By Emily Orvos
GCU Registered Dietitian
As excited as Arizonians get for fall and winter, it also means one thing: “Sick” season is near. Cold and flu season, on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, can leave our immune systems working overtime.
Don’t fret, though. I have good news! Nutrition can play a big role in supporting immunity, and you already may be incorporating many of the foods I talk about here in your diet. If not, challenge yourself to include some of these immune-boosting foods in your meals and snacks on a daily basis.
Let’s start with probably the most common nutrition immune booster: Vitamin C. This powerful antioxidant supports your immune system by protecting the body’s cells from damage caused by free radicals.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. So if you’re taking Emergen-C or other large-dose Vitamin C supplements, your body is excreting most of it out rather than absorbing it.
To get the most out of your Vitamin C, stick to two or three whole food sources daily. Most fruits and veggies are great, and bell peppers, strawberries, kiwi, broccoli and brussels sprouts pack the biggest punch. Yes, even more than oranges.
Have you ever taken Cold-eeze or other zinc lozenges when you feel under the weather? If so, you’re in luck. Research has shown that supplemental zinc may reduce symptoms of the common cold and even help you get over your cold faster.
Not a fan of the metallic aftertaste of zinc lozenges? Incorporate more legumes and seeds in your diet. Chickpeas, kidney beans, pumpkin seeds and peas are all great.
Prebiotics and probiotics
Did you know 70% of your body’s immune cells are in your gut? Fueling your gut health also can fuel your immune health!
Prebiotics are the “food” for your good gut bacteria: probiotics. Including both types of foods in your diet (and a variety of each, at that) is a recipe for a happy gut. Bananas, onions, garlic, artichokes, asparagus, apples and oats are the best sources of prebiotics.
As far as probiotics, think fermented foods. Greek yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso and pickled veggies (kimchi is a great example) all contain live cultures, or the “good” gut bacteria. Some of these foods are a little more adventurous, but they can be a fun way to spice up meals you create.