5 Immune Boosting Diet Tips to Keep You Healthy in 2021

By Ginger Cochran, MS, RDN, CEP-ACSM, CDCES

The winter months are notorious for an increase in sniffles, coughs, and sneezes. Not only are we fighting off the seasonal cold and flu this winter but also COVID19. We can all agree, no one has time to be sick. One of the best ways to support your immune system is to eat a nutrient dense diet high in plant foods. Check out these 5 diet tips to keep your immune system going at full speed through the winter months and beyond.

1. Eat Garlic

Garlic has long been used in both traditional and alternative medicine for its medicinal and immune boosting properties. Garlic has been shown to boost T-cells in your body. These T-cells act like soldiers who seek out and destroy incoming invaders in the body. Luckily for us, garlic is incredibly versatile.  Try adding crushed garlic into your lunch and dinner by including it in stir-fries, sandwich spreads, sauces, soups, and marinades. The possibilities with this immune boosting vegetable are endless.

2. Eat High-in-Vitamin-C Foods

Vitamin-C is well known for its immune system enhancing abilities. This vitamin acts like an antioxidant in the body fighting off free radicals that damage cells. Vitamin-C also helps the body create B and T-cells that help fight off infections. Some excellent sources of vitamin-C include the following:

  • Chili Pepper= 107 mg per ½ cup
  • Red Bell Peppers= 190 mg per 1 cup
  • Kale=80 mg per 1 cup
  • Orange= 70 mg per fruit
  • Broccoli= 130 mg 1 cup
  • Strawberries= 85 mg 1 cup
  • Kiwi= 137 mg 1 fruit

3. Eat Foods That Contain Zinc

Zinc is an essential nutrient in the immune system. This mineral is involved in over 100 enzyme activities in the body, and is imperative for normal development and function of cells. Zinc deficiency has long been shown to weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to viruses. The recommended intake is about 9 to 11 mg per day depending on your age and sex. Include these zinc dense foods in your diet to help strengthen your immunity.

4. Eat Probiotic Foods

Did you know you have over 100 trillion bacteria both good and bad-that live in your digestive system? People have an estimated 30 trillion cells in the body. This means you are literally more bacteria than anything else. There are 1,000 different bacteria species and 5,000 different strains that exist. Everyone has a different ratio of bacteria based on their lifestyle, diet, age, and genes. Research has shown the ratio of good to bad bacteria may have a serious effect on gene expression, disease, and immunity. You may be able to promote a healthy balance of bacteria and support your immune system by including fermented, probiotic foods into your diet. Some probiotic, ‘healthy bacteria’ foods include:

5. Eat Prebiotic-Dense Foods

To keep a healthy balance of good bacteria in the body, these little microbes need to be fed. Good bacteria feed off of prebiotic fiber-without it they may die off and the ratio of good to bad bacteria may become imbalanced. Prebiotic fiber can be found in many high fiber foods. Include these prebiotic foods in your immune boosting diet:

No single food or supplement can keep you from getting sick. Include a variety of these foods in your diet to give your body the best fighting chance to stay happy and healthy this year and beyond.

Sources

Immunomodulation and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Garlic Compounds

Vitamin C and Immune Function

Harvard Health Watch: Can gut bacteria improve your health?

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