Boosting Your Immune System with Plant-Forward Eating
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused concern across the world, and many people are taking measures to make sure they do not fall sick.
Besides wearing a mask, social distancing, washing your hands, and staying home if you’re sick, there’s a lot you can do from a nutrition standpoint to boost your immune system – eat more vegetables and fruits, legumes and whole grains.
Vegetables and fruits especially, have nutrients and special natural compounds called phytochemicals that serve as antioxidants to neutralize damage to cells and fight nasty pathogens like COVID-19, the flu and the common cold. Will they prevent you from getting sick? Maybe not. But a healthy diet can help strengthen your immune system to help fight the virus and recover quickly.
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Below are some nutrients found in plant-based foods that are vital for a strong and robust immune system:
An antioxidant that increases production of white blood cells, is key to fighting infections. Citrus fruits, papaya, dark green and yellow vegetables, red bell pepper, strawberries, tomatoes and watermelons are great sources of Vitamin C.
An antioxidant that protects your cells from free radical damages, enhances the immune system to fight off bacteria and viruses. Foods high in vitamin E are sunflower seeds, nuts and green vegetables.
Functions mainly by keeping the skin, vision, and tissues of the mouth, stomach, intestine, and respiratory system healthy. Its anti-inflammatory properties enhance the immune system. Good sources of vitamin A are sweet potatoes, spinach, pumpkins, carrots, peppers, cantaloupes.
An important mineral that helps in wound healing, functions in the development of immune cells, which is needed for the immune system to work properly. Food sources of zinc are legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Plays a major role in the body’s immune response. They activate cells that help fight off infections in the body. Good plant sources of dietary protein are: legumes, beans, peas, soy, and nuts.
Overall, if pondering about which vegetable or fruit to eat, think of colors – purple, blue, red, yellow and orange, because it usually means they are packed with antioxidants that are great for your health and immune system.
- Zinc in Human Health: Effect of Zinc on Immune Cells. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2277319/. Accessed March 5, 2020
- Health Professional Fact Sheet. NIH, Office of Dietary Supplement. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/. Accessed March 5, 2020
- Li P, Yin YL, Li D, Kim SW, Wu G. Amino Acid and Immune Function. Br J Nutr, 2007 Aug:98(2):237-52.
- Protect your Health with Immune-Boosting Nutrition. https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/protect-your-health-with-immune-boosting-nutrition. Accessed March 5, 2020