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Good nutrition is essential for a healthy immune system, which can offer protection from seasonal illness and other health problems. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that people incorporate different foods in their diets to attain the vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy. The Academy recommends obtaining these nutrients primarily through food, because multivitamin and mineral supplements are not scientifically proven to prevent disease. However, supplements can benefit those who are unable to meet the vitamin and mineral requirements only through food or those that have been diagnosed with a deficiency, according to the Academy’s 2018 position paper “Micronutrient Supplementation”.
A well-balanced eating plan that includes a variety of nutritious foods from all of the food groups will help give the body the nutrients it needs to support a healthy immune system. The following nutrients can help support a healthy immune system:
- Beta carotene is found in plant foods, such as sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, mango, broccoli, and tomatoes.
- Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits – such as oranges and grapefruit – bell peppers, and strawberries. It is also found in foods fortified with vitamin C, such as some breakfast cereals.
- Vitamin D is found in fatty fish, eggs, and milk, as well as in 100 percent juices that are fortified with vitamin D.
Zinc tends to be absorbed from animal sources, such as beef and seafood. However, it is also in plant-based sources, such as beans, nuts, and seeds
- Probiotics are good bacteria that promote health. They can be found in cultured dairy products, such as yogurt.
- Protein is found in animal sources – such as seafood, lean meat, poultry, and eggs – and in plant-based sources like beans and peas, soy products, nuts, and seeds.