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24 May 2022 Jenna Amos
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With winter cold and flu season in full swing, ways to support our immune systems are top of mind.  While (unfortunately) no magic pill or supplement exists, a healthy and varied diet, rich in fruits and vegetables and without lots of ultra-processed foods, goes a long way. 

Check out a few nutrients below that are key to keeping our immune cells strong and healthy.  Remember to choose foods first over supplements to get the most benefit and check with your doctor before making any dietary changes:

  • Protein:  This macronutrient is the building block of practically our entire immune system, so without enough, our defense may be weakened. In addition to common protein rich foods like chicken, eggs and dairy, opt for some plant proteins like lentils and nuts for variety.  Aim to include some protein at every meal or snack (instead of loading up at one time) to get the most out of this nutrient.

  • Vitamin D:  Research has shown that a deficiency in this sunny vitamin is associated with an increased risk for infection.  Especially in colder climates, our bodies may not produce enough Vitamin D so focus on food sources.  Fatty fish (think salmon and sardines), dairy with added vitamin D, and wild mushrooms as growing in sunlight will impart them with provide Vitamin D.

  • Zinc: A deficiency in this essential mineral impacts the growth of T and B cells, both crucial parts of our immune system.  Find zinc in protein rich foods like dairy, beef, lentils and cashews.

  • Selenium: This trace mineral (meaning we don't need a lot) plays a vital role in our immune response, so much so that research shows that increased selenium intake in deficient people can enhance their immune response. Like zinc, selenium is found in protein foods like dairy, sunflower seeds, and even oatmeal.

Finally, while a healthful diet supports our immune system, we can’t overlook the power of sleep and hydration. No amount of good nutrition can make up for poor sleep and dehydration so be sure to clock at least 8 hours a night and drink lots of fluids throughout the day.   


Thanks to our Contributing Dietitian, Jenna Amos, RDN, for this post. 

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