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Strengthen Your Immunity During the Coronavirus Pandemic

As the coronavirus situation intensifies, you might be wondering: how can I keep myself healthy? And will swallowing a pill protect me from getting sick?

First, there's the not-so-great news. Despite claims you may have seen on the Internet, there's no magic food or pill that is guaranteed to boost your immune system and protect you against coronavirus.

But there's uplifting news, too: There are ways to keep your immune system functioning optimally, which can help to keep you healthy and give you a sense of control in an uncertain time.

Begin by filling your plate with immune-boosting nutrients. One of the best ways to stay healthy is to eat a nutritious diet. That's because our immune system relies on a steady supply of nutrients to do its job.

For a starter dose of immune-boosting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruits.

Here are some key nutrients that play a role in immunity, and food sources of them:

Carrots, kale and apricots for beta carotene Beta carotene gets converted to vitamin A, which is essential for a strong immune system. It works by helping antibodies respond to toxins and foreign substances.

Good sources of beta carotene include sweet potatoes, carrots, mangoes, apricots, spinach, kale and broccoli. Oranges, strawberries and broccoli for Vitamin C Vitamin C increases blood levels of antibodies and helps to differentiate lymphocytes (white blood cells), which helps the body determine what kind of protection is needed. Research has suggested that higher levels of vitamin C may slightly reduce the duration of cold symptoms. You can easily consume 200 milligrams of vitamin C from a combination of foods such as oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, red and green peppers, broccoli, cooked cabbage and cauliflower. Eggs, cheese, tofu and mushrooms for Vitamin D Vitamin D regulates the production of a protein that "selectively kills infectious agents, including bacteria and viruses. Vitamin D also alters the activity and number of white blood cells, known as T 2 killer lymphocytes, which can reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses. Good food sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, including canned fish like salmon and sardines; eggs, fortified milk and plant milk products; cheese, fortified juice, and mushrooms. Beans, nuts, cereal and seafood for zinc Zinc helps cells in your immune system grow and differentiate. Sources of zinc include beans, chickpeas, lentils, fortified cereals, nuts, seeds, wheat germ, oysters (including canned), crab, lobster, beef, dark meat poultry and yogurt. Milk, eggs, nuts and more for protein Protein is a key building block for immune cells and antibodies and plays a crucial role in helping our immune system do its job. Protein comes from both animal and plant-based sources and includes fish, poultry, beef, milk, yogurt, eggs and cottage cheese, as well as nuts, seeds, beans and lentils. Protein-rich snacks, such as roasted chickpeas, which can be eaten in place of snacks devoid of protein, such as crackers, for example.

Bananas, beans and more for prebiotics Probiotics and prebiotics help boost the health of the microbiome, which in turn supports our immune system.

Sources of probiotics include dairy foods such as yogurt, cheeses, as well as sourdough bread. Sources of prebiotics include whole grains, bananas, onions, garlic, and beans.

Water, fruit, soup and more for hydration Finally, stay hydrated. Mild dehydration can be a physical stressor to the body. Women should aim to consume 2.7 liters or 91 ounces of fluids daily, and men, 3.7 liters or 125 ounces; an amount that includes all fluids and water-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables and soups.

This post originally appeared on CNN Health.


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