Oranges, squash, and mushrooms are foods you will probably never find together on a plate, but they all have one thing in common: they boost your immune system.
Foods contain key nutrients that help ensure immune health, Rachel Kopec, assistant professor of human nutrition at Ohio State, says. These include vitamins A, D, C and E, which contribute to fighting disease – something that’s especially important during the cold and common cold, as well as the current pandemic.
When it comes to immune system surgery, Kopec says vitamins A and D are very important.
“That’s very important in helping your immune system function properly in identifying and maturing the types of worker cells circulating in your body to identify foreign pathogens,” Kopec said.
Foods that are nutrient dense in vitamins A and D include citrus vegetables, green leafy vegetables and fortified milk, which are loaded with vitamins and minerals, Kopec said. He added, mushrooms and other mushrooms are also rich in vitamin D.
Kopec says there are other ways in which people can get vitamin D outside of food. She said sunlight is a great source, especially for those who don’t eat dairy products or follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.
“Even though we are starting to move towards winter, you can get enough vitamin D every day with 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure,” Kopec said. “We don’t recommend more than that because it raises, of course, concerns about skin damage.”
Vitamins C and E, on the other hand, work together to help the body attack invading pathogens and prevent them from multiplying, he said.
Green and red peppers, strawberries and citrus fruits – such as oranges and grapefruits – are all rich in vitamin C, while vitamin E is found in vegetable oils used for cooking as well as nuts and seeds, Kopec said.
Something that Kopec says he’s promoting and his research is getting nutrition from food sources, because it’s not just the amount you consume, but how well your body absorbs its shape.
“When you get these nutrients from food sources, they are often packaged in a way that is easier to transport or absorb than if you get them in refined or crystallized form from supplements,” Kopec says.
Janele Bayless, health coordinator for nutrition education at Ohio State, says more than just the right diet can help your body’s immune response.
Bayless says hydration is also key because dehydration can cause headaches, affect cognitive performance and contribute to energy loss – all of the things that can overwhelm the body and negatively impact a person’s immune system.
Bayless says that exercising and taking care of your mental health are also key to a healthy lifestyle and resources through the fitness center and at RPAC can help students do that.
Rachel Green, a human nutrition dietitian at the College of Education and Human Ecology, says she recommends drinking eight to 10 glasses of water a day and sleeping seven to eight hours a night.
“The basics for supporting your health are also the basics for supporting your immune health,” says Green.
However, regarding COVID-19, simply eating these foods will not prevent you from contracting infectious diseases, but rather help your body fend off them, Kopec said.
“All of these [nutrients] it is very important to have as a barrier that you put on beforehand to help your body fend off or ward off potential infections, ”says Kopec.