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No it won’t, but it might help if you get infected, and over time might help your overall quality of life. I saw an interesting post on social media suggesting that following a healthy diet might protect us from coronavirus in addition to social distancing, wearing masks, etc. Science right now doesn’t support the idea that there is one “super-food” or special diet that can protect us from viruses, bacteria, and or other pathogens. Rather, having good dietary patterns, in addition to other healthy habits gives us better chances for positive health outcomes if we do get infected.

At the heart of immunity is the chemical process of inflammation that occurs in the body after exposure to a foreign pathogen. The response is complex involving white blood cells, antibody and antigens, clotting factors, and chemical signals that increase blood flow and blood vessel permeability. Nutrients we get from foods that are critical to this process include Vitamins C, D, zinc, selenium, iron and protein. Following the dietary guidelines and eating a variety of nutrient dense plants, meats, and fish ensures that you would get enough of these vitamins and minerals to support the immune response.

The gut microbiome is also important to the immune system. Bacteria in the colon break down fiber into substances that are helpful to your immune system. These bacteria are supported by prebiotic foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Probiotic foods such as yogurt can also be helpful. Alcohol, highly processed and fatty foods like sweets, chips, fried foods, and red meats aren’t helpful to colon bacteria thus weakening the immune system.

Following the dietary guidelines is one of the best ways to ensure that your immune system can succeed. Some high-risk groups though, such as the elderly, pregnant women, the critically ill, and low-come households may be at risk for dietary deficiencies and therefore should consider vitamin supplements in consultation with a physician. Multi-vitamins have not been proven to be effective in otherwise healthy individuals and are not a substitute for healthy eating. There is some evidence however that Vitamin D supplements might be especially helpful to many to promote immunity and protect against chronic disease.

Other factors that can improve your immune system include:

  • Avoiding too much alcohol
  • Getting 7-9 hours of sleep
  • Getting 150 of moderate physical activity every week
  • Quitting tobacco products
  • Practicing mindfulness techniques when stressed

Wearing a mask, social distancing, and washing hands frequently as recommended might prevent the coronavirus. Adopting one or two new healthy habits will also give you better chances of positive health outcomes in case you get sick, as well as give you a higher quality of life.  Consider setting a SMART goal to improve your health. Now is the time to get healthy!

Author: Dan Remley, MSPH, PhD, Associate Professor and Field Specialist, OSU Extension

Reviewer: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Fairfield County, OSU Extension

Sources:

Harvard School of Public Health. Nutrition and Immunity. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/nutrition-and-immunity

United States Department of Agriculture. Choose Myplate. Retrieved on 8/3/20 from https://www.chooseMyplate.gov

Harvard School of Public Health. Vitamin D. Retrieved on 7/30/2020 from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-d/

BeWell Stanford. Setting A SMART goal. Retrieved on 7/30/2020 from https://bewell.stanford.edu/achieving-your-smart-health-goal/

 

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The weather outside is very cold and I begin to feel that scratchy throat. I am seeing my daughter’s nose running and hear her squashcomplaining about her ear hurting.  Amidst the holiday celebrations and more contact with friends and family, contagious illnesses are making their rounds.  Besides the number one action of washing our hands frequently, how can we best prepare our bodies to fight off these pesky germs?  The American Institute for Cancer Research has a helpful article, “Deck Your Meals with Fruits and Vegetables.”  What a timely topic!  So what are the recommended tips we should put into practice?

Make sure you are eating the rainbow.

  • Deep orange vegetables like pumpkins, winter squash, and sweet potatoes will provide you with Vitamin A and fiber.  See a great reduced fat recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole below.
  • Red Peppers will provide Vitamin E and Vitamin C while tomatoes will provide Beta-Carotene (Vitamin A).
  • Deep red, purple and blue berries and all the varieties of apples are also rich in antioxidants.
  • Green broccoli, mustard and turnip greens (and others), spinach and brussel sprouts all provide a variety of wonderful vitamins and minerals that keep our body healthier and able to battle infections.

Eat a variety of foods and do not overcook them.

  • Red meats and poultry, whole and fortified grains and breads provide the minerals zinc and selenium that help to build our immunity.
  • Grapes, beans, onions, etc.  are part of the many fresh fruits and vegetables and are nature’s vitamin pills.  In addition to their great taste they help to maintain our healthy lifestyles.
  • Overcooking and boiling our foods causes vitamins to escape and be poured down the drain.

Flavor foods naturally.

  • Ginger is known to fight inflammation and colds.  Other herbs and spices also help to keep our bodies running strong.

These food tips along with regular physical activity and drinking lots of water to keep us hydrated will not prevent every sneeze or sniffle this frosty season, but it should help us to prevent some illnesses and shorten the symptoms of the ones that get us down.

Try this tasty slimmed down version of sweet potato casserole for some great Vitamin A:

Sweet Potato Casserole

Yield: 10 servings

Ingredients

1 pound sweet potatoes (about 4 medium)

3 egg whites

1⁄2 cup sugar

12 ounces evaporated milk, nonfat

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1⁄2 teaspoon nutmeg

1⁄2 teaspoon ginger

Instructions

1. Rinse sweet potatoes in cold running water and pierce with a fork.

2. Microwave sweet potatoes on full power until tender, about 15 minutes. Turn them half way during baking.

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove skin from sweet potatoes and mash with hand beaters or food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until smooth.

4. Pour mixture in an 8 inch square baking pan. Bake until casserole is firm in the center, about 40 minutes.

5. Remove pan from oven. Allow to stand for 5 minutes then cut into 10 squares.

6. Serve hot. Refrigerate leftovers.

Notes:  You may want to experiment with using canned sweet potatoes.

Sources: Deck Your Meals with Fruits and Vegetables, (2013).  American Institute of Cancer Research.  Accessed on December 10, 2013, at http://preventcancer.aicr.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=17467&news_iv_ctrl=2303

Super Foods for Optimal Health, (2013). WebMD.  Accessed on December 10, 2013, at http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/antioxidants-your-immune-system-super-foods-optimal-health

Sweet Potato Casserole, (2013). United States Department of Agriculture:  SNAP-Ed connection.  Accessed on December 10, 2013, at http://recipefinder.nal.usda.gov/recipes/sweet-potato-casserole

Author:  Cheryl Barber Spires, R.D., L.D., SNAP-Ed Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension, West Region, spires.53@osu.edu

Reviewer:  Liz Smith, R.D., L.D., SNAP-Ed Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension, NorthEast Region, smith.3993@osu.edu

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