Now more than ever, it’s important to keep your immune system in tip-top shape, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with exercise, getting enough sleep, and keeping stress in check, one of the most important things is to maintain a nutritious diet. And it’s easier than you think.
According to dietitians, you don’t always have to rely on supplements to get extra immune-boosting vitamins and minerals. Here are some foods that have most of the good stuff you need, from A to zinc. Added bonus: Where to find these and more healthy meals this winter around DTLA and beyond.
Why you need it: This vital nutrient is good for everything from your eyes to hair and skin, and even skeletal tissue. It’s also known as an anti-inflammatory nutrient, which helps enhance immunity.
Where to find it: Vitamin A-rich foods include carrots and sweet potato, broccoli, and green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale. Bestia’s takeout menu is chock-full of veg-heavy dishes like roasted root vegetables, fresh salads and more. Tender Greens is always good for a side of carrots or seasonal squashes, plus the options for healthy protein (and the occasional treat).
Why you need it: Our bodies can’t produce it on its own, so getting a healthy dose of vitamin C is integral to keeping your body humming the way it should be. In addition to boosting your immunity, vitamin C helps stave off heart disease, high blood pressure and gout.
Where to find it: Citrus fruits, strawberries, red bell pepper and kiwi are all rich in vitamin C. Hit any of the local farmers markets, including the Historic Core market, for fresh winter citrus like tangerines, Meyer lemons and blood oranges. You can never go wrong with a pint or three of Harry’s Berries strawberries or Pudwill farms berries; both can be found at the Sunday market in Hollywood.
Why you need it: This nutrient promotes the neutralization of free radicals by working as an antioxidant, and just a great overall immunity booster.
Where to find it: Foods full of vitamin E include vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and avocado. We are blessed with avocado overload in Southern California. Buy a whole one, cut it in half, drizzle with some olive oil, lemon and fancy salt, and spoon it out bite by bite. A fancier thing would be to find one of the fabulous avo toasts and sandwiches around town, like the one with harissa pesto, sprouts, cucumber and pickled onion at Fundamental DTLA. At Dune (in Atwater Village and DTLA), the avocado toast on Bub and Grandma’s sourdough bread takes a Mediterranean turn with tomato confit and lots of healthy garlic. Get the 8-minute egg on the side and some Bulgarian sheep feta and it’s a perfectly balanced meal. And should you need guacamole, El Cholo is walking distance from 1133 Hope — pick up a pint there or have it delivered.
Why you need them: A healthy gut means a healthy immune system. It’s that simple. You want good bacteria, the kind that comes from fermented foods and cultured dairy products, to protect from harmful bacteria. In the process, you improve digestive health which helps immune function.
Where to find them: Miso, made of fermented soybeans, is a wonderful addition to soups and broths, sauces, etc. Other fermented soy products, like tempeh, kombucha, and pickled vegetables, are good sources of probiotics. Think about things like kimchi, which you can now find at Shiku, the new Grand Central Market stall from the founders of Baroo. Not only is Porridge+Puff’s rice porridge with miso-marinated mushrooms, pickled daikon, and marinated seaweed good for your gut, it’s also good for your soul. The spicy miso ramen from Daikokuya in Little Tokyo is life-affirming.
Why you need it: You’ve heard a lot about zinc as a general immunity-boosting necessity over the years, and specifically during the pandemic. Mainly it helps create and activate white blood cells involved in immune response.
Where to find it: Meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds are all great sources of zinc. Think beyond a basic fried egg and opt for something like the famous egg salad sandwich from Konbi in Echo Park. Sushi and sashimi packs a wallop of zinc and other nutrients; get it from places like Sushi Gen in Little Tokyo, Sugarfish, and Q Sushi, which now does elevated omakase to go. You can’t beat oysters for a good healthy dose of zinc, either. Thankfully The Oyster Gourmet is doing takeout platters from the Grand Central Market.
Featured photo by Brooke Lark/Unsplash