It’s not uncommon to feel under the weather during the winter months. And this year, it’s even harder to stay healthy. While you can’t control everything that’s going on around you, one thing you can do is load up on nutritious foods that help protect your body.
According to plant-based dietitian Whitney English, RD, good nutrition is “critical for the optimal functioning of the immune system,” and there are plenty of immune-boosting foods you can put on your plate—all of which are loaded with health-helping micronutrients.
“Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) contribute to the body’s natural defenses in three important ways: by supporting physical barriers (skin/mucosa), contributing to cellular immunity, and fueling antibody production,” she wrote on Instagram. “Good nutrition is critical for the optimal functioning of the immune system. So now, more than ever, it’s important to support your body with the nutrients it needs to do its job.”
The next time you’re building your meals, try incorporating some of these healthy plant-based foods. They contain certain micronutrients—including iron, zinc, selenium, and vitamins A, C, and E—that English says are especially important in keeping your immune system healthy.
The Best Immune-Boosting Foods for Plant-Based Eaters
Key micronutrients: zinc and iron
What Whitney says: “I always have several cans of black, pinto, garbanzo, navy, and lentil beans in my pantry.”
2. Strawberries and Bell Peppers
Key micronutrient: vitamin C
What Whitney says: “Opt for frozen if fresh isn’t available. Frozen produce retains the same nutritional value as fresh.”
3. Carrots + Sweet Potatoes
Key micronutrient: vitamin A
What Whitney says: “Frozen carrots are great if fresh isn’t available, and potatoes last for about a month in cool, dark storage.”
Key micronutrient: vitamin E
What Whitney says: “Slice avocados and save them in the freezer to add to smoothies and sauces. Nuts and olive oil are also good sources of vitamin E.”
5. Brazil Nuts
Key micronutrient: selenium
What Whitney says: “Just one nut provides your entire daily dose of selenium.”
6. Leafy Greens
Key micronutrient: folate
What Whitney says: “Frozen greens can be tossed in smoothies, stir-fries, and sauces for an easy nutrient boost.”