1: Nonstarchy vegetables
Just about every doctor and nutritionist on the planet will tell you to eat your veggies to stay healthy. But when it comes to boosting your immune system, starchy vegetables like potatoes don’t count. Instead, go hard on the greens like spinach and kale, which help your immune system function properly from your skin to your gut.
And go for “cabbage, greens, onions, mushrooms, and garlic,” Wahls says. Now is not the time to worry about having garlic breath. Embrace the stink instead because a 2015 study found that garlic could help boost the human immune system, assisting in the production of virus-fighting white blood cells.
2. Fermented foods
Wahl also encourages people to add plenty of fermented vegetables, like kimchi or sauerkraut, to their diet, which she says will help build a healthier gut microbiome that could protect you from infections. She also suggests everyone buys fermented foods without added sugars (sorry, no sweet pickles here), and if you can, make your own.
3. Plenty of protein
“If you’re a meat eater, that’s meat, fish, and poultry,” says Wahls. “If you’re not, then have gluten-free grains and legumes.” This is because protein is a building block for our body’s tissue and organs, making it imperative when trying to rebuild healthy cells.
4. Fatty fish
Yes, you still can enjoy the finer things in life right now, which most certainly includes cheese. That’s because hard cheeses are particularly high in zinc, which we mentioned above, is particularly powerful in fighting off viruses. Not a fan of cheese? Try navy beans.
7. Citrus fruits
You shouldn’t sleep the power of vitamin C—which is found in citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, and mandarins. According to a 2017 survey of studies, three controlled trials found that vitamin C prevented pneumonia, two controlled trials found a treatment benefit of vitamin C for pneumonia patients, and 148 animal studies showed vitamin C may alleviate or prevent infections caused by bacteria and viruses.
8. Sweet potatoes and squash
9. Foods you enjoy
“We have to choose foods we enjoy,” says Willow Jarosh, a registered dietitian. “Within enjoyment, aiming to balance meals with a combination of fruit and veggies, protein-rich foods, and carbohydrate-rich foods can help us meet nutrient needs to keep the immune system working well and also help us keep our energy and blood sugar levels stable.”
It’s also important to remember—especially in times when money might be tight—that staying healthy doesn’t have to mean placing an expensive Whole Foods order. “Eating consistently is important, no matter what that food is. Think about trying to get through something stressful when you’re fed versus hungry,” says Jarosh. “We need to be fed and that is priority number one.”