Our immune systems are so complex! It’s the body’s defense against infections and protects us from germs. When the body senses a foreign substance (also called an “antigen”), the immune system works to recognize and remove the antigen by creating antibodies. These antibodies usually stick around for a while in case we need to fight that same antigen again.
As we roll into the cold and flu season, doing all we can to boost our immune system is our best bet to ensure good health, and it all starts with dairy!
Buying Wellness by the Gallon
The 13 essential nutrients found in milk are all vital–especially vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc, and selenium–to keeping our immune systems happy and healthy. Additionally, it’s estimated that 70% of our immune cells live in our gut and fermented dairy foods like yogurt, kefir, and cottage cheese are also excellent sources of probiotics, too (the “good bacteria”), as well as offer tons of protein, which helps fight off infection.
Let’s break down the main four nutrients:
- Zinc: Zinc plays an important role in immune function, wound healing, and many other cellular functions. It helps in the growth and development of immune cells, too. Not only does dairy provide zinc in a form your body can readily use, it also helps increase zinc absorption because of the vitamin D that it has!
- Vitamin D: Zinc and vitamin D have a synergistic relationship, and the fact that dairy products contain both of these nutrients tells you that they can boost your immune health AND your overall health! There are a limited number of food sources with vitamin D, and dairy just happens to be a big one.
- Selenium: Selenium helps you maintain a healthy immune system and is found naturally in many foods like milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese. It has antioxidant properties, meaning it can help reduce inflammation, and it also can help protect healthy cells from damage.
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A is known as an anti-inflammation vitamin because of its critical role in enhancing immune function. Vitamin A actually is involved in the foundational development of our immune system, too, and helps regulate cellular immune responses.
Immunity & Nutrition Are Interconnected
Making sure we’re giving our bodies what they need by providing them essential nutrients ensures our immune cells can function properly. Immune cells use a lot of energy and nutrients to help our bodies defend themselves from antigens and other invading pathogens. Because they require a steady supply of essential vitamins and minerals to protect us, helping our bodies replenish those vitamins and minerals will help to keep us healthy all year long.
Eating a balanced diet consisting of protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and of course, dairy products—is an easy way to make sure we still get to eat all of our favorite foods while we keep our bodies healthy enough to fight off disease and infection. Vegetables and fruits contain immune-boosting vitamins like C, A, and B6. Have you ever heard, “Eat the rainbow?” Well, a wide range of fruits and veggies come in a rainbow of colors that provide your body the essential nutrients it craves.
Make Immune-Boosting Food Choices
According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), almost 90% of Americans fall short when it comes to their dairy and vegetable intake, and almost 80% fall short when it comes to fruits and nuts. But don’t stress! We can all easily add a little more color, protein, dairy, fruits, and veggies to our plates.
- Try adding a glass of milk to any meal or snack.
- Make a smoothie with milk, yogurt, and fruit.
- Enjoy a colorful salad topped with shredded cheese and chopped nuts.
All of these little things are quick and easy ways to up your intake of these typically under-consumed foods that will make your body and your immune system so, so happy.
Stay Healthy With a Dose of Dairy
The Nevada Dairy Farmers are always looking for ways to enhance our farms and the products we provide to our community to ensure healthy diets and optimal nutrition is available to all. Though Nevada is a small milk-producing state — just 0.3% of the country’s total milk volume — it is a significant contributor to the local economy and can produce enough to supply its entire population with fluid milk.
We’ll keep doing our part to provide you delicious and nutritious dairy, you do yours by keeping your immune system healthy!