Strengthen your defenses | health beat

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes nutrient-dense foods that are essential for building a strong immune system. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

If you want to do all you can to boost your immune system this winter, think about diet and lifestyle first.

The best defense against threatening viruses like colds and flu is to eat well, exercise and get enough sleep, said Kristi Veltkamp, ​​RDNRegistered Dietitian from Spectrum Health.

In some cases, you might consider taking supplements, but you should talk to your doctor first.

“I think it’s not necessarily something that’s going to be that magic pill,” Veltkamp said. “It really has a lot to do with your general lifestyle.”

Certain vitamins help boost or maintain the immune system, Veltkamp said.

Vitamin D, for example, is a good immune system booster, although it’s hard to get enough from food alone. It can also be difficult to get it in the winter in Michigan, because the best source of vitamin D is the sun.

Expose the arms, hands and face to the sun about 15 to 30 minutes at least three times a week is usually enough for most people.

Zinc also helps the immune system. It is usually available in protein foods such as meats, seafood, chicken, and beans. It is also in milk, cheese and some nuts.

Another important nutrient is vitamin C, which is relatively easy to get from food. The recommended amount is 75 to 120 milligrams per day.

Bell peppers, citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli and sweet potatoes are all good sources. As a general rule, you should eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day to get enough vitamin C.

The right amount

A vitamin deficiency can be a problem.

Low levels of vitamin D can increase the risk of catching a cold, while a zinc deficiency can increase the risk of more serious flu. A lack of vitamin C could increase the risk of a cold or the flu.

Your GP can help you determine if you have any vitamin deficiencies.

Ultimately, you should try to get what you need through a healthy diet before looking for supplements. You get many nutrients from food, but usually only one vitamin from a supplement, Veltkamp said.

“Individuals don’t need supplements unless they have low amounts in their bodies,” Veltkamp said.

Keep in mind that there are dangers associated with the misuse of vitamins and supplements.

High doses of vitamin D can increase the risk of bone fractures and cause respiratory infections. Too much zinc can cause low copperas well as the decrease in the effectiveness of antibiotics.

“In these cases, more isn’t necessarily better,” Veltkamp said. “Adequate is good.”

food first

If you’re looking for a meal plan that ensures you get the right amount of vitamins and nutrients, look no further than the mediterranean diet.

The foods on this diet are rich in vitamins that boost the immune system, as well as nutrients that fight inflammation and increase antioxidants.

Turmeric and garlic, two components of the Mediterranean diet, can reduce the risk of colds.

Quercetin, a virus-fighting antioxidant, is found in onions, tomatoes, olives and beans, all recommended items in the Mediterranean diet.

Omega-3 fatty acids, which helps with brain and heart functionare found in fish and chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts, among other foods in the Mediterranean diet.

In addition to eating well, you should avoid foods high in sugar and white flour, Veltkamp said. Sugary treats, carbonated drinks, and fried foods can weaken the immune system, causing inflammation and more severe colds.

In addition to eating a healthy diet, you can boost your immune system by getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing stress.

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