Immune-boosting foods that last

With a “safer at home” order in place, we need to stay at home as much as possible to protect the health and safety of ourselves, our neighbors, and our communities. During these unprecedented times, we might want to turn to comfort foods to ease stress or anxiety, and although they may taste delicious, overly processed foods can actually reduce our body’s ability to ward off disease. Instead, says Vanessa Fernandez, a nutrition specialist who manages the food pharmacy program at Venice Family Clinic, we should consider foods that nourish our body and help us fight infection.

You need a variety of nutrients to keep your immune system functioning optimally. Many frozen, canned, and dry goods are high in the vitamins and minerals our bodies need– we’ve listed some great options below. Be mindful of sodium content in canned and frozen foods, especially if you have hypertension or follow a low-sodium diet.

Add these immune-boosting foods to your next grocery list:

  • Canned salmon, sweet potatoes, dried apricots, and frozen kale, spinach, carrots, and red bell peppers. These foods are good sources of vitamin A, which is essential for a strong immune system, helping antibodies fight toxins and foreign substances such as infections.
  • Canned tomatoes, and frozen strawberries, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and green bell peppers. Choose these foods for vitamin C, an antioxidant that protects your immune system by helping to prevent cell damage.
  • Tofu, frozen mushrooms, and canned salmon and sardines. These items contain vitamin D, which regulates the production of a protein that helps protect against bacteria and viruses.
  • Beans (canned or dry); lentils; raw peanuts, cashews and almonds; frozen green beans and kale; quinoa; brown rice; and dark chocolate. All these foods are rich in zinc, which helps cells in your immune system grow and differentiate, possibly shortening the duration of symptoms of a cold or the flu.
  • Canned chicken, lentils, beans, tofu, quinoa, fortified low-sugar cereals, frozen spinach, broccoli, kale, dried seaweed, figs, prunes and apricots. Look for these shelf-stable and frozen foods as good sources of iron, which is necessary for cells to function when responding to infections. (For people with anemia or low iron levels, avoid drinking coffee or tea before and after meals to prevent low iron absorption. Instead, pair iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C to increase iron absorption.)