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Foods that Boost Immunity

There is an abundance of evidence that strongly suggests there are significant health benefits to eating a nutritious diet. One of the benefits to eating this type of diet is that it will likely improve the body’s ability to fight and prevent disease. This is more important than ever, considering the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic that has been going on for the better part of two years. While other common-sense preventative measures such as frequent hand washing should be employed to help the spread of disease, the body’s most important line of defense will always be our natural immune system.

Concerning diet, certain foods seem to stand out more than others when it comes to protecting us from disease. Specifically foods that are rich in nutrients such as vitamins A, C, D, E, magnesium, and zinc, among others. To consume adequate amounts of these and other essential nutrients, one should eat a diet that is rich in color, is made up primarily of whole food, is abundant in fruits and vegetables, and contains high-quality protein sources.

Vitamin A: Vitamin A is important for vision and reproduction. In addition, vitamin A helps keep the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs working properly. It is also important in maintaining a strong immune system by helping the body respond to foreign substances. It can be found in green leafy vegetables and other colorful vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, and squash. Dairy products also contain significant amounts of vitamin A.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C, commonly taken to improve immune function, is a powerful antioxidant and is a time-tested defense against illness. It can be found in citrus fruits, colorful vegetables such as peppers, berries, melons, and tomatoes, among other foods.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D is crucial to fighting bacteria and viruses. The human body naturally produces vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight. However, during the winter months, sunny days may be few and far between, and supplementation and/or food sources may be necessary. Vitamin D can be found in dairy products as well as seafood such as salmon and tuna.

Vitamin E: Vitamin E is important in preventing coronary artery disease, keeping your eyes healthy, preventing inflammation, and strengthening the immune system. Excessive E consumption can have side effects, and supplementation is not right for everyone. Consult your doctor if you are not sure how much you should be taking in. Sources of vitamin E include almonds, peanuts, peanut butter, avocados, and greens, among other foods.

Magnesium: Magnesium has been shown to help lower blood pressure, fight inflammation, improve exercise performance, manage low-level depression and strengthen the immune system. Sources of magnesium include nuts and seeds, legumes, greens, and dark chocolate.

Zinc: Zinc, often taken in the belief that it will shorten the length of cold symptoms, helps the immune system fight off bacteria and viruses. Zinc can be found in foods such as lobster and crab, as well as beef, pork, and dark poultry meat. It is also found in fortified cereals, whole grains, and nuts.

Regardless of a person’s views on the best ways to stay healthy and fight off illness, there is no doubt that a healthy diet is one of the most beneficial things we can do to stave off illness. Along with a healthy lifestyle that includes quality sleep, exercise, and stress management, a diet rich in whole foods, fruits, vegetables, and lean meat can make a significant impact on a person’s ability to fight infection. For some, it may shorten or prevent symptoms of illness; for others, it may mean the difference between battling an illness or succumbing to it. Certainly, a nutritious diet is something we can all do to live better and give our immune systems a fighting chance. However, since everyone has slightly different nutritional needs, it is always best to check with your doctor if you have questions.

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