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Foods to help support your immune system

After months of mostly staying at home, it can be challenging to stay creative in the kitchen. During times of stress, our natural desire is to seek out and consume convenient comfort foods. We should accept these cravings, while also reminding ourselves of healthier food choices that can support immunity. 

Remember that healthy foods are important for healthy immune function, but foods are not the same as medicines, and diet is limited in what it can achieve in relation to COVID-19 or any other illness. 

A multivitamin or mineral supplement may sometimes be recommended to fill nutrient gaps, but it is no substitute for real food. Once we recognize this, it becomes easier to think about how healthy foods can create tasty, nutritious meals. 

Many nutrients are involved in promoting healthy immune system function. These nutrients can be found in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein-rich foods: 

Protein and zinc: seafood, lean beef, chicken, turkey, dairy products, eggs, legumes and soy-based foods. 

Omega-3 fatty acids: flaxseed, walnuts and chia seeds; and seafood like salmon, mackerel and tuna. 

Vitamin D: mackerel, salmon, egg yolks and mushrooms; and fortified foods like milk, orange juice, tofu, soy beverages and some cereals.

Antioxidant-rich foods: fruits and vegetables including cantaloupe, papaya, citrus, blueberries, cranberries, grapes, apples, sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots, spinach, bell peppers, asparagus, onions, beets and mushrooms; dark chocolate and tea. 

Prebiotic- and probiotic-containing foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, kimchi; and lactobacillus and bifidobacterium-containing milk, kefir and yogurt. 

As you think about adding some of these foods to your shopping list, you may also consider slowly stocking up on nonperishable food items. Many of these foods provide an array of nutrients and will help you reduce trips to the grocery store, forego shopping if you become sick and help you avoid panic buying. 

To do this, you can add a few extra items to your grocery list before every shopping trip. Good options are foods that are nutrient-dense and easy to prepare and store, like: 

Dried pasta and sauce 

Prepared canned soups 

Dried vegetables and fruits 

Nuts and seeds 

Milk and lean meat to freeze 

Canned vegetables and beans

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