Specific nutrients in foods have been shown to enhance the body’s ability to keep us well. Some tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and other nutrition experts from Barbara Quinn’s article explain important nutrients to keep the illness off.
· Protein: It’s what immune cells are made of. Sources of immune-building protein include lean beef, pork and poultry, fish, eggs, beans and soy-based foods.
· Vitamin A: vitamin A — a nutrient that helps maintain the cells that line our intestines and lungs. These mucosal cells are the sentries that guard our body from foreign invaders. Carrots, kale, spinach, sweet potatoes and red bell peppers are good sources of vitamin A.
· Vitamin C: this essential vitamin plays an important role in healing wounds and strengthening our resistance to disease. Vitamin C also helps form antibodies that fight off infection. Sources include oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, kiwifruit, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
· Zinc: Our immune system relies on zinc to consistently renew disease-fighting cells. Since zinc in food is bound to protein, it makes sense that good sources include oysters, beef, pork and liver as well as whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds.
· Vitamin E: Given its antioxidant ability to neutralize free radicals, vitamin E keeps the machinery of the immune system functioning at capacity. Good sources include nuts, seeds and whole grains. Wheat germ is an especially good source of vitamin E.
*Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.