As we leave the warmer months in the past and slowly enter winter, we’re also entering cold and flu season, which means it’s more important than ever to keep our bodies protected from infection. In addition to getting all the necessary shots, you can also keep your immune system in tip-top shape by increasing your Vitamin A intake.
“Vitamin A has a lot to offer aside from good eyesight,” registered dietitian Catherine Gervacio of Living Fit tells us. It has an anti-inflammatory function to strengthen the immune system. Specifically, it plays a vital role in the formation of white blood cells, which fight off bacteria and other harmful substances in the body.” Luckily, there are plenty of tasty ways to work this vitamin into your diet. Gervacio recommends yellow, red, and orange fruits and veggies, along with leafy greens. Learn more below!
1. Yellow, red, and orange-colored fruits and veggies
If you're looking for a daily boost of Vitamin A that adds color to your plate and nutrients to your body, Gervacio says you should reach for yellow, red, and orange-colored fruits and veggies. Great options include tomatoes, carrots, mango, squash, and more. But what does the color of this produce have to do with their health benefits? As it turns out, the pigment that gives them their vibrant shades, known as beta-carotene, is a great source of Vitamin A. "Beta-carotene increases the activity of the cells in the immune system, protecting it from harm," Gervacio explains. "It also has anti-cancer benefits." Woah! Who knew? We'll definitely be adding multi-colored bell peppers to our salads more often.
2. Leafy greens
We've all heard time and again that filling our plates with leafy greens like spinach, lettuce, and kale is essential if we want to maintain a healthy diet. Not to sound like a broken record, but Popeye was really onto something! There are so many reasons to make sure we're getting enough green veggies, and Gervacio says we can add Vitamin A to the list. She explains that leafy greens "have pro-Vitamin A carotenoids, which are plant pigments responsible for the colors of these vegetables." Once you eat the veggies, the carotenoids within them will convert to vitamin A during digestion in the small intestine. "The body then uses Vitamin A to fight off infection present in the body," Gervacio tells us. She recommends spinach, collard greens, kale, and more to get your daily boost of Vitamin A. Whether you make a salad, add them to harvest bowls, or even toss some into your smoothie, your body is sure to love these veggies. Sign us up!
Overall, there are many ways to boost immunity this fall and winter, but one of the best ways is to maintain a healthy diet—especially one rich in Vitamin A. When in doubt, pile these veggies on!