With a pandemic in full effect, you may be wondering about other ways to protect yourself besides thorough hand washing and using disinfecting products. Keeping your body as strong as possible through nutrition and exercise is important now more than ever. Here are four tips to keep your immune system top notch.
1. Eat colorful fruits and vegetables. The deeper and richer the color, the more antioxidants that particular fruit or vegetable packs. The thought is that antioxidants may prevent damage to immune cells by neutralizing free radicals – agents in the environment that may damage your cells and reduce your immunity. Having a hard time finding fresh produce? Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables count too! Examples of fruits and vegetables loaded in antioxidants include those that represent the colors of the rainbow such as:
-yellow bell peppers
2. Eat vitamin rich food. Foods that are high in antioxidants are also rich in vitamins. Eating vitamin C rich foods provides your body with more benefits than taking a vitamin C supplement because food provides other vitamins and minerals that a supplement alone may not. Additionally, taking supplements with large doses of vitamin C is a waste of your money because the body will excrete excess vitamin C in the urine. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and plays a role in cartilage development and wound healing. Vitamin C rich foods include:
-green and red bell peppers
3. Eat lean protein. Protein plays a role in the body's immune system, especially for healing and recovery. There are a lot of beans missing from grocery shelves recently, but do you know how to use them? My favorite way to use beans is in what I call a “Power Bowl”. Here is what I include in mine:
-1/2 cup cooked quinoa or brown rice
-1/2-3/4 cup beans (my go-to beans are black beans and/or garbanzo but you can use any kind)
-1/2 of an avocado
-3/4-1 cup sautéed red, yellow and orange bell peppers (I sauté mine in olive oil)
-2 Tbsp salsa ( I like mango salsa)
-1/4 cup shredded cheese
This is one of my favorite meals because it’s quick and easy and packs protein, fiber, monounsaturated fats (the good fats!), vitamin C, calcium and iron. Protein sources such as meat and eggs are pretty limited in grocery stores right now so don’t forget about other protein sources like nuts and nut butters, dried beans, quinoa, soymilk, tofu, tempeh and yogurt.
4. Get your vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased susceptibility to infection. With some counties ordering residents to shelter-in-place it can be hard to get adequate sunshine. Try to get at least 15 minutes of sunshine by sitting on your porch, in your yard or taking a walk while social distancing. It’s also good to breathe in some fresh air!
Stay strong and healthy everyone!
Aftan Bryant, RDN