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Strengthening the immune system becomes critical as the seasons change

Photo by Cassidy Klingman

A variety of fruits and vegetables provide balanced nutrition

As winter approaches, it’s more important than ever to strengthen the immune system. The seasonal flu, COVID-19, and even the common cold become more threatening as the seasons change. While hand washing, protective gear, and social distancing guidelines are indispensable, there are additional ways to stay healthy. Boosting the immune system acts as an additional line of defense against infection.

Proper nutrition is crucial to maintaining a strong immune system and overall well-being. Associate professor of Physical Education Joseph Flaherty emphasizes the importance of eating the right foods.

“Nutrition helps us to maintain a healthy body weight,” he said, “which plays a role in our overall health.”

Vitamins C and D are especially effective in boosting the immune system. Some common sources of vitamin C include kale, broccoli, and yellow peppers. Vitamin D is found in salmon, egg, mushrooms, and any fortified food items, like milk. Fueling the body with proper nutrients allows it to fight against infection. Flaherty recommends focusing on whole foods and whole grain products.

“Not taking in the right vitamins and minerals leaves you vulnerable to deficiencies,” he said.

Nutrition also impacts mental health.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, internet searches including “anxiety,” “panic attack,” “insomnia,” and “depression” increased after the COVID-19 lockdown began. Neglecting mental health can leave the body more vulnerable to illness.

“A healthier mind helps to fight off disease,” Flaherty said. “Depression and anxiety are associated with sedentary behavior and habits linked to a weaker immune system.”

Jeffery Herman of LCCC’s Counseling Center highlights the connection between mental and physical health, particularly for college students.

“Eating properly, exercising, and sleeping are the three best things for college students to maintain their mental health,” he said.

Even though many people may lack the time or money to devote to their health, they can still form healthy habits. Even simple changes in diet can leave a great impact, such as swapping an energy drink for a glass of water or juice.

“Be careful of what you’re eating,” Herman said. “Focus on making choices that might help your immune system rather than the most convenient option.”

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