5 Essentials You Need to Boost Your Immunity, According to a Nutritionist
Your immune system is the first line of defense against any illness, and after months of COVID-19 cases spiking throughout the country, it's clear that whatever you can do to keep yourself healthy is so important right now. In fact, a huge part of maintaining a strong immune system has to do with what you're eating on a regular basis.
Making sure you're eating a varied diet and getting your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of essential nutrients is crucial for building and maintaining rock-solid immunity. With that in mind, here are the top 5 essentials you should be eating every day for peak nutrition, health, and illness-fighting power, according to James Collier, head nutritionist at Huel, a nutritional meal company.
(And, if you want to know which foods to avoid, check out 20 Surprising Foods That Wreak Havoc On Your Immune System.)
"Also known as the 'sunshine' vitamin, our bodies can make vitamin D from sunlight, which helps support several different white blood cells to protect the body against foreign invaders," Collier notes.
Getting enough vitamin D can be tough if you're not spending some time in the sunshine or regularly eating oily fish, like salmon and trout. "One of the next best sources of vitamin D are eggs," Collier notes, "followed by cheeses including Fontina, Muenster, and Monterey." If these aren't in your regular diet, it may be worth consulting with your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement—considering there have been reports that a deficiency in vitamin D can actually increase your risk of death from COVID-19.
Vitamin C helps support the production and function of the white blood cells in your body that attack bacteria and viruses, according to Collier, which is why it's so important to get an adequate daily dose. "One orange will be enough to hit your RDA," Collier says, "while a red pepper has triple the amount of vitamin C as an orange." Bingo! For more, check out these 5 foods high in vitamin C that can help protect you from COVID-19.
Omega-3 fats and omega-6 fats help to regulate your immune system and are found in several foods, including oily fish, nuts, and seeds. According to Collier, "We tend to get enough omega-6 in our diets, but many struggle to consume enough omega-3."
Consider adding more oily fish to your diet, or if you're eating plant-based, more flaxseed and walnuts in order to up your intake of omega-3s, suggests Collier. If you're confused about the difference between omega-3, -6, and -9?, let a registered dietitian explain.
Drinking plenty of water is crucial for maintaining a strong immune system. "The mucus in the mouth, nose, and respiratory tract is on the front line when it comes to protecting our body against foreign invaders," Collier says. "If you're dehydrated, you'll make less mucus, and this quite simply means you'll be less protected." Aim to drink about eight glasses of water a day, and be sure to avoid these 16 foods and drinks when you're dehydrated.
"Protein is well known for its ability to help build muscle, but it's actually also vital for supporting immunity as it's necessary to repair damaged tissues," notes Collier. "Consuming at least the RDA or above of protein will help keep immune systems strong and sturdy." Here are 5 signs you may not be getting enough protein right now, and 13 great protein alternatives if you can't find meat at your grocery store.