Listya Suryani, Dietetics Major ’19, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator
Exam weeks are some of the most stressful weeks for college students. Combining this stress with changes in weather from winter to spring can result in an increased chance of getting sick.
As students working towards our degrees, it’s important that we’re able to function at our best in and out of the classroom. Getting sick, even a little cough or cold, prevents us from being at our best and can hinder our academic performance. It can be hard to avoid illness on a college campus given our close proximity to other students through residents halls, classes, and extracurricular activities.
The good news is that we can take steps to strengthen our immune system through nutritious food, rest, and physical activity. Due to our busy schedules, we often neglect our own self-care. One common thing I notice is that a lot of us care less about when and how we fuel ourselves. Skipping meals is one thing I often hear when people gets busy or stressed out, but this may affect them more negatively than they realize.
Our body and brain need steady fuel throughout the day to perform optimally and that’s why we should be intentional about fueling ourselves with high quality, nutritious food.
5 immune boosting nutrients
There are a lot of foods that can help to boost our immune system due to their nutrient contents. Some notable nutrients are:
- Protein: our antibodies, which are produced to counteract substances that the body recognizes as aliens such as bacteria, viruses, and other substances in food, are made of protein. This means including adequate protein in our diet will ensure our body makes the antibodies it needs to work against germs. Good sources of protein include seafood, lean meat, eggs, soy and soy products, beans, nuts, and seeds.
- Beta carotene: also known as vitamin A helps to regulate our immune system and protects us from infections by keeping our skin, gastrointestinal and respiratory linings healthy. Good sources of beta carotene would be red and orange fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, mango, tomatoes, and other vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, and kale.
- Vitamin C: helps to protect us by stimulating our antibodies formation and boost our immune system from infection. Good sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, bell pepper, and papaya.
- Vitamin D: our antibodies use vitamin D to inhibit inflammatory substances in our body. Vitamin D also increases the adaptive immune response of our antibodies making them stronger against diseases. Good sources of vitamin D are fatty fish, eggs and fortified foods such as milk, cereals, and some yogurts.
- Zinc: helps to fight off infection and to make protein and DNA in our body. This means our antibodies also needs zinc to be made. Good sources of zinc are lean meat, poultry, seafood, whole grain products, beans, nuts, and seeds
Being mindful of what we eat and substituting the highly processed, sugary and greasy foods with healthier options can help decrease our risk of getting ill. However, there are other factors influencing our immune system and we shouldn’t neglect them either. Washing our hands frequently, getting plenty of quality sleep, and managing our stress can all help reduce the risk of getting sick.