Immunity for the Community
With the continuing state of COVID-19 and cold/flu season upon us, proper nutrition, sleep, and physical activity are key to keeping our bodies healthy.
“A healthy immune system is important to help protect our bodies from harmful invaders such as a virus,” said Mary Frances Donnelly, Wayne UNC Registered Dietitian. “Therefore, during this time it is especially important to be mindful of consuming a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats and water.”
Advanced age, smoke, excessive alcohol intake, obesity, chronic diseases, stress or chronic mental illness, lack of sleep and malnutrition or a diet lacking of one or more nutrients are among many factors that can affect our immune system.
Boosting Immune Function
Zinc and Vitamin C are two important micronutrients to help boost immune function. Zinc is especially important because of its role in regulating immune responses. Zinc also cannot be stored in the body and must be consumed through diet. “Before running to the store to buy some Emergen-C or zinc lozenges, let’s take a look at some food sources of these micronutrients,” said Donnelly.
Foods that are good sources of zinc include beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, meat, dairy, whole grains and dark chocolate. Vitamin C rich foods include citrus foods like oranges and strawberries and vegetables such as kale, bell peppers and broccoli. Not only are these foods good sources of zinc and Vitamin C but can also add some healthy fats and fiber to your diet.
Pro tip for Zinc: Add pumpkin seeds to salads, cereals, trail mix or even on top of casseroles and pastas for an added crunch. Integrate chickpeas into your diet in the form of hummus as a dip with veggies or alternative to mayo. Roast chickpeas to top on salads or use as a side or snack. Incorporate pork tenderloin as a main dish which is considered a lean protein; try pairing with sliced apples.
The following recipe with chickpeas also packs a zinc boost.
1. Chasapis CT, Loutsidou AC, Spiliopoulou CA, Stefanidou ME. Zinc and human health: an update. Arch Toxicol. 2012;86(4):521-534. doi:10.1007/s00204-011-0775-1
2. Support your health with nutrition. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/protect-your-health-with-immune-boosting-nutrition. Published December 9, 2019. Reviewed March 202. Acccessed September 3, 202.
Chickpea and Black Bean Salad from Ambitious Kitchen
For the Dressing:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the Salad:
1 - 15 oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
1 - 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 pint grape tomatoes (or mini heirloom!), halved
1/4 cup chopped basil
1/4 cup chopped mint
1/4 cup chopped parsley
In a medium bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients: garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and sugar. Taste, add salt and pepper, and adjust seasonings as necessary.
In a separate large bowl, toss chickpeas, black beans, red onion, tomatoes, basil, parsley and mint together. Pour dressing over and gently toss to combine. Refrigerate 30 minutes before serving to allow flavors to soak in. Sprinkle avocado on top if desired.