Help Protect Your Immune System with Food
By Jemma Besson, RD CDE
Jemma Besson is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator who works for Shoppers Drug Mart®.
Cold and flu season has arrived. While food can’t cure the common cold or flu, it can definitely help boost your immune system so that you can fight it faster, and even reduce the symptoms. Here are my top 5 tips to keep your immune system working at its best.
- Make sure to include a good source of protein at each meal and snack. Protein is an essential part of the body’s defense mechanism as it makes up the building blocks for antibodies you need to fight infections. A quick high protein breakfast is overnight oats. Simply cover 1 cup rolled oats with milk, stir in 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt and ½ cup of berries. Sweeten with 1 tsp of honey and top with ¼ cup and voila! Place in the fridge and breakfast will be ready when you wake up.
- New research is uncovering the important role that Vitamin D plays in immune function. In Canada during the winter months we cannot get enough vitamin D from sunlight. Most people would benefit from taking a supplement as it is difficult to get enough from diet alone. Foods rich in vitamin D include fatty fish like salmon, egg yolks, milk and fortified beverages. Talk to your Doctor or Dietitian before starting a supplement.
- Probiotics promote a healthy digestive tract and boost immunity. They allow the immune system to fully recover and fight infections. To fight colds, the dose needs to be about 10 billion active probiotic cultures per day. This amount can be found in some yogurt with added probiotics. Make sure to read the label. You can also find probiotics in capsule format. Your Dietitian can help you find the product that is right for you.
- Sweet potato and butternut squash are packed with beta-carotene (that we convert to vitamin A in our body). Vitamin A is essential in maintaining healthy skin – which is our first line of defense from viruses like the cold and flu. Try baking sweet potatoes “fries” with olive oil, rosemary and a dash of sea salt, yum!
- Another nutrient essential for building a strong immune system is Vitamin E. Sources of vitamin E include almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and avocado. Make your own flu busting trail mix to sprinkle on your fruit and yogurt snack.
If you would like support from a Registered Dietitian to help create an optimal diet that is just right for you, Dietitian services are available through Shoppers Drug Mart. Visit www.shoppersdrugmart.ca/dietitians and schedule a free 15-minute call to learn more.
The information provided is for personal use, reference and education only and is not intended to be a substitute for a Physician’s advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult your healthcare professional for specific information on personal health matters. Please note: Dietitian services are currently only available in Ontario. Please contact your store to learn more. ®/TM 911979 Alberta Ltd. ©2020 Shoppers Drug Mart Inc