Nutrition and Immunity
Updated: May 14
As our lives have been so drastically impacted by the spread of Covid-19, we are all wondering if there are ways to support our own immune systems and stay healthy. Don’t fall victim to wonder-supplements, though, that promise to boost the immune system. We don’t want an overactive immune system, but rather an immune system that protects us appropriately from outside pathogens and invaders! Here’s what diet can do:
A diet high in saturated fat can make people more prone to inflammation and tissue damage, which can have a negative impact on the immune system. Inversely, a plant-based low-fat diet may be the best for supporting our immune systems. Some studies have shown that individuals following a vegetarian diet have more effective white blood cells when compared to those following a non-vegetarian diet due to a higher intake of vitamins and a lower intake of fat. Obesity has been linked to higher rates of influenza and infections, and a plant-based diet may be conducive to weight loss due to its high fiber intake which can increase feelings of fullness. Plant-based diets have also been shown to reduce inflammatory markers.
There are a number of other important nutrients in supporting immune function, including beta carotene, vitamins C and E, vitamin D, and zinc. In addition, fruits and vegetables are high in these and other antioxidants, which can help reduce overall inflammation.
Beta-carotene is most commonly found in foods like sweet potatoes, carrots, and green leafy vegetables and can be helpful in reducing inflammation and immune function. Vitamins C and E are powerful antioxidants that can also help support the body’s immune system. You can find vitamin C in oranges, strawberries, peppers, and many other fruits and vegetables. Good sources of vitamin E include oils, nuts, seeds, and green vegetables like spinach and broccoli. Vitamin D is most importantly synthesized from spending time in sunlight, and zinc can be found in foods like nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, beans, and lentils.
Try this recipe below to support your immune system function:
Strawberry Spinach Walnut Salad
6 cups baby spinach
1 apple, cored and diced
2 cups sliced strawberries
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans
4 oz gorgonzola cheese (optional) or 1 avocado
¼ cup nondairy plain yogurt
2 tb apple cider vinegar
¼ cup all-fruit raspberry yogurt
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Pinch sea salt.
1. Combine spinach, apples, strawberries, walnuts, and gorgonzola or avocado in a large bowl.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, apple cider vinegar, raspberry jam, Dijon mustard, and sea salt.
3. Just before serving, pour dressing over the salad and toss.