As we move closer to the peak of cold and flu season, you are likely diligent about washing your hands, getting plenty of rest and covering your mouth when coughing to prevent the spread of germs. But did you know that the foods you eat can directly affect the strength of your immune system?
Stacy Beeson, registered dietitian at the Center for Integrative Medicine at Good Samaritan Medical Center, shares some immune-strengthening foods that can set you up for success during these cold months.
Jump-start your body’s defense program by eating the below nutrients to supercharge your immune system:
Vitamin C increases the production of white blood cells and antibodies, which help keep your immune system strong.
Eat: Clementines, strawberries, oranges, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, and peppers
Vitamin E helps your body make B-cells, which protect it from foreign invaders. It also works as an antioxidant to improve immune function, and may slow down the effect that aging has on your immune system.
Eat: Whole grains, nuts and oils—try adding sunflower seeds, almonds, or wheat germ to salads or casseroles, and choose olive oil in cooking and use natural peanut butter
Beta carotene This “defender for your body” is converted to Vitamin A once consumed, which offers protection by keeping the tissues in your mouth, stomach, intestine and respiratory systems healthy.
Zinc This mineral increases the production of white blood cells, which keep your immune system strong.
Eat: Animal sources such as extra-lean ground beef, poultry, seafood and eggs. Plant sources such as wheat germ, tofu, sunflower seeds, peanuts, beans and whole-grains. Liven up salads with such powerful additions as hard-boiled eggs, sunflower seeds and beans.
BONUS: Yogurt contains “live and active cultures” that may help strengthen your body’s resistance to infection. These active cultures help change or repopulate intestinal bacteria to balance gut flora. This functional component may boost immunity and overall health, especially gastro-intestinal health.