Prescription food: Nutritionist explains how to boost your immune system

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – We've all heard the phrase you are what you eat so while it is important to practice all of the recommended CDC guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 - it's equally important that you pay attention to what foods you're putting into your body during these times.

“Keep it simple. If it grows from the earth or roams from the earth, this is safe to eat. If it comes from a plant eat it; if it’s made in a plant don’t,” said Zach Elkins, Nutritionist at Lean Impact Nutrition.

It is always important to monitor what you eat, but it’s become even more critical during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We need to start focusing internally on our health. The higher your immune system is the more you’re going to be able to fight off diseases, because your body needs macro and micronutrients to perform at its’ best. When you eat highly processed, sugary food you feel that; you feel tired; you feel sluggish,” Elkins said.

Simplicity can be the key when it comes to a myriad of healthy eating tips, diet, fads, and etc.

“Fruits and vegetables are going to give you your most bang for your buck when it comes to immunity and antioxidants, micronutrients, your minerals, your vitamins, so what I always tell people is to keep it simple,” said Elkins.

PRO-TIP: Avoid using vegetable and canola oils when possible. Substitute olive and coconut oils instead.

When it comes to increasing your intake of vitamin C, reconsider what you think you know about the immune-boosting vitamin. Elkin said most people go-to oranges for an extra punch of immune health, but not as many people know there’s a vegetable with far more nutrients to offer.

“What people don’t realize is red pepper has more vitamin C than an orange. Start incorporating bright colors with your peppers. In your lettuce decision-making, choose keep them dark and leafy options-- that’s going to be your kale (which is a superfood), spinach, and broccoli,” he said.

Another rule of thumb to follow, try to get 80% of your calories from whole nutrient foods. Start small instead of going all out. Make one meal a week in accordance with the rule, and gradually increase the dietary changes as you progress and feel more confident.

Simple Meal Plans To Get You Started

  1. A piece of salmon, pan-seared with zucchini. Looking for more food? Add squash and roast red peppers with kale. Kale is a superfood and probably one of the best greens you can eat, according to Elkins.
  2. For carb lovers, this one is for you. Have a burger with and fresh broccoli crowns. sweet potatoes. Elkins said be selective with your meat purchase. “When you pick your burger you want to try to get the leanest possible, so 90% or higher is going to be the least amount of fat, least amount of calories,” Elkins said.
  3. Keep it really simple with a salad. Elkins said keep it colorful too by incorporating kale, fresh tomatoes, carrots, and zucchini spears. Add a small amount of chicken breast for some protein or keep it veggies only.

Eating healthy is not only difficult but expensive. If you can’t afford fresh vegetables and fruits, try to choose processed foods that are low in sugar and trans fat.

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