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Using nutrition to build up your immune system

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To keep yourself safe from COVID-19, you have been washing your hands, keeping six feet away from people, and sneezing into your elbow. What else can you do? How about eating healthier to strengthen your immune system? Having a strong immunity system can help fight off many illnesses, including COVID-19. Seventy percent of the immune system is located in our gut, which is why nutrition is so important in providing the extra protection our bodies need.

The first thing to remember is to eat when you are hungry – and not because you are stressed or emotional, when we may reach for foods that are high in sugar or fat. These foods weaken our immunity systems and decrease our spirits. When hunger strikes, reach for a wide variety of foods that are packed with nutrients.
 
Fruits and vegetables – at least five servings a day. If fresh is not available, select frozen or canned without heavy syrup or added salt. Fruits and vegetables may be eaten raw or cooked. Soups and casseroles are a great way to eat vegetables.
 
Whole grains – at least three servings a day. Choose foods made from whole wheat, oats, corn, brown rice, quinoa and barley. Examples are whole wheat bread, oatmeal, corn tortillas and barley soup.
 
Pre- and probiotic foods – two servings a day. For best results, eat them together. Foods with natural probiotics are yogurts with live active cultures, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, sour pickles and kombucha. Prebiotics are found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Try bananas with yogurt or stir-fried asparagus with tempeh or chicken.
 
Herbs and spices – daily, for their anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties. The ones that top the list are garlic, onion, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and dried spice mixes. Hot teas are one way to add herbs and spices to your diet. 
 
Legumes (dried beans, peas and lentils) – at least three servings a week. A serving is half a cup. Keep canned legumes on hand for quick meals such as adding chickpeas or black beans to salads. To reduce sodium, rinse the legumes in cool water.
 
Healthy fats – three servings a day. Examples are one-fourth cup nuts or seeds, one-fourth of an avocado, two tablespoons peanut butter or one tablespoon olive oil. Nuts and seeds make great snacks and avocados can be substituted for mayonnaise.
 
Lean proteins – six ounces a day (either animal or plant-based). Good protein sources are eggs, dairy, legumes, nuts, seeds, lean beef (no more than twice a week), chicken and seafood.

For more information on how to strengthen your immune system with good nutrition, call Goshen Hospital Nutrition Therapy at (574) 364-2679. Nutrition Therapy works with patients across a range of dietary needs including weight management, diabetes, prediabetes, fatty liver disease/NASH, celiac disease and other disorders of the stomach and intestine, heart and vascular conditions, food allergies and eating disorders.

Are you a new or existing patient?