Balanced diet can boost your immune system but expert says key is consistency

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – It is the height of flu and sickness spreading season. WBRC FOX6 News is On Your Side getting answers about whether changing your diet can help keep you healthy.

Lizzy Davis, registered dietician and assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences at UAB, said studies on animals and humans show diet directly impacts the immune system.

“We have seen that deficiencies in things like zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid and a number of different vitamins can alter your immune responses. We’ve also seen some studies in humans, where we’ve followed them over a long period of time, and we have seen that they’re at greater risk if they’re deficient in some of these nutrients, they’re at higher risk for some of… these illnesses because their immune system is depleted,” explained Davis.

Davis said it’s important to consistently have a well-rounded diet and make sure each meal includes fruit, vegetables, calcium, protein and whole grains.

“That’s how you can build your plate to make sure you are getting all of these nutrients because there are a lot of them there,” said Davis.

While Davis says we should focus on well-rounded meals, there is one vitamin that stands out during the flu season.

“If you are continuously having foods with Vitamin C, so in your body, if your Vitamin C levels are where they should be, it’s not going to prevent you from getting sick but it may shorten the time that you are sick,” explained Davis.

“So, if you continuously have a good diet, then you could be sick for a shorter period of time.”

Davis said the best way to get these critical vitamins and nutrients is through foods instead of supplements.

“Be wary whenever we are talking about supplements. A lot of the supplements out there have over a gram of Vitamin C and that’s about 10-times the daily recommendation, so we want to be really careful whenever we’re talking about getting some of our nutrients from supplements, because it can be dangerous, and a lot of them might have more than we actually need.”

In addition to a healthy diet, Davis said managing stress, routine exercise, good hand hygiene and limiting alcohol and smoking, “will contribute to your body running as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

To learn more about creating a balanced meal, click here.

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