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5 immune-boosting nutrients and the pantry staples that provide them

5 immune-boosting nutrients and the pantry staples that provide them

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Besides staying home, keeping your immune system primed and ready to fight may be your next best line of defense against the novel coronavirus. These five nutrients boost your body’s immune system and can be found in shelf-stable foods, allowing you to eat healthy without extra trips to the store.


This powerful macronutrient is important for our immune system to function efficiently. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 56 grams for men and 46 for women. Most of us get much more than that, but it may require more intention right now if you are avoiding the store. Here are examples of protein-rich foods that, when combined, provide 59 grams of complete protein:

  • Include two eggs for breakfast for 13 grams of protein.
  • 1 cup of canned, rinsed beans over 1 cup brown rice at lunch provides 19 grams together.
  • ¼ cup of almonds with seven dried apricots are a filling snack that provides 10 grams.
  • Meet your goal with a tuna sandwich at dinner. One can of tuna in water has 19 grams of quality protein.

Vitamin A

This important nutrient fights against infection by keeping body tissues healthy, including tissues in the lungs. The RDA is 900 micrograms for men and 700 for women. Use these ideas to meet the RDA:

  • Pair 1 cup canned, condensed tomato soup with your tuna sandwich for 90 micrograms of Vitamin A.
  • Dice a serving of canned, roasted red peppers into the beans and rice for a boost of flavor and 180 micrograms.
  • Remember the apricots and almonds? This nutrient-dense match is not only a good source of protein — it provides 117 micrograms of Vitamin A as well.
  • Cook ½ cup frozen, chopped spinach into those two eggs for 615 micrograms of Vitamin A.

Vitamin C

This vitamin, also an antioxidant, fights off infection by actually stimulating the production of antibodies. The RDA is 90 milligrams for men and 75 for women. Here is a short list of foods to reach this recommendation:

  • One mandarin orange fruit cup provides 100% of the RDA for Vitamin C at 90 mgs per cup.
  • Those roasted red peppers you mixed with the beans and rice provide 31 mgs of Vitamin C, 35% of the Daily Value.
  • Add in 9 milligrams for 1 cup of tomato soup, and you are more than covered.

Vitamin E

This immune-enhancing vitamin is a little harder to come by, even though the RDA for men and women is only 15 milligrams. The good news is ¼ cup of almonds provides 10 milligrams of Vitamin E, and 7 dried apricots gives 3 more, just 2 milligrams short of the RDA. Many whole grain cereals are fortified with Vitamin E as well, which is an easy way to meet your nutrient needs.


The RDA is 11 milligrams for men and 8 for women. Chicken noodle soup is thought to be a good source of infection-fighting zinc, but that is a myth. Instead, get a 15-milligram dose each morning with a ¾-cup serving of bran flakes with your eggs at breakfast and start the day right. In addition, 1 can of tuna, 1 cup of canned beans and ¼ cup of almonds all provide about 1 gram of zinc each.

Niki Kubiak is a sports-certified registered dietitian, competitive runner and owner of Niki Kubiak Sports Nutrition and Weight Loss.

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