Patricia Tremba, RD, LDN
The new year is always a time of setting goals and making resolutions. You can improve your overall immune health by implementing some healthy habits in 2021.
Stay hydrated: Drink 48-64 ounces of fluids daily. Limit caffeinated and carbonated beverages.
Get enough sleep: Most healthy adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Children and teens may need more to help with growth. Research shows that getting less than 5 hours sleep can place you at increased risk for a weakened immune system.
Exercise regularly: Working out can lower stress hormones, help maintain a healthy weight or move you towards your weight loss goals. Exercise increases blood flow which helps reduce inflammation in the body.
Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity can cause a chronic state of inflammation, increased chances of respiratory, heart and diabetic disease.
Drink alcohol in moderation: Binge drinking and excessive alcohol intake can weaken the immune system. The CDC defines binge drinking as 4 drinks in one sitting for women, 5 for men; excessive drinking as 8 drinks or more per week for women and 15 or more drinks per week for men.
Eat more fruits and vegetables: Aim for 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
Reduce stress: Stress triggers inflammation in the body, inflammation triggers a weaken immune system. Consider yoga, meditation and physical activity to reduce stress. Listening to music and journal writing are other ways to channel you energy.
Consider going more plant based in your diet: Whole plant foods like fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes are chock full of nutrients and antioxidants which can reduce inflammation. In addition, plant-based diets increase fiber in your diet which helps with gut health.
Our immune systems are super complicated, but we know that good balanced nutrition plays a role in healthy immune systems. No one food, vitamin or supplement is a magic bullet, but overall balanced nutrition intake, exercise and adequate sleep can help you build a stronger immune system. Get adequate protein to help with healing and recovery. Protein is found in lean meats, poultry, eggs, beans, soy products and nuts. Vitamin A intake can help protect against infections by helping cells regulate and communicate effectively with each other and can be found in foods like sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, cantaloupe and squash. Vitamin C can help the body stimulate antibody formation, Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits such as oranges, red bell peppers, grapefruit, pineapple, tomatoes and broccoli. Vitamin E may work as an antioxidant and can be found in nuts and fortified cereals. Zinc intake will help with the development and function of immune cells, Zinc can be found in a wide variety of animal and plant sources such as whole grains like oats, quinoa, brown rice, meats shellfish, poultry, legumes, some vegetables like mushrooms and asparagus.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (www.eatright.org)
Harvard Health (www.healthharvard.edu)
Cleveland Clinic (www.clevelandclinic.org)
Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.org)