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By Rebecca Fending
With the COVID-19 pandemic still at large with the new Delta variant, boosting your immune system has never been more important. And with flu season on the horizon, here are four ways you can help keep your immune system healthy.
Natural Immune System Boosters
A great way to keep your immune system in check without having to think about it is through a diet chockfull of vibrant fresh fruits and vegetables. Below is a list of several foods that can help strengthen your immunity year-round.
- Citrus: It’s not news that citrus is highly in vitamin C, one of the most necessary vitamins in order to keep your immunity high. However, it’s always worth mentioning. Vitamin C increases the production of white blood cells to help your body combat free radicals, including viruses. Citrus fruits include orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, clementine and tangerine.
- Spinach: Love it or hate it, this leafy green is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals to keep your immune system happy and fed. Packed with vitamin C, potassium and phytonutrients (anti-inflammatory compounds to keep infection from forming or increasing), spinach is best when consumed raw so as to not boil or sauté out any of these wonderful nutrients.
- Bell peppers: Tasty any time of year, but especially now, bell peppers offer high amounts of vitamin C, A and carotenoids, all great for your immune system. Believe it or not, red bell peppers hold the highest amount of vitamin C per ounce – more than any citrus fruit!
- Seeds and Nuts: Vitamin C isn’t the only immune-supporting vitamin – vitamin E also helps support immunity by helping to strengthen cell membranes, discouraging viruses from penetrating your cells. Nuts highest in vitamin E are sunflower seeds, almonds and hazelnuts.
We’ve talked plenty about ways to get your vitamin C in, if not in supplement form, so what other vitamins are necessary to your immune system’s function? You guessed it, vitamin B6. This vitamin is crucial for supporting biochemical reactions in a functioning immune system. It produces both white blood cells and T cells, staving off infections from either bacteria or viruses. T cells specifically target foreign bodies, playing a key roll in what your specific immune system can ward off.
The recommended daily amount of B6 for male seniors is 1.7 milligrams, and for women, 1.5 milligrams. B6 can be found in foods like leafy greens and chickpeas, the main ingredient in hummus.
This mineral is an unsung hero when it comes to boosting your immune system. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant and fights off infection from bacteria, virus or parasites. This mineral can be found in seafood, other meats, cottage cheese and even mushrooms.
However, too much selenium can be dangerous. Be sure to track your intake and stay within your daily recommended value (55 micrograms for men and women).
A subtle but important way of boosting your immune system is by keeping hydrated. Our body needs water for regulatory functions, but also immunity. Water is carried through the body in order to flush out any toxins or waste, including damaged cells and free radicals that gather in the lymph nodes. Dehydration threatens our immunity if natural detoxification cannot take place.
Stay hydrated by drinking your recommended amount of water each day (8 glasses a day, for seniors) or by consuming fruits and veggies high in water content. This includes watermelon, cucumbers or lettuce, among many others.
Like anything, be sure to check with your doctor if you plan on taking supplements to help boost your immune system.