Maximizing immune health is always important to athletes, but at no time than now has it been more vital to keep the body’s immune system in top shape. Nutrition and immunity are closely linked. A healthy, well-rounded diet is key to maintaining optimal nutritional status and to keeping the body’s defense system in fighting form, ready to ward off infection and illness.
Here are nutrition tips for building a high-quality eating plan that supports immune health:
- Consume enough calories but not too many. The immune system needs energy to stay strong and do its work. Calories should come from high quality, nutrient rich foods including a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats. Excessive calories coming from foods that lack nutrient value, such as sweets and high fat snack food, especially those with high amounts of saturated and trans-fats can lead to inflammation and susceptibility to infection.
- Get a healthy mix of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats. Each of these macronutrients plays an important role in supporting immune health. Food sources of these nutrients also supply vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are key to bolstering immunity.
- Specific vitamins and minerals play an especially important role in immune health. These include vitamins A, C, D, E, B-12 and B-6 and minerals zinc, selenium, iron and copper. Additionally, polyphenols and flavonoids are plant compounds that have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
- Take a food first approach to nutrition. Use the Athlete’s Plates as a guide to make every meal count. Include a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables which are bountiful sources of vitamins A, C and E as well as polyphenols and flavonoids. Lean meats, poultry, fish and dairy foods are key sources of protein, vitamin D, B vitamins and minerals. Whole grains provide protein, B vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Nuts, seeds, avocados and vegetable oils are important sources of vitamin E and essential fatty acids with anti-inflammatory properties.
Along with sticking to a fitness routine and sound sleep schedule, staying focused on nutrition is something each of us can do every day to stay well and stave off illness and infection. Here’s to colourful, healthy plates and great tasting meals you truly enjoy!
Photo Credit: https://www.teamusa.org/nutrition