovery process if you do get sick. Find vitamin C in foods like oranges, strawberries, grapefruit, and bell peppers.
While good nutrition can certainly strengthen your immune system, it is not the only factor that impacts our ability to fight off illness. So, be sure to reflect on your sleep patterns, exercise routine, hand washing, and stress management tactics for a happy healthy fall season.