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You probably already know that foods nourish the body and help support a healthy immune system. But which foods should be at the top of your list during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Eat Vitamin C-Rich Citrus for Immunity

Vitamin C helps your immune system function properly to protect your body against diseases. It also acts as an antioxidant by protecting cells from the effects of free radicals. Vitamin C is required to make collagen, which is needed to help wounds heal. Overall, vitamin C plays a vital role in your immunity. Because your body does not produce or store vitamin C, it is an essential nutrient to get from your diet.

Foods for a healthy immune system that are rich in vitamin C include:

  • Citrus fruits (grapefruit, oranges)
  • Kiwifruit
  • Strawberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Bell peppers
  • Cauliflower
  • Tomatoes
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Broccoli

Vitamin C content is reduced in foods that are heated or stored for a long period of time, however the best sources of vitamin are fresh fruits and vegetables that can be eaten raw.

The recommended amount of vitamin C is 90 milligrams per day for men and 75 milligrams for women, however people who smoke and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding have slightly higher requirements. Eating five servings of different fruits and vegetables is a good way to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin C every day.

If you’re looking for an immunity boost in your food, this strawberry pomegranate smoothie is high in vitamin C and can be made in just five minutes.

Red bell peppers

When it comes to protecting the immune system, most people think of citrus fruits because they tend to be high in vitamin C. A red bell pepper trumps oranges, grapefruit and lemons in terms of vitamin C content. Other vitamin C-rich options include strawberries, kiwi and broccoli.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes, particularly the ones with deep orange flesh, are very high in beta-carotene, a critical nutrient that the body converts to vitamin A. Vitamin A is critical to maintaining a healthy immune system.

Water

When it comes to staving off any type of cold or virus, maintaining adequate hydration is key. In fact, getting sufficient fluids is even more important than nourishment from food. The reason? Our bodies are made mostly of water. Plus, fluids help ensure that our kidneys and liver — the organs that eliminate toxins and foreign bodies — function appropriately.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are not only a good source of healthy fats and protein, but they also contain disease-fighting vitamin E. A few go-to options: almonds, mixed nuts and peanut butter.

Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt has the protein our bodies need for repair and rebuilding. It also provides probiotics, good bacteria that help promote a healthy GI tract, and it’s a great stand-in for sour cream. Just make sure to stick with plain. Flavored yogurts and yogurt drinks can contain more sugar than a serving of ice cream.

Boost Zinc Levels with Oysters and Shellfish

Zinc is a mineral that plays an important role in how your body and immune system functions. It helps the immune system fight against infectious bacteria and viruses. Zinc also plays a vital role in wound healing, helps the body make protein and DNA, and is necessary in order for our bodies to grow and develop properly.

The Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) for zinc is 8 grams per day for women and 11 grams per day for men. Zinc is found abundantly in food and most healthy people can get adequate amounts of zinc through their diet rather than supplementation.

The best dietary source of zinc is oysters. In fact, six medium oysters provide 33 milligrams of zinc, which is over 300% of the RDA for zinc. Other shellfish are also good sources of zinc, as are meat, poultry, legumes, and some nuts and seeds.

Food sources of zinc include:

  • Shellfish (oysters, lobster, crab, shrimp, mussels)
  • Meat and poultry (beef, pork, chicken)
  • Legumes (lentils, beans, chickpeas)
  • Dairy
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Oatmeal
  • Cashews

This delicious recipe for mussels in garlic-white wine broth is a great way to boost your zinc intake for the day.

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