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These Immune-Boosting Foods Can Help Fight Off Infectious Diseases During The Winter

Since we were kids, many of us have been told “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” and while that saying might be a tad bit over exaggerated, what we eat, can help us visit the doctor less!

With winter slowly approaching this year, there are specific foods we should target when eating our meals during the day to help fight off infectious diseases such as colds, the flu and you know, Covid-19.

“What we eat is very important in terms of how our immune system responds to pathogens and how well it can defend itself against a pathogen,” said Dr. Simin Meydani, senior scientist and leader of the nutritional immunology team at Tufts University’s Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging.

Dr. Simin Meydani

Think of the rainbow when you eat. Include red, yellow, orange, blue and green fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains, lean protein and of course a smidge of healthy oils.

Buddha bowl dish with chicken fillet, brown rice, pepper, tomato, broccoli, onion, chickpea, fresh lettuce salad, cashew and walnuts. Healthy balanced eating. Top view. White background

If you’re picturing the healthy eating plate or the food pyramid right about now, then you’re right on track! I’m sure you’ve seen those images a hundred times already.

Vitamin C, D, B complex, zinc and selenium are critical when it comes to helping the body’s defenses, so don’t forget to add those when including these micronutrients in your meals.

If you’re looking for a specific meal plan, you can follow the Mediterranean diet or the DASH diet (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) which are both excellent healthy lifestyles when choosing which foods to eat.

Besides, eating a wide variety of colorful foods is also the basis of the Mediterranean diet, so if you already eat more than a handful of colorful foods each day, you’ve got the basics down.

Both diets also exclude processed foods while focusing on fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Eating an abundance of fruits and veggies can also control the body’s inflammatory response to bacteria and viruses.

“A certain amount of inflammatory response is needed to get rid of the pathogens and to help the the body’s immune system perform its function,” Meydani said

Dr. Simin Meydani

All in all, absolutely no one has the perfect eating lifestyle when choosing what to eat or what not to eat. We all crave chocolate bars and potato chips on stressful days, when there’s nothing to cook after work or simply because we may want something sweet after family dinner.

Christmas table scene of assorted sweets and cookies. Top view over a rustic wood background. Holiday baking concept.

However, with that being said, here are a few main goals to achieve if you can!

  • Limit inflammatory foods like ice cream, cookies or pastries
  • Do choose foods such as leafy greens, tomatoes, fruits, nuts, fatty fish and olive oil
  • Lastly, have fun with your dishes! Eating healthy isn’t boring, plus, it’s more sunshine included on your plate!