Vaccines and booster shots are the best way to strengthen your immune system and prevent a COVID-19 infection. However, it is also important to keep your immune system healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic with good nutrition, hydration, and exercise.
Here are 8 ways to boost your immune system and which foods can help you stay healthy.
8 Ways to Keep Your Immune System Healthy
- Eat a nutritious diet: Eating foods rich in vitamins and antioxidants is important in boosting your immunity and protecting you from illness. Make sure your diet is high in fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains, and focus on consuming the following nutrients:
- Drink more water: Staying hydrated supports your immune system and helps it fight infections. Water helps transport nutrients in your blood, removes waste, and regulates body temperature. Maintain good hydration by drinking at least 8 cups of water a day, and aim to keep your urine light-colored. Try keeping a large water bottle by your side and drink a large glass of water before each meal.
- Exercise regularly: Regular exercise improves your blood circulation, which has a positive impact on your immune system by making it easier for your immune cells to travel throughout your body. Experts recommend getting at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, whether through walking, jogging, swimming, weight lifting, or other cardio and muscle strengthening exercises.
- Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep can suppress your immune system and inhibit the effect of some vaccines, making it harder for your body to ward off infection. Studies show that being sleep-deprived makes you more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. If you struggle with getting enough sleep (7-9 hours a day), practice good sleep hygiene by keeping a fixed sleep schedule, creating a sleep-friendly environment, and following a relaxing bedtime routine.
- Quit smoking: Cigarette smoking can weaken your immune system due to the nicotine and various other harmful chemicals in tobacco.
- Limit alcohol: Alcohol has been linked to negative effects on the immune system, especially when it is consumed in excess. Since alcohol can also affect your sleep quality, it is best to limit your intake.
- Reduce stress: Stress is a major culprit for poor immunity, as stress hormones can suppress your immune system and increase your chances of getting sick. Identify your stress triggers and find ways to relax. Examples of relaxation techniques include meditation, deep breathing, yoga, and massage.
- Get vaccinated: Vaccinations are the best and scientifically proven way (>90% effective) to reduce the risk of getting COVID-19.
What Foods Can Keep Your Immune System Healthy During COVID-19?
Foods to take for your immune system
- Fruits: Eat about 4 servings of fruits a day. Examples include apples, bananas, grapefruit, oranges, and pineapples.
- Vegetables: Eat about 5 servings of fresh vegetables a day. Examples include kale, broccoli, and legumes like beans and lentils.
- Whole grains: Eat about 180 grams of whole grains a day. Examples include oats, wheat, millet, and brown rice.
- Nuts: Eat plenty of nuts such as almonds, walnuts, and pistachio.
- Protein: Eat red meat 1-2 times a week and poultry 2-3 times per week.
- Fats: Opt for unsaturated fats (avocado, fish, nuts, soy, olive oil, canola oil, and sunflower oil) over saturated fats (butter, coconut oil, palm oil, cheese, ghee. and cream).
- Probiotics: Boost your gut health by consuming probiotics such as kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, and kombucha.
Foods to avoid for your immune system
Glick J. Boost Your Immune System to Help Fight Flu and COVID-19. Penn Medicine. https://www.lancastergeneralhealth.org/health-hub-home/2022/february/boost-your-immune-system-to-help-fight-flu-and-covid-19
Bilodeau K. 4 immune-boosting strategies that count right now. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/4-immune-boosting-strategies-that-count-right-now-202201122669
Aman F, Masood S. How Nutrition can help to fight against COVID-19 Pandemic. Pak J Med Sci. 2020;36(COVID19-S4):S121-S123. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7306972/