A Dietitian’s 7 Go-To Immune System Boosters
Written by: Jenna Werner, RD
As a registered dietitian, nothing excites me more than sharing easy wellness solutions that can help you feel your best. Today, I am happy to be back with HumanN to share my favorite nutrition and lifestyle tips and tricks for keeping your immune system firing on all cylinders. When it comes to immune support many of us immediately think of oranges and vitamin C, and whereas they are for sure immune supportive, there are some other less familiar players I want to introduce to you that will give you and your immune system an extra boost and keep you feeling your best all year long.
First off, giving your immune system the support it needs and deserves DOESN’T have to be complicated. In this article, I’m going to highlight 7 of my favorite immune boosters (some might surprise you!), to make this upcoming sniffle season your strongest ever.
The post summer change of seasons and change of pace in general can set us up for challenges. I’m sure you’ve been there. Think about it, you go from spending all this time outside, maybe even slowing down and spending some alone time on a summer Friday, to hustle and bustle, holidays are coming, it’s cold, let's stay indoors close to one another and boom, a bug hits!
To be proactive during the colder months, add in these 7 not-so-little immune helpers that can support you all year long – and remember: always wash your hands!
A good night’s sleep does more than just refresh you. Sleep provides essential support for your immune system and research shows adequate sleep can actually improve your immune cells1. I generally recommend my clients aim for a minimum of 7 hours of sleep consistently. I love to encourage clients to implement a nighttime routine, something simple does the trick, to help wind down and signal to our bodies it is time to recharge.
Probiotics, the beneficial bacteria found in yogurt and other fermented foods, are known to strengthen the immune system and protect against infections2. I recommend choosing a probiotic rich yogurt that also will provide multiple other vitamins and minerals that support immune function. Examples include riboflavin, zinc, and magnesium, to name a few! Not a fan of yogurt? No worries. Other foods that pack a probiotic punch include kefir, kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut.
They're rich in beta-carotene which has powerful antioxidant properties. Antioxidants fight free radicals to keep oxidative stress down, aka they support your overall health including your immune health. Other good sources are dark green vegetables, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and winter squash.
Over time, stress can impact your body’s ability to fight infections and thus weaken your immune system. Long term, unmanaged stress can also add inflammation to the body which also impacts your immune system. Making it a priority to manage stress is a major key to improving your health. Practicing deep breathing in stressful situations is one way to manage stressors in the immediate response. Practicing yoga, engaging in gentle movement, adding in meditation, journaling, reading or even shutting down screen time for a short time during the day can help with overall stress management.
A surprising Vitamin C-rich food and such a versatile option. Tomatoes boost the body's natural defense system in the same way their citrusy friends do and also provide vitamin A and lycopene. Add diced tomatoes to a pasta or rice dish, toss into a hearty soup or stew, chop fresh tomatoes into salads, or munch them as a snack to support your immune system in a delicious way.
These nutrient powerhouses are small but mighty and are a must-have when it comes to boosting your immune response. One of their many nutritious benefits is their ability to provide you with a substantial serving of zinc. Since zinc is not stored in our body, it is imperative that regular dietary intake of the mineral is achieved. Zinc plays a role in maintaining the health of your immune system and even a slight zinc deficiency can compromise the immune response. Add those seeds to your oatmeal, salads and trail mixes today!
Dehydration overall can make you more susceptible to sickness. So it’s easy to see why staying hydrated is good for your overall health! Prevention of dehydration is one of the easiest things you can do for your health, truly! Think about it, we can’t control much, but we really can control our ability to bring a water bottle with us and drink. Staying hydrated should be considered a preventative health benefit. Sip throughout the day, every day.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being a Dietitian, it’s THIS, a diet and lifestyle rich in variety is the key to health. This means a variety of color, food groups, nutrients and activity, while getting adequate sleep and managing stress. This winter season, try implementing these tips and share them with the people you care about so you can enjoy the fun this season brings – all while being your healthiest and happiest self!