We know that exercise is good for a healthy immune system, but what about nutrition? Let’s dispel a few myths and provide a list of healthy foods that support your immune system.
Note I said foods that “support” your immune system. Despite what you might hear from others on social media, you cannot “boost” your immune system. It is after all, a system comprised of many parts to keep you well. From your skin (the largest immune system organ in the body), to the mucous membranes in the nose and mouth, to the stomach acid produced in your gut, to antibodies and white blood cells, they all work as a system to help repel bacteria and viruses.
The best approach to keeping the system working hard for you is a whole foods diet filled with nutrient-rich foods. Supplements cannot substitute for eating well.
There are specific nutrients that the immune system really likes, but getting these nutrients from food is better than supplements. Foods provide a mix of nutrients that work in concert to support immunity.
Some of the key nutrients include:
Remember, more isn’t better! Nutrients work together to keep us healthy. Overloading on one nutrient can lead to imbalances of others. And, excessive intake of zinc (especially from supplements) can lead to nausea and vomiting.
In addition to nutrients, probiotics found in yogurt and kefir, support a healthy gut, and colorful fruits and veggies are loaded with plant compounds that act as antioxidants, too.
Put all these nutrients together with these tasty meals ideas:
Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian, sports nutritionists, and nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University. She welcomes questions from swimmers, parents, and coaches at firstname.lastname@example.org.