Lora Hyde, RDN, CDN, is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for nutrition and fitness. She has more than 21 years of experience working with patients with various nutrition diagnoses including diabetes, eating disorders, metabolic syndrome, pregnancy, and weight management. Lora has worked at Coburg Village for seven years helping residents tailor their menu choices to accommodate their dietary needs.
Over the past year and a half, the connection between nutrition and immunity, specifically in the relationship with Covid-19, has been a hot topic. If you are on social media, there are posts about it; it’s been in the news; and the topic of conversations. The constant barrage of information can be overwhelming and confusing. So, is there really a link between healthy eating, immunity, and overall wellness?
The answer is a resounding, “yes!”
Dietitians and medical professionals over the years have conducted numerous research studies and found that macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals can keep your immune system healthy and decrease your chances of severe illness. This is true for a variety of illnesses including influenza and Covid-19 and its variants. Essential micronutrients including vitamin A, D, E, C, B complex, iron, zinc & selenium have been shown to have immune-boosting properties as well as help the body’s ability to fight infections. Macronutrients, including protein, play a significant role in healing and recovery. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids impact the functioning of immune cells; They are also an energy source and help keep your heart, lungs, blood vessels, and immune system working the way they should.
Let's break down some of these micro- and macronutrients and their role in strengthening immunity and overall wellness.
Vitamin D- helps support your immune system by promoting the production of antimicrobial proteins. Vitamin D deficiencies have been shown to impair your body's response to influenza and respiratory infections. Ongoing research shows that individuals with adequate Vitamin D levels and Covid-19 generally have less severe cases and shorter duration of illness. The recommendation for adults is 600-800iu per day. Common sources of Vitamin D include salmon, tuna, mackerel, liver, cheese, egg yolks, mushrooms, fortified milk, and many fortified breakfast cereals, orange juices, yogurts, margarines, and soy products.
Vitamin A - plays a role in decreasing inflammation and infections specifically in your mouth, intestines, and respiratory system. Some common sources of Vitamin A are carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, eggs and many other fruits and vegetables and fortified foods. The recommended daily dosage is 700-900mcg for adults which is found in many multivitamin supplements.
Vitamin C- helps boost your immune system by aiding in antibody production and antioxidant activity. Sources include citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli, bell peppers, and tomatoes. Recommended adult daily dosage is generally 75-95mg daily.
B-complex Vitamins- help play a role enhancing your immune system. B vitamins are found in many fortified products, meats, fish, and poultry, avocados, and citrus fruits. Many multivitamins contain your daily recommendation for B-complex vitamins.
Vitamin E- has antioxidant power and can protect your cells from invading pathogens in respiratory infections. Sources of Vitamin E include fortified cereals, seeds, almonds, vegetable oils and nut butters. Recommended daily intake for adults is 15mg per day.
Zinc- has many positive effects on your overall immune function. Zinc can be found in meats and poultry, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grain products. Recommended daily intake for adults is 8-11mg.
Iron- iron deficiencies leading to impaired immune systems have been widely documented. Iron sources are red meats, seafood, fortified cereals and grains, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds. The recommended daily intake for adults is 8mg.
Selenium- plays many roles in immune function and metabolism. Sources include meats, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Selenium is often found in your daily multivitamin.
Protein- This macronutrient is found in meats, poultry, nuts, seeds, eggs, beans, cheese, milk, yogurt to name a few. It plays a significant role in healing and recovery. Protein need varies depending on your height and weight but generally adults require .8-1g of protein per kg of body weight.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids- play a role in your immune system and are found in fatty fish, avocados, walnuts, flax seeds, plant oils and some fortified foods, Recommendations for adults are 1.1-1.6 grams per day.
So overall what is the takeaway? My recommendation is to focus on eating a balanced diet daily including many whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean dairy, lean meat, and healthy fats. This, along with taking a daily multivitamin, will provide you with many benefits for a healthy immune system.
As we age, there are several factors that can make it harder for you to eat healthy, including: changes in your
Home life, such as suddenly living alone or having trouble getting around
Health, which can make it harder for you to cook or feed yourself
Medicines, which can change how food tastes, make your mouth dry, or take away your appetite
Income, which means that you may not have as much money for food
Sense of smell and taste
Good nutrition is a key to wellness at any age. At Coburg Village, you can leave the meal-prep to us. Each day our culinary team offers a delicious menu designed with your wellness in mind. If you have special dietary needs, we will work with you to choose delicious options that meet your unique nutritional needs.