Keeping Your Immune System Strong

Hello Friends! As I reviewed resources to share with you on the Covid-19, I am sending this along from the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to help get you and your family through this healthily.

Good nutrition is essential to a strong immune system, which may offer protection from seasonal illness and other health problems. No one food or supplement can prevent illness but you may help support your immune system by including these nutrients in your overall eating plan on a regular basis.

Protein plays a role in the body’s immune system, especially for healing and recovery. Eat a variety of protein foods including seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products and unsalted nuts and seeds. Vitamin A helps regulate the immune system and protect against infections by keeping skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines and respiratory system healthy. Get this vitamin from foods such as sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach, red bell peppers, apricots, eggs or foods labeled “vitamin A fortified,” such as milk or some cereals.

Vitamin C supports the immune system by stimulating the formation of antibodies. Include more sources of this healthy vitamin by choosing citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit and tangerines, or red bell pepper, papaya, strawberries, tomato juice or foods fortified with vitamin C, such as some cereals.

Vitamin E works as an antioxidant and may support immune function. Include vitamin E in your diet with fortified cereals, sunflower seeds, almonds, vegetable oils (such as sunflower or safflower oil), hazelnuts and peanut butter Zinc helps the immune system work properly and may help wounds heal. Zinc can be found in lean meat, poultry, seafood, milk, whole grain products, beans, seeds and nuts.

Other Nutrients, including vitamin B6, B12, copper, folate, selenium and iron also may support immune response and play a role in a healthful eating style.

Unplug and Connect

Use some time to unplug and connect: Children spend on average almost 7.5 hours each day with media while many adults spend 11 hours a day with media. Use this social isolating period to spend time as a family playing board games, making arts and crafts or maybe reading a book that you had set aside in busier times.

Family Meals

Use this extra “at home” time to gather around the table to eat as a family. Family meals don’t just mean better nutrition. Children of families who regularly eat together also are more likely to have higher intakes of fruits and vegetables and have a healthy weight and are less likely to have behavior problems or use drugs, cigarettes or alcohol when they get older. Plus, they’re closer to their parents. Keep meals simple and make extra so you can reheat leftovers later in the week for a quick family meal. Ingredients you can use for more than one meal can be a major time saver. Instead of making just three chicken breasts, consider making six. This way, you can use the extras in other dishes such as chicken salad or fajitas. Make a pot of soup or chili together and freeze some for a later date.

Get the Kids Cooking

Make sure that they practice good hand washing with soapy water for at least 20 seconds and use disposable paper towel to dry. Make family meals even more fun by letting your child choose nightly themes and menus. Allow them to help prep the vegetables and teach them to eat the colors of the rainbow.

Staying Active

Encouraging physical activity can keep spirits up and bodies healthy. Children and teenagers need 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day, or most days – this can accumulate with shorter chunks throughout the day or all at once.
Here are some ideas for keeping the family active:

  • If you have a yard, spend time outdoors by playing tag, soccer, or throwing a football or Frisbee.
  • Go for a family bike ride or take a walk together and don’t forget the family dog!
  • While indoors, play interactive video games that require physical activity such as tennis, bowling or baseball.
  • Play some music and have a family dance party.
  • Encourage your children to participate in active outdoor chores like helping pull weeds, planting and watering plants, sweeping the walks or cleaning the garage.

This is also a time to check on neighbors who might be unable to get groceries. A phone call to see if you could drop off a meal on their doorstep or just make sure they are ok would be what anyone would appreciate! This month’s motto at my workplace has been “wash your hands frequently, be kind and repeat”.

My hope for you and your family now and always is to be well!

Sherry Jenko, NDTR, Group Lifestyle Balance Coach