Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN, FAND
Many Americans become interested in boosting immunity during cold and flu season, but the COVID pandemic has created a much greater focus on strengthening our immune response. While immunity is a complex biological subject, there are strategies with scientific support for enhancing our bodies’ immune response.
1. Sleep in a dark room with no blue light. The stress of daily life can have a negative impact on our immune response. Sleep helps us recover from the stress and boost immunity, but only if only if we get enough sleep of good quality. Most people need 6-8 hours of sleep each night to function well physically, mentally, and emotionally.
The environment in which we sleep also has an impact on our immune response. This is related to melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone produced by our brains throughout the day and night following circadian rhythms; more melatonin is produced when it is dark or nighttime. Melatonin production can be affected by exposure to blue light from electronics or cell phones. When possible, cover all lights from electronics in the room in which you sleep and try to avoid looking at your cell phone during the night.
2. Include probiotic foods in your daily diet. These include yogurt, kefir or other dairy products that contain live, active bacteria; refrigerated (not shelf-stable) sauerkraut and kimchi; and kombucha.Research shows that probiotics can reduce the risk of upper respiratory infections, like the common cold. Aim for one probiotic food or beverage each day.
3. Increase your intake of vitamin C-rich foods. The fact the vitamin C boosts immunity is well known, but what is not well known is how many people do not get enough vitamin C in their daily diet. Strive to eat more vitamin C rich foods like citrus fruits, strawberries, chile peppers, bell peppers, kiwi fruit, broccoli, and tropical fruits like papayas and guavas.
4. Increase your intake of zinc. Zinc not only boost the body’s immune response but also affects how viruses replicate. Meat, shellfish,cashews, and some seeds like hemp, pumpkin, and sesame seeds are rich sources of zinc. Mankai is a good source of zinc. One 3 oz. serving (3 cubes) provides 2.50 milligrams of zinc or 25% of the Daily Value. Adding Mankai to your favorite foods is a wonderful way to boost your daily zinc intake as well as many other essential nutrients like iron and vitamin B12.
5. Increase your intake of vitamin A. The role of vitamin A in immunity is related to how vitamin A helps maintain the health and integrity of our skin and the linings of our lungs, and intestinal tract, all barriers that when strong and healthy provide protection from bacteria and viruses. Many dark green leafy and orange vegetables are rich sources of vitamin A. Mankai is an excellent source, providing 600 micrograms of vitamin A or 70% of the Daily Value in one serving.
As you strive to boost your immunity and protect yourself from cold, flu, COVID, and other viral infections, don’t forget about essential habits like washing your hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, practicing social distancing, and,last but not least, wearing a mask when out in public.
Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN, FAND
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amy Myrdal Miller has lived well with Type I diabetes since age 7. A registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), Amy has focused her professional work on promoting food and lifestyle choices that promote good health. She is the founder of Farmer’s Daughter Consulting, an agriculture, food, and culinary communications firm. Clients include Hinoman USA. A farmer’s daughter from North Dakota, today she and her husband live near Sacramento, CA, with their two super naughty cats Violet Grey and Schroeder, a.k.a., the Kittens with Mittens.