Can we cure COVID-19 (or any other virus for that matter) with food alone? No. Is there any way that food and supplements can guarantee prevention of infectious disease. No again. But does this mean that food plays no role in strengthening our immune health? Absolutely not! There will always be risk factors of disease that are out of our control, but our focus should be on the ones we DO have power over, like what we eat, how we move and how we interact with the world. There are several nutrients that have been well researched showing that their intake can suppress inflammatory compounds &/or create an environment where it is difficult for pathogens to thrive. If we focus on eating these nutrients on a regular basis, avoid or reduce the foods that have an inflammatory effect on the immune system, and create other healthy lifestyle changes (ie: frequent hand washing, cleaning contacted surfaces, getting adequate sunlight, etc.), we can feel empowered in doing everything we can to reduce our risk of illness. Here is a list of the top immune-supporting nutrients and where to find them!
- Curcumin: This is the active nutrient in turmeric. Add turmeric to curries, stews or even your scrambled eggs! Two personal favorite uses of our dietitians are in bone broth and in golden milk. Add the broth to soups, sauces or when cooking grains, and add golden milk to chia tea or coffee for a delicious latte!
- Flavanoids: This is an entire family of nutrients that have similar structures and functions. Find various flavonoids in leafy greens, cruciferous veggies (like cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli), fresh herbs (dill, cilantro, oregano), citrus fruits, olives and green tea. Try this homemade chimichurri and use as a spread, sauce or dip that will make your immune system a powerhouse!
- Vitamin A: Think yellow and orange produce, specifically sweet potatoes, carrots and bell peppers. Don’t forget sources of active vitamin A too! These are animal sources, such as fish oil, cod liver oil and organ meats! Don’t worry, you don’t need to add liver and onions to your weekly meal plan to get your vitamin A. Instead, try these richly decadent burger patties and serve them on a bed of roasted sweet potatoes, spinach and veggies for an A-packed dinner!
- Vitamin C: Bell peppers actually have more of this immunity-boosting nutrient than the well-known orange! Other great sources are kiwi, strawberries, broccoli, kale, papaya and avocado! Anyone in the mood for guac and tropical salsa!?
- Vitamin D: Yes the hype over this nutrient is right. No, no one gets enough of it, even if you take a walk outdoors every day! Unfortunately, food sources (wild caught fish, mushrooms and walnuts) just don’t have enough, so you may want to supplement on this one.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E works as an antioxidant so it squashes inflammation in its tracks! Find it in nuts, seeds, avocado, broccoli, shrimp and olive oil.
- Selenium: Just ONE Brazil nut provides your daily dose of this powerful mineral! If this is too much to ask, eat your selenium in the form of tuna, shrimp, eggs or shiitake mushrooms. Or mix it all together in this shrimp fried rice!
- Zinc: We can’t say enough about how awesome this mineral is for immune strength! Get it in shellfish, cheese, beef, kidney beans, chickpeas, cashews and almonds. Try roasting chickpeas in turmeric and curry powder for a powerful savory snack!
- Omega3s: Anti-inflammatory nutrition that we all know and love! Try this walnut-crusted wild salmon for super immune power! Or perhaps these dill-deviled eggs are more your style!
For even more immune-supportive nutrition information, check out this mini class recording with our dietitian Jasmine! She answers all the questions and gives some tasty meal and snack ideas that have us all drooling!