Your immune system is like your invisible battle gear. It doesn’t make sense to go to war with gaps in your armor. There are many nutrients that fill the gaps to help keep your immune system active:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- B Vitamins
Your skin is the first line of defense against invaders. It makes sense to give your skin everything it needs to be an effective gatekeeper. Beta-carotene is what makes fruits and vegetables, such as apricots and sweet potatoes, orange and yellow. In the body, beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A. Vitamin A helps skin and other tissues in your body grow and repair at faster rates. Not only will you have a strong barrier against infections, you will look good doing it too! Vitamin A also helps to form white blood cells that have important jobs in your immune system and keep you healthy.
When it comes to Vitamin C, the fresher the better. Just remember that raw equals resistant. Cooking foods for too long or too hot can damage those important nutrients your body needs to stay healthy and fight bad bacteria. Vitamin C protects you from infection by promoting the formation of antibodies. An antibody is a protein the immune system makes when it detects harmful substances. Each antibody is unique and defends the body against different invaders. Who knew that strawberries could pack such a punch?
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects your body against the damaging effects of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules in the body that can cause cancer. Antioxidants work by binding with those dangerous molecules to make them much less harmful. You can get vitamin E from foods such as spinach, peanut butter, and fortified cereals.
Most colds are caused by the rhinovirus. This type of virus likes to invade the throat and nose. Zinc is an important mineral that is needed to prevent those viruses from sticking in the mucous of the nose and throat. Zinc’s main job is to help the immune system stay active and heal wounds. It can be found in whole grain products, beans and even nuts. Zinc is primarily found in animal products such as milk, lean red meat, seafood, and chicken or turkey. This nutrient is important before you are ill and is even more important once you become sick. Zinc may prevent the virus from multiplying. This means that you will spend fewer days in bed feeling miserable!
Probiotics are beneficial supplements that help with building and maintaining a strong immune system. They are thought of as good bacteria that support intestinal or gut health and help fight off bad bacteria. A healthy gut means a healthy you, considering that almost 70% of the immune system is in the gut!
Campus Tips: Eat the RAINBOW! You can do this by eating many colors of fruits and vegetables that contain important vitamins and minerals your body needs to function at its best. Load up on fresh, raw red and green bell peppers at the salad bar. There are more foods than just citrus fruits that contain vitamin C. So, don’t be fearful of branching out! Try some Brussels sprouts, broccoli, or other dark leafy greens such as kale. Not only do these foods help boost your immunity, they help boost your fiber intake too! Try some other foods that are known to have natural anti-bacterial properties such as ginger, garlic, coconut oil, and raw honey. You can find most of these items at the Juice Bar located in the Student Union Building here on campus.
Created by: Ashley Wilmeth TTU Graduate and Dietetic Intern
Hospitality Dietitian Mindy Diller, MS, RDN, LD firstname.lastname@example.org