While no particular food, nutrient, or supplement is guaranteed to strengthen your immune system, there is a documented link between nutritional status and immune system function. Eating a healthy, balanced, and varied diet can best support a healthy immune system–which is more important now than ever.
Many nutrients affect immune system status, including vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, folate, zinc, iron, selenium, magnesium, copper, and omega-3 fatty acids along with adequate calorie, protein, carbohydrate, and fat intake. You can ensure that you’re getting all of these nutrients by eating a varied and balanced diet of mostly whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and healthy protein sources.
At Foodsmart, we’ve curated a list of recipes packed with these nutrients and a variety of whole foods under our Immunity Boosters recipe category. Some of our favorite recipes in this category that use ingredients you might already have in your fridge or pantry are the Indian Spiced Kale & Chickpeas, Easy Miso-Chicken Ramen, Slow-Cooker Moroccan Lentil Soup, and Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili.
Eating a healthy, nutritious diet is essential for supporting your immune system, but it can also positively influence your mood and reduce stress levels, making cohabitation easier for you and your family or roommates. While stress-eating is a common reaction among many–especially when you have an abundance of enticing snacks at home–it’s best to avoid overly processed, sugary, and high-fat snacks right now: their consumption has been linked to increased inflammation in the body, which itself is correlated with higher reports of fatigue, anxiety, and depression.
Whole, unprocessed foods, on the other hand, have been correlated with improved mood and wellbeing. In fact, a recent study investigating the effects of diet on depression in young adults found that participants who followed a Mediterranean Diet, which is high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, and healthy fat, reported that their depression symptoms improved from “moderate” to “normal.” According to researcher Heather Francis, consuming too few nutrient-dense foods can lead to nutrient deficiencies, which increases inflammation and negatively impacts mood. While further studies are needed to demonstrate the mechanism underlying how diet can affect inflammation and mood, this study contributes to a growing body of research supporting the link between a healthy diet and good mood.
We recommend sneaking in some mood-boosting and immune-supporting nutrients at snack time. Planning for and choosing healthy snacks adds defined breaks to your workday, and it also offers plenty of opportunities to add more vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and lean protein to your diet. Here are our top suggestions:
- Mix and match fresh-cut vegetables (bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, jicama, celery) with spreads and dips (guacamole, hummus, nut butters, edamame ginger dip). You’ll get a satiating mix of fiber, healthy fats, and protein–a blend destined to keep you full until lunch or dinner.
- If you’re looking for a sweeter snack (or if you’re feeling a little fancy), put together your own charcuterie board: pile fruit (apples, citrus fruits, and pomegranates have the longest shelf-life, especially if stored in the fridge), nuts, seeds, and cheese on a plate or cutting board.
- Don’t save your canned or frozen goods just for mealtime: make a batch of Spiced Chickpea “Nuts” or steam a bag of edamame to snack on all week.
- If you’re avoiding the grocery store, head to the internet to find your new favorite snack bar – protein bars can be a great option to satisfy a sweet tooth. Some of our favorites are 88 Acres protein bars, Amrita high protein bars, Atlas protein bars, Rise pea protein bars, and RX bars.