Natural Support for Your Immune System
By Elizabeth Leppart, MS, LN
October 5, 2021
Every year come fall, the weather gets cooler, we spend more time inside, our kids bring home new germs from school, and we inevitably find our immune systems needing a bit more attention.
You may be wondering what are some ways that you can boost your immunity to combat cold and flu season this year. In this article, we’ll cover what foods to eat to support your immune system, what foods to skip that are detrimental, and what high quality supplements you might want to include in your real food plan.
Foods to Boost Your Immune System
At Nutritional Weight & Wellness, we always focus on food first. This means we believe that the best way to support your immune system is by eating a variety of real, whole foods full of natural immune-supportive nutrients. Think of colorful fruits and vegetables full of protective phytonutrients. Good quality animal proteins are made up of immune-boosting amino acids. And healthy fats contain a variety of antioxidants. All of these help to support our immune system by fighting off harmful invaders.
The beauty about eating the Weight & Wellness Way is that it focuses on all three of those components to make up meals and snacks: colorful fruits and veggies, quality proteins, and healthy fats. With this template in mind, you are creating immune-building foods at every meal, throughout your day!
Especially during cold and flu season (which happens to be fall and winter season), we are lovers of soups and stews. One pot meals are easy dishes that have your veggie carbs, protein, and fat all combined into one! Here are a few of our favorite immune-building recipes:
- Spicy Coconut Stew – this also includes garlic, which is a great nutrient for immune health. Its sulfuric compounds are antibacterial and anti-inflammatory to fight viruses.
- Bone-Building Chicken Wild Rice Soup – the bone broth in this recipe helps heal the gut, which strengthens your immune system. Plus good ol’ chicken soup is just good for the heart and the comfort.
- Pumpkin and Root Vegetable Soup- this recipe is packed with immune-boosting nutrients like vitamin C from the bell peppers and vitamin A from orange and yellow root vegetables. Just pair with your favorite protein and you have a balanced meal.
Foods that Weaken Your Immune System
On the flip side, the most harmful food group for your immunity is sugar! This not only includes the obvious culprits like candy and baked goods, but any refined, processed carbohydrate like crackers, chips, and pasta. In fact, eating a serving of sugar or a meal full of highly refined carbohydrates can suppress your white blood cells (your invader-fighting cells most important for immunity) for several hours!
One way to help yourself cut out some of those processed foods is to find substitutions that you can enjoy instead. Does the family love pasta night for dinner? Try making zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash “pasta”. Find a healthier pumpkin muffin recipe that contains protein, fat, and a natural sweetener that won’t spike your blood sugar and weaken your immune system. Really craving a pumpkin spice latte? We got you covered with this pumpkin spice coffee recipe that is just as delicious but doesn’t compromise your health!
Vitamins & Minerals for a Strong Immune System
Now, don’t worry. There are ways to support your immune system if your diet falls short! In fact, even the best, real-food, nutrient-dense diets need some extra support now and then-- especially during cold and flu season when we’re bombarded with new germs to fight off. So, what do our nutrition experts recommend?
We’re going to dive into three essential immune-boosting nutrients and how to get them through our favorite foods and quality supplements.
You may have heard about the importance of Vitamin D3 during the ongoing COVID pandemic. Well, it’s something we at Nutritional Weight & Wellness have been advocating for years! There’s an increasingly-supported correlation to your level of vitamin D and your immune system's ability to fight off invaders. The natural way to make vitamin D is from the sun and we have a great article on how much D3 you actually get from the sun that’s worth a read.
We recommend getting your level checked at least once annually to make sure you are in a good range (around 50-80nmol/l), particularly in the early spring to see how you fared over the winter months with less sun. To achieve this good vitamin D range, taking 4-5,000 IU daily is recommended, especially in winter months or if your sun exposure is limited. As a bonus, adequate levels of Vitamin D can boost moods to help you combat those winter blues!
We offer our NutriKey Vitamin D3 in doses of 1,000 IUor 5,000 IU. If you’d like additional bone support, you may want to choose our option with added Vitamin K2. Vitamin D and Vitamin K work synergistically to help your bones absorb calcium to keep them strong and healthy!
Vitamin C might be your go-to immunity supplement. And there’s good reason! It’s been known for decades that Vitamin C is a powerhouse for fighting off infection and keeping our cells healthy. We can get a good dose of Vitamin C from eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables – and we’re not just talking oranges. A cup of bell peppers has over 100 mg of vitamin C! But if you’re in need of extra support, we’ve got you covered with two of our high quality go-to supplements.
NutriKey Complete C-1000 is an easily-absorbed, comprehensive vitamin C complex that supports antioxidant status and immune function. What makes Complete C-1000 more than just another vitamin C supplement? It includes additional vitamins and minerals that help combat stomach irritation common in vitamin C supplements. Also, with this specific formulation, the nutrients are more readily available for cell uptake.
If you’re someone who prefers a liquid form, NutriKey Liposomal C might be just right for you. In short, liposomal technology is a quick way to deliver nutrients to your cells. Liposomes are tiny spherical lipids (fat soluble compounds) which can easily cross through cell walls. This makes Liposomal C an advanced liquid nutritional supplement which delivers pure, easily-absorbed vitamin C into our cells. Skip the liquid orange juice, which is just chock-full of sugar anyway and take a teaspoon of this liquid gold instead.
Zinc is another, perhaps less thought of, but still essential mineral for immune support. Our NutriKey Zinc is not just your average zinc supplement either. This form is chelated, helping with absorption through the intestinal lining and making it highly effective. Just one capsule per day is enough as it can be harmful to supplement too much over time. Keep in mind that we can get zinc through food sources such as oysters, grass-fed red meats, and pumpkin seeds, too! If you’re supplementing, make sure to take it with food to prevent stomach upset.
To recap, you can support your immune system during this cold and flu season (and every season!) by eating whole, real foods with lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, high quality protein, and healthy fats. Skip the sugary, processed foods that weaken your white blood cells and focus on the immune boosting nutrients of vitamin D3, vitamin C, and zinc. If you need help figuring out if you should supplement, what dosage your body needs, and a meal plan that works for your schedule and your unique health history, schedule an appointment with one of our licensed and registered dietitians and nutritionists who will help you strive to be your healthiest during these colder, darker months.
For more resources on the immune system, check out: