Key to protecting yourself against viruses are everyday precautions such as washing your hands often, avoiding sick people, and currently, wearing a mask in public and social distancing. In addition, there are other healthy living strategies you can do to help support your immune system.
- 1. Get enough sleep
Lacking sleep may contribute to a weakened immune system. Our bodies need adequate rest to reboot and recharge. Adults need about 7 or more hours of sleep each night. Teenagers need about 8-10 hours, and younger children need about 14 hours a night.
- 2. Eat balanced meals
Aim for 5-7 servings of vegetables and fruit per day. Include lean protein sources in your diet, such as seafood, chicken, lean meat, eggs, dried beans and peas, nuts and nut butter. Choose whole grains to help boost fiber intake. This feeds your gut microbiome, which is healthy bacteria in your gut that help keep harmful pathogens from entering your body through the digestive tract. Include healthy fats, such as those found in olive oil and salmon, which can decrease inflammation. Minimize intake of processed foods, sugar and beverages that have little nutrients.
- 3. Include food sources of vitamins and mineralsOur immune system requires certain vitamins and minerals to function at peak performance, include vitamins and minerals such as:
- Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps our body ward off illnesses and infection. Foods high in Vitamin C include fruits, especially citrus fruits, sweet potatoes, broccoli, spinach and other greens. Tip: Add some lemon or orange juice along with a little honey to hot tea to help soothe a sore throat.
- Zinc: A eficiency of zinc can lead to reduced resistance to infections. Good sources of zinc include animal products such as meat, poultry and seafood, whole grains and black-eyed peas. Remember that old standby – chicken noodle soup?! Chicken is a good source of zinc. Throw in some vegetables for vitamins; the hot broth is comforting on a cold day.
- Vitamin A is another antioxidant that helps regulate the immune system. Vitamin A is present in foods in a preformed state (liver, eggs, and fortified foods) or as carotenoids in deep-colored fruits and vegetables.
- Probiotics support gut health. Foods containing probiotics include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and sourdough bread.
- 4. Be physically active
Exercise promotes blood circulation, which allows the substances of the immune system to move freely through the body to do their job. Staying well-hydrated helps these substances move freely too. Find an activity you enjoy and aim for 30-60 minutes a day most days of the week.
Forge is delighted to partner with Laura Rutledge, MA, RDN, CSO, a Registered Dietician Nutritionist who focuses on oncology nutrition for Cooking with Laura focuses on nutrition during and after cancer diagnosis and treatment. For more information and recipes from Laura check out Nourishing Plate! All images courtesy Laura Rutledge and Nourishing Plate.