How to use your diet to support your immune system
Supporting your immune system right now is absolutely vital—and you can do so with food!
But what is the coronavirus anyways?
Well, it's exactly what you’d think - a virus. This is important because it means antibiotics won’t be effective against it and can make things worse by killing your good gut bugs, which are important for your immune system.
It’s also important to know how the coronavirus is transmitted - through your eyes, nose, and mouth. This means washing your hands and avoiding touching your face are important for prevention (just like with the flu).
That being said, what else can you do to support your immune system?
It all starts with gut health.
Did you know that about 70% of your immune system is found in your gut? This means gut support is especially important for your immune system. You should strive to include plenty of fiber in your diet - about 14g for every 1,000 calories - while also minimizing sugar, processed foods, and any food sensitivities you might have. You might also consider a high-quality probiotic. Check out this article for simple steps you can take to support gut health in your everyday life.
To take on gut health and immunity at the same time, sip on bone broth. It provides some serious love for your gut while also providing key immune-supporting nutrients (like vitamin A, discussed below!)
Eat your vitamin A.
Low vitamin A status can lower resistance to infection, which you certainly don’t want! You can find vitamin A in foods like egg yolk, liver, cod liver oil, sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, pumpkin, and spinach. If you drink excessively, your vitamin A status may be compromised.
Check in on Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is usually praised for its important role in bone health, but it also has a big role in supporting your immune system. Most people tend to be deficient in vitamin D, especially in northern climates with limited sun exposure in the winter. Unfortunately, vitamin D is also difficult to obtain in adequate amounts from food, so supplements can be helpful. You should always check your vitamin D status before supplementing because it’s a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning your body stores it and can therefore reach toxic levels.
Vitamin C for the win.
Crowd-favorite vitamin C functions as an antioxidant and plays a role in a strong immune system (but can't cure your cold, sorry). However, vitamin C isn’t heat stable, so you might be low during the winter months if you’re warming up with hot meals. And if you’re a smoker, you’ll need even more vitamin C.
To get your vitamin C in the winter, top your meals with herbs like parsley and cilantro, eat winter fruits like blood oranges and persimmons, and steam or microwave vitamin C-rich vegetables like broccoli to reduce nutrient losses.
Sleep is your body’s dedicated recovery time - from exercise, but also life in general. Studies show that people who are sleep deprived are more likely to fall ill after exposure to a virus. And once you’re sick, it can affect how long you stay sick, too. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
Eating (and sleeping) well can make or break your immune system, which is great because they’re within your control every day. Plus, V+B has some amazing immune-supporting meals, such as the kale + roasted sweet potato hash and the shaved Brussels sprouts + radicchio salad! And who doesn’t love meal delivery?
PR and Marketing Specialist of Vegetable and Butcher and a self-proclaimed nutrition nerd and sustainability junkie. Emily called DC home for three years before making her way to California. Emily has her master's in Nutrition Education and is a Certified Nutrition Specialist® (CNS®) candidate. She's passionate about helping people learn to use food to fuel their outdoor activities, and in her free time you can find her rock climbing. . You can connect with her on her website and on Instagram.