support immune system this fall

Dietitian’s Dish – Important Nutrients for Immunity

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lisa shettle

by Lisa Shettle, MS, RDN, CD-N

Fall can be a favorite time of year to enjoy the beautiful fall foliage along with our favorite fall foods and flavors.  

A healthy immune system is the first line of defense against infection and disease. While getting adequate sleep, managing stress, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and practicing proper hygiene are effective ways to maintain a healthy immune system, nutrients from food are a critical part of the equation.

Check with your Registered Dietitian for individualized nutrient needs and before beginning any supplementation.  

The following is a list of important nutrients for immunity and where you can find them in your diet (along with some of my tips for how to incorporate them!): 

  1. Vitamin C 

Sources: citrus fruits, berries, cantaloupe, red and green peppers, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes, brussels sprouts, and spinach, sweet potatoes, pumpkin

Lisa’s tips: you can add fruits and vegetables to smoothies; bake sweet potatoes with cinnamon; add pumpkin to yogurt, oatmeal, and soups

  1. Vitamin A 

Sources: spinach, dairy products, liver, and fortified breakfast cereals.  Other sources are foods rich in beta-carotene, such as green leafy vegetables, broccoli, carrots, squash, apricots, mangos, and cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, pumpkin

Lisa’s tips: 

*try air-frying sweet potatoes for healthy sweet potato fries

*use a sheet pan to roast vegetables in the oven with a light spray of olive oil and your favorite fall spices

  1. Zinc 

Sources: red meat, poultry, seafood, such as oysters, crabs and lobsters, fortified breakfast cereals, whole grains, beans, nuts, pumpkin seeds, and dairy products.  

Lisa’s tips:

*try adding beans, legumes, lentils, or quinoa to your soups, stews, and chili

*sprinkle pumpkin seeds on oatmeal, yogurt, salads, soups, or use in a trail mix

  1. Vitamin D

Sources: fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel. Fortified foods and beverages, such as cereals, milk, and plant-based milks, such as soy milk, almond milk, and oat milk. Liver, cheese, and eggs. Unlike other nutrients, the body can make vitamin D when skin is directly exposed to sunlight.

Lisa’s tips: use vitamin D fortified milks when making smoothies, soups, and stews

  1. Prebiotics and Probiotics  (did you know 70% of our immune system is housed in our gut?)


*prebiotics feed the good bacteria and sources include apples, artichokes, jicama, onions, garlic, leeks, cranberry, pomegranate, green tea, seaweed 

*probiotics are good bacteria that we can replenish with food; sources include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh

Lisa’s tips: a dessert idea is baking or microwaving sliced apples with cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice, and topping it with a dollop of Greek yogurt

Check out our High Protein Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats recipe!

If you are looking to boost your immunity with intentional nutrition, a personalized nutrition consultation could simplify your life!  

As a bonus, most health insurance plans cover nutritional counseling visits with a Registered Dietitian.

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