By Leyanee Perez, RD, LDN
A healthy immune system is your family’s best weapon to fight the common cold or the flu season, and our job is to keep you ready. Below is a list of six immune-boosting nutrients and the different foods they can be found in, recommended by Nicklaus Children’s Hospital’s #GiveMe5 program. Try mixing and matching different foods to ensure you receive the necessary nutrients to keep your immune system strong and healthy.
Top Six Immune-Boosting Nutrients
- Beta Carotene is an antioxidant that converts to vitamin A in your body. Vitamin A helps regulate the immune system and protects against infections by keeping skin and tissues healthy in the mouth, stomach, intestines and respiratory system. Vitamin A is found in plant 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 helps protect from infection by stimulating the formation of antibodies and boosting immunity. Foods rich in Vitamin C include citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit and tangerines, bell peppers, melons, papaya, berries, tomatoes, broccoli, or fortified cereals.
- Zinc helps the immune system work properly and promote wound healing. Zinc tends to be better absorbed from animal sources such as milk, seafood, poultry and lean meats but can also be found in whole grain products, wheat germ, beans, tofu, seeds and nuts.
- Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals and improves immune function. Foods rich in vitamin E include sunflower seeds, avocados, almonds, vegetable oils (such as sunflower or safflower oil), hazelnuts, peanut butter and fortified cereals.
- Probiotics are “good” bacteria that promote gut health. They can be found in cultured dairy products such as yogurt and in fermented foods such as kimchi.
- Protein plays a role in the body's immune system, especially in healing and recovery. Protein comes from both animal and plant-based sources, such as milk, yogurt, eggs, beef, poultry, seafood, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils.
Nutrition is always important, especially in stressful times because stress can weaken our immune system. While we all have an inborn ability to withstand a reasonable amount of stress, let’s commit to making better food choices together because they have profound impacts on our health.
Get Movin' with #GiveMe5
In addition to adopting healthier eating habits, it's important to get moving! We invite you and your family to join our Healthy Kids Challenge by downloading the Walker Tracker app on your tablet or smartphone. The more steps you take, the more chances you have to win an Apple Watch or a Whole Foods gift card!
There are many benefits to eating well, from disease prevention to overall health and wellness. That’s why Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Foundation have partnered with Kohl’s Cares on a program called #GiveMe5 to encourage children and families throughout the community to stay active and eat their five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Our partnership brings healthy eating tips and recipes to kids in local schools and to families at various community events throughout the year. For more information, please visit our #GiveMe5 page.
About Leyanee Perez
Leyanee Perez is a Registered / Licensed Dietitian specializing in Community Programs and Health Communications who has worked with Nicklaus Children's Health System since 2018. She has impacted the lives of many children and families throughout Miami-Dade County through the nutrition outreach program called #GiveMe5, a partnership between Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Foundation and Kohl’s Cares. She works in collaboration with government agencies, faith-based organizations and schools to host a farmer’s market and deliver educational workshops focused on the importance of eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day.