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How To Build Your Body's Natural Defenses With Food

There’s no better time than now to use food to build your body’s natural defenses to boost and help protect your immune system. A healthy immune system helps your body fight illness.

Merriam-Webster defines nutrition as the act or process of nourishing or being nourished. Nourishment focuses on using many nutrients from a variety of foods to give you what you need to be healthy.

So, make sure your kitchen is stocked with an assortment of foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean meats, seafood, dairy, eggs and plant-based proteins, such as nuts and beans.

Nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, beta carotene and the two p’s, probiotics and protein, are a few of the essential building blocks that can help keep you healthy.

Most people think of oranges or orange juice when vitamin C is mentioned. There are more foods like bell peppers, melons, broccoli, citrus fruits and tomatoes that are loaded with vitamin C.

Get some sunlight, and your body will make vitamin D! Did you know that vitamin D also is found in fatty fish like sardines and tuna? Eggs, milk and juice fortified with vitamin D are also excellent sources.

Have you ever been told to eat more plant-based foods? Beta carotene is an antioxidant that fights free radicals. Eat more plant-based foods like spinach, carrots, tomatoes and sweet potatoes to increase your intake of beta carotene.

Our body cannot naturally produce or store zinc. Zinc is used in the body in many ways, including immune function, enzyme function, and cell growth and division. Zinc is found in various animal and plant foods, such as lean beef, seafood, nuts, beans and tofu. Did you know zinc is a key nutrient for healing wounds? It is added to some cold treatments, throat lozenges and nasal sprays.

And the two p’s, probiotics and protein, support a healthy immune system.

Nutrition is a critical component of building your body’s natural defenses, but it’s not the only piece of the puzzle. Getting enough sleep, managing stress, being physically active and finding balance between work and relaxation are other ways to build your immune system.

Here are a few more tips:

  • Stay hydrated. Getting enough water helps improve your energy level and rids the body of toxins. Check out these tips on our blog to learn How to Get More Water in Your Diet.

  • Eat more healthy fats, such as olive oil and avocados, and limit added sugars.

  • Eat oranges instead of drinking juice to increase your fiber intake. If you do drink orange juice, make sure it is 100 percent juice.

  • Eat orange, red, or yellow-colored fruits and vegetables. These foods have high amounts of beta carotene in them.

  • Eat lima beans, green peas and other beans as a source of protein.

Remember, taking steps to eat healthier may strengthen your immune system, but it does not mean you can prevent illness.

Want to learn more about nutrition and health? Join the MSU Extension Nutrition and Health Facebook group for more tips and information.

Learn more about nutrients and how they keep us healthy on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website.

Check out these 10 Tips to Add More Vegetables to Your Day on the Choose My Plate website.

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