Foods that can help boost your immune system during the COVID-19 crisis.

man drinking green smoothie

Besides following handwashing, disinfecting and social distancing guidelines, your main weapon against COVID-19 is your own immune system. Covenant Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Ann Hoffman, appeared on WNEM-TV’s Medical Moments to answer some questions about boosting your immune system with healthy foods.

What are some key foods to boost our immune system?

Ann recommends mixing it up with protein, found in poultry, lean meats, fish and eggs and antioxidants, which neutralize free radicals to protect your cells. Antioxidants are found in Vitamin-C rich foods, such as citrus fruits and juices, strawberries and tomatoes; Vitamin-A rich food, such as carrots and cantaloupe; and Vitamin-E rich food, including nuts and nut butters.

How can we make healthy choices at home, while reducing trips to the store?

Start with your freezer. Now’s a good time to find out what’s in there! There may be some welcome surprises you forgot, chockful of useful nutrients to bolster your immune system. Whether it’s frozen vegetables for a stir fry, frozen fruit for a smoothie, or frozen chicken breasts or fish for the main course, put it to work in your diet before restocking. You can also consider canned vegetables and fruit (without sugar additives), as they often have as much nutritional value as fresh produce. Take advantage of this time to clean out your pantry and consume apple sauce, canned peaches and other nutritional jewels.

During this stressful time, how can we make some good choices and not “stress eat?”

Ann acknowledges that when we’re stressed, “It’s really natural for us to reach for comfort foods, obviously starchy foods such as bread, rice, pasta – that’s the human response.” She recommends enhancing those foods with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables and whole grains. For example, if you need a snack, consider opening the can of fruit you just located in your pantry. For meals, whether ordering out or cooking for yourself, remember the basic MyPlate rules for balanced nutrition: fill a quarter of your plate with lean protein like chicken, turkey or eggs; a quarter with starchy foods like bread, rice, pasta or potatoes; and half your plate with fruits and vegetables. We all want to support our local restaurants, but when you order in, add extra vegetables to your pizza, or a side salad or sliced tomatoes to your main course. These simple suggestions can boost the nutrition in your family’s favorite take-out options.

Is it okay to have something sweet here and there?

Most definitely. “Brownie points” if you can couple it with fruit, of course!

Have more questions about what you can do to stay healthy during the COVID-19 crisis? Find answers at the Covenant HealthCare COVID-19 FAQ page.

Posted Date: 4/13/2020

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