There’s an old saying, “an apple a day helps keep the doctor away.” While this may be a stretch, evidence does suggest that eating a balanced diet with a variety of food choices (in addition to that apple) is important for maintaining a healthy immune system.
There are many nutrients involved in supporting a healthy immune system. The table below lists several of these nutrients and some nutrient-dense foods good for the immune system and where they can be found:
|Good Nutrients for the Immune System||Good Foods for the Immune System|
|Protein||Lean meats, poultry, eggs, soy, cheese, nuts, seeds|
|Vitamin A||Dark leafy greens, red and orange vegetables, cantaloupe, mangos, apricots, sweet potatoes, eggs|
|Vitamin C||Oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, kiwis and other citrus fruits, red bell peppers, tomatoes|
|Vitamin D||Sunlight, salmon, sardines, fortified milk|
|Vitamin E||Almonds, sunflower oil, avocados|
|Folate||Lentils, leafy greens, whole grains, enriched grains, oranges|
|Iron||Lean beef, beans, nuts, fortified cereals and breads|
|Selenium||Seafood, meat, poultry, pork, eggs, dairy, whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts|
|Fiber||Whole grains, lentils, oats, apples, nuts|
As you can see, the best way to include these nutrients and foods for the immune system in your diet is by eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, dairy, and heart healthy fats like olive oil and canola oil in recommended amounts for your calorie level. The USDA’s website, www.choosemyplate.gov provides healthy eating plans that can help guide your daily meal planning to meet these goals. By doing so, you will be off to a great start to supporting your immune system.
Getting at least seven hours of sleep per night and including regular exercise in your schedule is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for optimal health and to support your immune system as well. It is recommended to include 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. Of course, good hygiene, reducing stress, keeping your immunizations current, and avoiding tobacco products are also important in the total picture of wellbeing.
My Food and Family offers a variety of Healthy Living recipes like Sheet-Pan Chicken Nicoise Salad, Veggie Chili, and Grilled Tilapia with Chimichurri Mayo that offer delicious ways to include good nutrients for your immune system in your daily routine. My Food and Family also offers lifestyle tips that encourage immune system-supporting habits through articles such as “How to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables” and “How to Actually Enjoy Working Out”.
For more information on immune system foods and healthy lifestyle routines to support immunity, go to The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics or The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Centers for Disease Control: www.cdc.gov
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: www.eatright.org