Boost Your Immune System

Tips from Laura Moretti, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN

Photo credit: Alyson McPhee

In addition to STAYING ACTIVE AND CONNECTED during this time of uncertainty, it’s also important to boost your immune system. Boston Ballet’s Consulting Dietitian Laura Moretti shares her tips on how to stay healthy.

1.       Eat Healthy Foods:  Eat protein and fiber at every meal, and add garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric, and other spices for their antimicrobial properties. Be sure to eat multiple servings of colorful fruits and vegetables daily. Look for yogurt with live and active cultures which can help promote a healthy gut microbiomes and support a strong immune system.

2.       Limit Inflammatory Foods: Limit simple sugars and foods that increase an inflammatory response. These include:

  • Sugars ending in ‘-ose’ (in the form of desserts, pastries, chocolate, soda, fruit juices, etc.)
  • Saturated fats (processed meats, fried foods, pastries)
  • Trans-fat foods (fast food, fried products, processed snacks, donuts, margarine)
  • Some refined carbohydrates (white bread, white rice, rolls)
  •  Alcohol can also burden the liver and cause organ inflammation.

3.       Stay Consistent: Try to eat a balanced and healthy meal or snack every four hours. This can help prevent boredom eating and also keep you from getting overly hungry, which can lead to overeating. High protein snack options are ideal because they are satiating and can curb hunger cues until the next snack or meal.

Snack suggestions: Greek yogurt with berries (anti-inflammatory), hard boiled eggs with carrot sticks, bananas/apples/celery with nut butter, hummus and vegetables, antioxidant trail mix (make your own with pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, dried cranberries and cashews), protein smoothie (milk, frozen berries or fruit of choice, and flax seeds with an optional scoop protein powder)

4.       Stay Hydrated: Make sure to drink enough water. Aim to drink at least half your body weight in ounces every day (eg, 50 ounces for 100 pounds). Water helps carry oxygen to your body cells, helping your systems to function optimally. Tea or hot water with lemon are especially helpful because warm liquids can relieve congestion, aid digestion, and flush toxins more efficiently.

5.       Exercise: Get at least 30-60 minutes of exercise a day. While you can’t get to the gym right now, you can find fitness classes online on platforms like YouTube or Facebook. Or go for a walk or run outside, while keeping social distance.

6.       Get Enough Sleep: Try keeping a regular bedtime and getting up at the same time every day. Turn off electronic devices 30-60 minutes before bed. Sleep needs vary slightly based on age, but in general, at least 8 hours of sleep per night will help you recover from exercise and daily activity, as well as improve your health and ability to combat stress.

7.       Get Your Vitamins: Get multivitamins and minerals in your diet and take supplements if needed. You can get Vitamin D from 20 minutes of sun or from supplements (1000-2000 international units per day on average). Get Vitamin C in oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, green leafy veggies, and broccoli, and get Zinc in shellfish, red meat, chickpeas, and lentils.

8.       Be Mindful: Try to minimize stress by engaging in meditation, exercise, and virtually connecting with your loved ones. When we are stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced. The stress hormone, corticosteroid, can suppress the effectiveness of your immune system by lowering the number of white blood cells available to fight infection. Stress can also have an indirect effect on your immune system, especially when your go-to coping strategies include increased alcohol consumption or smoking.

9.       Try Something New: Share recipes and tips with others that you find helpful. New recipes can provide variety in your diet, which will promote a wide array of nutrients.

10.      Stay Positive: We know it can be hard with the barrage of news, but try to think of three things you are grateful for each day (even something as small as that the sun came out or you cooked a nice meal or that you’ve finally cleaned out that closet you never had time to tackle.) Try taking a little time for yourself each day (maybe a bath, a book, a favorite hobby or show), and connecting with virtually with friends (maybe hold an online dinner party). An optimistic outlook has been associated with resistance to the common cold, lower rates of depression, and improved overall health. Now is the time to build that muscle, but also cut yourself some slack. It’s not easy and we’re all doing the best we can. Please be kind to yourself, those you love, and those who are helping you (grocery store workers, delivery drivers). We are all in this together.