While scientists from around the world work to find solutions to the current pandemic, what can we do to promote good health? One thing we can do is to maintain a strong immune system. One factor in maintaining a strong immune system is nutrition. A strong immune system may offer protection from seasonal illness and other health problems. No one food or nutrient can prevent illness. You can support your immune system by regularly including several nutrients in your overall eating plan.

Protein assists the body’s immune system through its role in in healing and recovery. Protein rich foods include seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans, soy products, and nuts and seeds.

Beta Carotene is the precursor to Vitamin A. Our bodies convert beta-carotene into Vitamin Ato assist in regulating the immune system and protect against infections by keeping skin healthy. Vitamin A also keeps the tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines, and respiratory system healthy. Good sources of Vitamin A are sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach, red bell peppers, apricots and eggs. You may see some foods, such as milk and some cereals labelled Vitamin A fortified.

Vitamin C supports our immune system by stimulating antibody production. Vitamin C also assists in wound healing and collagen formation. Good sources of Vitamin C are citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruit, red bell pepper, papaya, strawberries and tomato juice. Some cereals are fortified with Vitamin C.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant, helping to slow down processes that damage cells. Vitamin E is required for proper functioning of many organs in the body. Good sources of vitamin E are fortified cereals. Sunflower seeds, almonds, vegetable oils, hazelnuts, and peanut butter.

Zinc assists with immune functions and wound healing. Zinc deficiency can cause a decreased ability to taste food. Good sources of Zinc are in lean meats, poultry, seafood, milk, whole grain products, beans, seeds, and nuts.

Vitamin D is a nutrient that plays a role in the immune system. There is evidence from several clinical trials that Vitamin D lowers the risk of developing acute respiratory tract infections. The studies included seasonal flu and pandemic flu caused by H1N1 virus. There is developing and increasing evidence that vitamin D may be relevant to the risk of developing COVID-19 infection and to the severity of the disease. There are laboratory studies of respiratory cell cultures to document some of the effects of vitamin D. There is also evidence that people with respiratory infections tend to have lower blood levels of 25-hydroxy-vitamin D. Our skin produces Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Sunlight and warmer temperatures are showing some promise in decreasing the number of cases of Covic-19. Good sources of Vitamin D are fatty fish, eggs, and Vitamin D fortified milk and 100% juices.

Be wary of nutrition products or supplements touted as a cure for Covid-19. Although there may be no one food or nutrient that can actually cure a disease, maintaining a nutritious diet can assist in our quest to be healthy. Focusing on foods with antioxidant properties is a great way to start. Get out into the sunshine whenever you can while maintaining social distancing.

By: Maureen Fauler, MHA, RDN, CDN

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