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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

Engage Personally with Wellness: Foods that Support Immune Health

Feb 28, 2022 09:31AM ● By Noelle Cardarelli
Cold and flu season has been compounded by the pandemic for the last two years. Increasingly, people are becoming interested in ways to support and boost their immune systems without making a trip to the doctor or overstocking their supplement cabinets. The foods that we eat are packed with micronutrients and other vitamins and minerals that our bodies utilize for fuel and protection against pathogens. Some fan favorites and maybe a few other less known nutrients can be found in your local grocery store.

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be found abundantly in sweet potatoes, winter squash, kale and fish. Vitamin A plays a vital role in regulating and promoting cellular responses to unwanted infectious agents. It also exerts antiviral effects by influencing gut flora.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It plays a vital role in immune function in addition to tissue healing and is easily one of the more well-known nutrients. It is a common misconception that oranges have the highest amount of vitamin C. It can be found more abundantly in bell pepper, guava, kiwi, strawberries and papaya.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that also acts as a hormone. It has been shown to modulate both the innate and adaptive immune responses. Vitamin D is synthesized in the skin through exposure to sunlight. Due to the climate, season and geography, it is common for people in New England to be deficient in this nutrient. When sunlight is not available you can also increase your intake of fish, eggs and mushrooms. One way to increase the content of vitamin D in mushrooms is by letting them sit in the sun prior to eating them.

Zinc is an element that also acts as an antioxidant. It has been shown to boost immune function and plays a crucial role in wound healing. New research suggests that it can also help improve side effects from illnesses, such as loss of taste and smell. The highest concentration of zinc can be found in oysters. Other foods include crab, hemp seeds and grass fed/organic meats also contain significant amounts of zinc.

Local bee pollen is a lesser-known nutrient that can be a game changer for folks that experience seasonal allergies. Local bee pollen contains small doses of the common allergens in the specific region that it is harvested. For best results, consume this in small amounts on a consistent basis. Research suggests that this nutrient is beneficial for both general immune health and the reduction in allergy symptoms. Please note: no amount should be consumed by individuals with a known bee allergy.

Food nourishes the mind and body. By being intentional with the products we consume, we can positively influence health in a multitude of ways. Exploring, diversifying and learning about the various components and properties of food is a way to engage with wellness on a more personal level. Get creative, experiment with new flavors and most importantly, experience joy in the process.

Dr. Noelle Cardarelli is a naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist. She is practicing at Anasa Personalized Medicine, located at 245 Waterman St., Ste. 308, in Providence, where she is accepting new patients. For more information or to make an appointment, call 401-270-1742 or visit