5 key nutrients to feed your immune systems this sick season

5 Key Nutrients to Feed Your Immune System This Sick Season

While many of us would like a list of immune-boosting foods, the key to fending off illness is to keep your body adequately nourished with plenty of water, rest, physical activity, and a balanced diet. That said, some key nutrients help your immune system do its best.

Vitamin C

You may have taken vitamin C supplements when fighting a cold, and vitamin C does help with the production of white blood cells. But you can get the vitamin C you need with oranges and other citrus fruits, red bell peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, and kale. Depending on age, gender, and life stage, adult vitamin C needs can be from 75-90 mg/day.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and bone health, but it also plays a role in immunity. It can be challenging in the winter to get adequate vitamin D from sun exposure, so consuming fortified foods is helpful. Milk and milk alternatives are good sources of vitamin D, however, supplements may also be necessary. Depending on age, gender, and life stage, adult vitamin D needs can be 600-800 IUs/day.


Have you ever taken Zicam when you start feeling cold symptoms? The main active ingredient in Zicam is a form of zinc. Find zinc in sources like lentils, oatmeal, sunflower seeds, and mixed nuts. Depending on age, gender, and life stage, adult zinc needs can be from 8-13 mg/day.


Iron Anemia can inhibit the immune system’s ability to do its job, so be sure you are getting plenty of iron-rich foods in your diet. Pair them with foods rich in vitamin C for optimal absorption. Lentils have 6.6 mg of iron per cup of cooked lentils. Legumes, in general, are good sources of iron. Depending on age, gender, and life stage, adult iron needs can be from 8-27 mg/day.

Prebiotics and Probiotics

Your gut microbiome plays an crucial role in your immunity, so prebiotic and probiotic foods are helpful when it comes to fostering immunity. Yogurt and kefir are well-known probiotic foods, and some prebiotic-containing foods include legumes (beans, peas, lentils), cabbage, some of the garlic and onion family, bananas, and yams.

In addition to getting enough of certain nutrients, there are other things to avoid for optimal immune function. Refined sugar and alcohol both have a negative impact on the gut microbiome, so limiting both of these helps with your body’s immune function.

A person can’t neglect good eating, sleeping, and stress management habits and expect to rally their immune system with a supplement or “superfood.” However, meeting those needs for certain key nutrients is one way to help your immune system stay strong during the winter months and beyond.

To read more about micronutrients, visit https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/micronutrient-malnutrition/index.html

Another issue people face during winter is Seasonal Depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder. See what our Behavioral Health specialists have to say about S.A.D:


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