Nutrition experts agree that fending off a virus is a lot more complicated than simply eating extra fruits and vegetables (for the antioxidants) or special types of yogurt (for its helpful bacteria, or probiotics). There’s no single food – or even group of foods – that can be counted on to keep you well.
The immune system is a very complex relationship of various functions within the body. We know that if the system is deficient, you’re susceptible to infection. For your body to function at its best, it’s important to eat a variety of foods, as outlined in MyPlate.gov, to give your body all the various vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that it needs. That said, of all foods, Americans fall short most regularly in their fruit and vegetable consumption, which could have a compromising effect on the immune system.
In any case, good hygiene is far more important to fend off viruses than eating certain foods. You can’t drink a glass of orange juice in the morning and then decide that you don’t have to wash your hands today.
Physicians and registered dietitians agree that the familiar prescription of a well-rounded, healthful diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables can provide the central nutrients your body, including your immune system, needs to stay healthy. You need to have a healthy diet in general to have a generally healthy immune system. Some nutrients are known to play a role in immune system health, including the antioxidants Vitamin E and Vitamin C, the minerals selenium and zinc, Vitamin D, and fish oils containing omega-3 fatty acids. But that doesn’t mean that eating more than the recommended amount will necessarily boost your immune system. And even eating your recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day won’t guarantee that you won’t be sneezing this winter, but it will give your body’s defenses the nutrition they need to do their job of preventing you from getting sick.
Food remains just part of the equation. Getting the seasonal flu and H1N1 flu vaccines, eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, washing your hands frequently, and getting enough sleep each night are all key to keeping your body’s immune defenses at their best.
We all might be feeling a little vulnerable right now and can use some peace of mind during this uncertain time. Recently, Dr. Joan Salge Blake, EdD, RDN, LDN, FAND provided tips to give us just that via her podcast Spot On! Check it out for more immune-boosting tips.