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Today we are reminded of the importance of a healthy immune system.  Our body’s ability to fight infection and disease depends on our immune system.  Good nutrition is important to support a healthy immune system.  Eat well by choosing nutrient rich foods, such as the following to boost your immune system:

  • Choose more orange and brightly colored foods. like carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, mango, tomatoes, and broccoli. These foods contain the antioxidant Beta Carotene which has been shown to strengthen the body’s infection fighting methods.
  • Foods rich in vitamin C including citrus, red peppers, kiwi, broccoli, berries and tomatoes. Start the day with a grapefruit, add sliced peppers to a sandwich at lunch and enjoy a cup of berries for a snack.
  • Herbs and spices such as garlic, ginger, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. These herbs and spices contain ingredients that help fight off viruses and harmful bacteria and give your immune system a boost. Try garlic hummus or raw ginger tea, or add oregano and rosemary to salads, roasted vegetables, and tuna salad to increase your intake of herbs and spices.
  • Get your Vitamin D. Found in fatty fish, eggs, mushrooms, fortified milk and fortified orange juice. Vitamin D is essential for optimal immune function and has been shown to help address respiratory infections. Add mushrooms to salads, stir fry’s and soups to increase your Vitamin D intake.
  • Zinc is key to optimal immune function but intake tends to be lower in those who are older, vegetarians, vegans and those who take antacids. Foods containing zinc such asmeat, seafood, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.
  • Probiotics  is good bacteria that promotes health.  It is found in cultured dairy products like yogurt and in fermented foods such as kimchi.
  • Protein from both animal and plant-based sources including, milk, yogurt, eggs, beef, chicken, seafood, nuts, seeds, beans, and lentils.

In addition to increasing your intake of nutrient-dense foods, you can protect your immune system by:

  • Minimize your intake of sugar, processed foods, and alcohol. Consumption of these foods may suppressthe immune system.
  • Practicing good hygiene and hand washing to help prevent the spread of germs. Remember to wash produce before eating or using in recipes. Clean glasses, dishes, forks, spoons, and knives to reduce the spread and growth of bacteria.
  • Manage stress. Physical activity, meditation, listening to music and writing are great ways to manage stress and help reduce the risk of some chronic diseases that could weaken your immune system.
  • Getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep contributes to a variety of health concerns including a weakened immune system. Seven to nine hours is recommended each day for adults and children need eight to fourteen hours depending on their age.

Take charge today of your health and add these tips daily to support a healthy immune system!

Written by:  Beth Stefura, OSU Extension Educator, Mahoning County. stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, OSU Extension Educator, Franklin County. lobb.3@osu.edu

References:

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2020). Support your health with nutrition. https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/support-your-health-with-nutrition

WebMD (2019). How can my diet affect my immune system? https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/qa/how-can-my-diet-affect-my-immune-system

WebMD (2019). Super Foods for Optimal Health. https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/antioxidants-your-immune-system-super-foods-optimal-health

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