Written by: Eileen Henderson, RDN, LD
It is difficult to avoid getting sick; fueling up on immune boosting nutrients can help your body fight illness and shorten the duration of colds. Knowing immune boosting nutrients is helpful, but it is important to learn how to include them in everyday meals and snacks!
Here are 6 nutrients and snacks that will boost your immune system!
- Protein helps the body heal and recover which plays beneficial role in the body’s immune system. It is recommended to consume 0.8 – 1.0 gram of protein per kg of your body weight daily.
- Snacks: hard boiled eggs, deli roll up, tuna pouch, Greek yogurt, roasted chickpeas
- Probiotics are beneficial bacteria in the gut that positively impact health. Consuming probiotics in foods has shown a reduction in GI and upper respiratory illness.1 They can be found in cultured dairy products like yogurt, and fermented foods like sauerkraut.
- Snacks: Kombucha, Kefir, fermented pickles and other fermented vegetables
- Zinc helps the immune system work properly and can help heal wounds.2 The recommended daily amount for zinc is 8 mg a day for women and 11 mg a day for men.3 Lean meat, poultry, seafood, milk, whole grain products, beans, seeds and nuts contain a good source of zinc.
- Snacks: deli roll up, tuna pouch, Greek yogurt, almonds and pumpkin seeds
- Vitamin A regulates the immune system and protects against infections by keeping the skin mouth, stomach, intestines and respiratory system tissues healthy.2 The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin A is 900 mcg and for men and 700 mcg for women.5
- Snacks: sweet potato fries, raw broccoli, baby carrots and bell pepper slices
- Vitamin C is an antioxidant that fights free radicals and stimulates the formation of antibodies which supports the immune system.2 It is has been shown that 1,000 mg of vitamin C supplements may make colds milder and even shorten them by half a day.3
- Snacks: red pepper slices, strawberries and citrus fruits like oranges
- Vitamin D strengthens the immune system by triggering a response to fight off bacteria and viruses. The recommend dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is 600 International Units (IU) for men and women and 800 IU for adults over the age of 70.5 Sources include fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, cod liver oil, egg yolks and cow’s milk. The body can also make vitamin D from the sun, but it is important not to overdose on direct sunlight and wear sunscreen.
- Snacks: hard boiled eggs, mushrooms, tuna, yogurt and a glass of milk
A Quick Meal that includes all 6 immune boosting nutrients is a smoothie. If you prefer a refreshing snack, make popsicles by pouring the smoothie into popsicle molds and freeze for at least 3 hours.
- ½ cup milk or milk alternative
- ¼ cup plain Kefir
- ½ cup frozen strawberries
- ½ banana
- 1 handful greens
- 1 scoop protein powder (20 grams protein)
- 1 Tbsp walnuts
- Palmer S. Probiotics’ potential-research suggests beneficial bacteria may support immune health. Today’s Dietitian. 2011;13(1):20.
- Klemm S. Support your health with nutrition. EatRight. https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/support-your-health-with-nutrition. Published December 9, 2019. Accessed March 17, 2020.
- Getz L. Winter nutrition – Healthy eating offers good protection during the chilly season. Today’s Dietitian. 2009;11(1):48.
- Kubala, J. Vitamin A: Benefits, deficiency, toxicity and more. Healthline. Published on October 4, 2018. Accessed March 19, 2020.
- Harvard School of Public Health, The nutrition source – Vitamin D https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-d/