by Melissa Chichester
Eating a nutritious diet plays an important part in immune system health for people of all ages – and it’s one of the best ways you can play an active role in your health and wellness. Eating fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods allow you to receive the vitamins and minerals you need to support overall health. That includes nutrients that support immune health. If your diet is heavy in processed foods, fried foods, and trans fats, you probably aren’t receiving the nutrients your immune system needs to thrive and stay balanced.
So what should you eat instead? It is recommended to “eat the rainbow” so you can get all of the nutrients your immune system needs. However, adding specific foods to your diet allows you to target vitamins and minerals that you want to receive more of for immune health.
Vitamin C is typically associated with immune health more than any other nutrient – and it is one of the most popular supplements to support immune health.* However, Vitamin C is found in an abundance of foods, such as oranges, limes, lemons, grapefruit, and other citrus fruits. It is also found in red and green peppers, broccoli, spinach, and other leafy greens.
Vitamin E is an important antioxidant found in many nuts and seeds.* Almonds, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, pistachios, and pumpkin seeds all contain Vitamin E!
Vitamin A supports immune health by supporting the integrity of the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and urinary tracts.* Orange foods are rich in Vitamin A, including squash, carrots, peppers, apricots, mangos, and cantaloupe.
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Zinc is an essential trace mineral that plays an important role in immune support.* It is also needed for healthy cell growth and division.* According to the National Institutes of Health, men over age 19 need eleven milligrams of zinc per day and women need eight milligrams per day. Shellfish are an excellent source of zinc. Oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food. Crab and lobster are also very high in zinc.
Vitamin D is needed for immune health.* It is also notoriously difficult to receive from foods. That’s because your body requires sunlight to produce it. However, there are some food sources of Vitamin D, such as fortified foods. Many dairy products, plant milk, tofu, orange juice, and whole grains are fortified with Vitamin D. Most of the time, it will say on the front of the packaging if this is the case. Other foods that contain Vitamin D are seafood, such as salmon and cod liver oil.
It’s never too late to start eating a nutritious diet! If you want to add more nourishing foods to your routine that also contain vitamins and minerals that support immune health, consider adding some of the foods above a few times per week to your diet.