While there is no magic food or supplement that will completely protect us from contracting Covid-19 or any other illness, there are steps that can be taken to strengthen our immune system.
After all, it is our immune system that fights disease. My inspiration for this article came from an Orange Julius style smoothie recipe that contains many immune boosting ingredients. The recipe turned out to be so delicious that my kids have asked for it for 10 days straight!
There are so many functional foods touted for their immune boosting properties including: blueberries, cherries, kale, garlic, turmeric, walnuts, green tea, ginger, salmon, as well as avocados. The list does go on! In this article, I would like to highlight some of the key nutrients in the smoothie I mentioned: Vitamin C, Omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics.
Foods high in vitamin C may reduce the duration of the common cold by increasing the production of white blood cells. White blood cells help to fight infection. Vitamin C is one of many antioxidants that can help stop free radicals from damaging cells contributing to heart disease, cancer and other ailments.
Citrus fruit is the most obvious choice for a healthy dose of vitamin C, but there are many other fruits and vegetables that are also great sources of this antioxidant-rich vitamin. Red bell peppers, kiwi, broccoli, strawberries and spinach are other great ways to boost intake of vitamin C. Vitamin C is water soluble and not stored in the body. The risk of side effects is low.
The recommended daily amount for vitamin C is 65-90 mg per day. The upper limit is 2000 mg per day.
We have all heard Omega-3 helps reduce the risk of heart disease. Moreover, did you know it can decrease inflammation in other parts of the body as well? As an athlete, I make sure to include a dose of Omega-3 every day as a way to preserve my joint health. New research shows it may play a role in arthritis and many other autoimmune diseases.
Salmon and other fatty fish are at the top of the list for best sources of Omega-3 in the form of EPA & DHA, but some plants contain Omega-3 in the form of ALA. It can be found in oils, nuts, seeds and soybeans. My favorite plant sources are: chia seeds, ground flax seed and hemp seeds. There is always a healthy dose of Omega-3 in my oatmeal or smoothie each morning!
An effective amount of Omega-3 ranges from 200-4000 mg per day.
The final food category I’d like to highlight is probiotic. These foods include yogurt (look for “live and active cultures”), kefir, kombucha, aged cheeses, miso and tempeh. Probiotics contain good bacteria that help maintain a healthy digestive system. They can help ease symptoms of gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation.
Probiotics also play a large role in the immune system because as much as 70% of the cells that make up our immune systems are housed in our gut. One thing to remember about probiotics is that they need prebiotic fibers to exist. They feed on prebiotic foods that are found mainly in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Probiotics and prebiotics have a symbiotic relationship and they work together to improve not only digestive health, but our overall health.
A healthy quantity of probiotics is 1 to 20 billion CFUs each day.
Clearly, it is important to vary our diets making sure all food groups are consumed in order to ensure to ingest the proper nutrients needed to strengthen the immune system. It is also important to remember that vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are best absorbed from food rather than supplements - plus, that way the flavors and textures are enjoyed too! Here is a VERY tasty Orange Julius Style Smoothie Recipe that contains oranges for vitamin C, flaxseed for an Omega-3 boost, as well as yogurt for a daily probiotic dose. Enjoy and stay well!
Branda Anderson RD, CSSD, LD, ACE Certified Personal Trainer, RRCA Certified Running Coach has a dual degree in Food, Nutrition and Dietetics as well as Exercise Science. She enjoys spending time with her husband Justin and her two sons, Jaden and Miles. Branda keeps active by running, playing softball, golfing, lifting weights and doing yoga. Her exercise philosophy is: "Commit to your exercise program by treating each workout as an unbreakable appointment."
Contact Branda Anderson at (507) 287-9335 ext. 344.
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