Good nutrition is critical to support a healthy immune system. There is a strong relationship between poor nutritional status and compromised immunity1.Below, are seven essential nutrients that are known to support immune health2-8.
7 Key Nutrients to Support Immune Health:
Protein is needed for the building of antibodies and immune system cells. Also, some of the amino acids that make up proteins are important fuels for cells in the immune system.
Vitamin A helps regulate the immune system and protect the body by keeping skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines and respiratory system healthy.
Vitamin C helps the body build healthy skin and connective tissue, which helps to block the entry of foreign microbes. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant that protects cells (e.g., cells of the immune system) from damage caused by free radicals.
Vitamin E works as an antioxidant, protecting cell membranes from damage due to free radicals. Healthy cell membranes help keep foreign microbes out.
Vitamin D helps to activate immune cells and properly regulate their function.
Zinc is needed for wound healing and for cellular reproduction, which is important in the synthesis of new immune system cells.
Fluids and Electrolytes: Consuming adequate fluids (water) and electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and chloride help regulate the body’s temperature. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that sick people need to drink extra fluids to keep from dehydrating.
People who are at the highest risk for compromised immune health are those who do not get adequate amounts of food in their diets, do not have access to foods with key nutrients, are malnourished, or have certain health conditions that may require additional nutrition support.
Sometimes it’s hard to get enough of all the immune system supporting nutrients you need from your diet alone. Drinking an oral nutrition shake like Ensure or Glucerna is a convenient way to help supplement your diet. Look for shakes that contain the key nutrients protein, vitamin A, antioxidants, zinc and vitamin D.
Your diet is an important part of maintaining good health. So, follow a balanced diet, ensure you stay hydrated with adequate fluids and electrolytes. Fill each plate with produce, lean meats, dairy and healthy fats — this can help you get the nutrition you need to help keep your immune system strong.
Bresnahan KA et al. Undernutrition, the Acute Phase Response to Infection, and Its Effects on Micronutrient Status Indicators. Adv Nutr 2014(5):702-711.
Maggini S et al. Vitamins C, D, and zinc: synergistic roles in immune function and infections. Vitam Miner 2017;6:3.