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ACTIVE LIVING: Eating well builds a healthy immune system

Port Alberni registered dietitian Sandra Gentleman writes about health issues
Healthy eating will help maintain a good immune system through autumn’s cold season, says Port Alberni dietitian Sandra Gentleman. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)


Special to the AV News

As we navigate our ‘back to school’ routines in this fall of the pandemic, bolstering our immune system with healthy eating can help to prevent colds and other common viruses.

There are no single supplements or foods to guarantee protection to keep viruses away, but there’s food, packed with immune-enhancing nutrients, which can offer some extra protection for your immune defenses.

Ensure you include a protein-rich food at each meal, which provides the building blocks for your immune system. Eggs, salmon, legumes, chicken, plus nuts and seeds can offer good quality protein.

Citrus fruits, strawberries, blueberries, bell peppers, kiwi, broccoli, onions and spinach are some examples of foods that are rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant to help protect cells from damage.

Fat-soluble vitamin E also plays a role as a powerful antioxidant. Additions of almonds, sunflower seeds, broccoli and peanut butter in your diet can help provide this essential vitamin.

Foods rich in the mineral zinc can help support the creation of new immune cells, which help heal wounds and prevents inflammation to help infections. Oysters, lean meat, whole grains, garlic, seeds and chicken. Too much zinc from supplements can depress the immune system.

Just one brazil nut can pack in two day’s worth of selenium, a mineral that lowers oxidative stress in your body, which reduces inflammation and enhances immunity. Tuna and whole grains also have selenium.

Brightly coloured produce, such as carrots, squash and cantaloupe can provide the body with vitamin A and beta-carotene, to help regulate the immune system by keeping skin, tissues in the mouth, gastrointestinal tract and respiratory system healthy.

The sunshine vitamin D also helps to regulate immune cell function. As we head indoors and have less sun exposure, including foods/fluids rich in vitamin D, such as milk, cereal, and fatty fish (salmon, mackerel and tuna) will help keep your vitamin D stores up through the fall and winter. Some individuals may benefit from a vitamin D supplement.

Keep eating well to maintain health through autumn.

Sandra Gentleman, RD, is a Port Alberni-based registered dietitian. Her Active Living column will appear every few weeks in the Alberni Valley News and online at

Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I proudly serve as the Alberni Valley News editor.
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