5 tips for supporting your immune system, according to a dietitian

5 tips for supporting your immune system, according to a dietitian

5 tips for supporting your immune system, according to a dietitian

By: Lauren manaker, MS, RDN, LD, CLEC

 When the weather dips and the days get shorter, many of us know that cold and flu season is among us. And since nobody wants to be stuck home with the sniffles, finding ways to naturally support the immune system is super-appealing.


As a registered dietitian, I have seen my fair share of people who want to know which foods they should eat to “boost” their immune system. From fistfuls of supplements to fancy green drinks, there are a slew of products out there with very lofty promises.


Unfortunately, there is no one food, pill, or action that will be a magic bullet to preventing an illness from occurring. But thankfully, there are some tried-and-true dietary choices that people can make that can give their immune system a boost in a natural way, especially if they combine these practices with healthy lifestyle choices like getting quality sleep and washing hands frequently.


If you are trying to support your immune system in a natural way, here are five dietary tips that you should consider including in your own life ASAP.


  1. Stay Hydrated With No-Added-Sugar Beverages


Maintaining your hydration level is important for many reasons – one being that dehydration is linked to immunosuppression in certain situations. Drinking enough fluids is one of the best things you can do to ensure your body is adequately hydrated during cold and flu season.


But just drinking fluids isn’t enough. While there are tons of delicious beverages out there to choose from, many are made with added sugars. From sports drinks to sodas, added sugars are lurking in many of our beloved hydration solutions.


Why avoid added sugars? Eating too many added sugars may result in chronic inflammation, a condition that may suppress the immune system in the long run. Instead of drinks with added sugars, stick with water or naturally sweetened options like Drink Simple Maple Water for a beverage with zero grams of added sugars.


And since researchers from The University of Northern Texas found that maple water hydrates at double the speed as regular water, choosing this delicious drink to sip on during the winter months is a wise choice.


  1. Limit Your Alcohol Intake


We know that there is nothing quite like cozying up by a warm fire with a nice glass of red wine or sipping on a cold beer while watching a football game. And while a once-in-a-while cocktail is a-ok, excessive alcohol intake will not support your immune health.


Swap out your boozy drink for a mocktail or a cozy cup of tea to help your body stay in tip-top-shape.


  1. Include Healthy Fats


From avocados to olive oil to even a handful of nuts, delicious foods that contain healthy fats are endless. And fortunately, including these foods in your diet may help keep your immune system healthy too – specifically my having anti-inflammatory effects.


To include more healthy fats in your diet, try enjoying a simple piece of poached salmon for dinner or snacking on some walnuts. And when making a sandwich or salad, be sure to top it with some yummy and satisfying avocado for a healthy fat boost.


4. Eat a Balance of Prebiotics and Probiotics


Foods that naturally contain beneficial bacteria – think yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut – can support your gut health and support your immune system.


And to fuel these live and beneficial bacteria, prebiotic fiber should be a part of your diet too. Probiotic fiber is indigestible fiber that essentially “feed” the live beneficial bacteria in your gut. For that reason, including natural sources of prebiotic fiber, like Jerusalem artichoke, onions, and maple water, help keep your gut, immune, and overall health in-check.


  1. Focus on Citrus Foods


Oranges, grapefruit, and lemons are all natural sources of vitamin C, a nutrient that can reduce inflammation and may cut the duration of a cold in some people. Plus, this nutrient can help support the immune system in a variety of ways too. Bonus? Citrus foods are in-season during the chillier months of the year.


Starting your day with a serving of citrus can be a habit that is certainly worth keeping, especially to help keep your immune system as strong as possible.


Eating For a Healthy Immune System


Along with washing your hands frequently, engaging in physical activity, getting adequate sleep, and avoiding people who are sick, including certain foods in your diet may help you keep the “ick” away during cold and flu season. Simple tweaks in your diet like swapping out a sugary sports drink with maple water or adding some healthy fats to your diet can give your body the boost it may need to have the healthiest chilly season ever. 

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