Mash-up of Illustration of students sitting on books, working on computers, talking on phones and photo of Prof. Mindy Haar

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Community Conversations: Overall Health and Nutrition to Boost Immunity

July 29, 2020

The third event in the Students First: Community Conversations series, held Thursday, July 23, featured Mindy Haar, Ph.D., RDN, clinical associate professor and chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences in the School of Health Professions.

During the discussion, Haar, who recently shared immunity-boosting nutrition tips with The Box, relayed helpful dietary suggestions for students looking to strengthen their immune system against viruses like COVID-19, as well as tips to enhance overall health.

What does the immune system do?
Haar described the immune system as the body’s ability to recognize and attack unknown entities, such as viruses and bacteria, by creating immune cells. Once the invading cells have been neutralized, the body is then able to use nutrients to create antibodies that will better fight off sickness in the future.

What nutrients should be added to one’s diet?
Vitamins help the immune system function properly. The most important vitamins are vitamins A, C, D, and B12, all of which are typically included in a multivitamin. Taking a multivitamin can be helpful in ensuring that all essential nutrients are absorbed, though Haar mentioned that most daily nutrients should come from the food one consumes, not in the form of a supplement.

Students also asked about taking individual vitamin supplements, and Haar shared that taking too much of one vitamin could be toxic and, in fact, may deplete one’s immune system.

What kinds of foods should be added to one’s diet?
“A balanced diet is needed to get an adequate amount of all of the nutrients,” said Haar, who added that eating whole foods, fruits, vegetables, and more plant-based proteins allows the immune system to achieve optimal working order. Haar also recommended that students incorporate avocado, soybeans, non-fat yogurt, rice, quinoa, and home-made soups in their diets. Soups that include parsley, sage, garlic, and onions are especially helpful in boosting recovery.

She also provided students with recipes and other food options, and reminded them that New York Tech offers a food assistance plan, which may allow students to purchase healthy options when dining on campus.

What kinds of foods should be avoided?
Any foods that cause inflammation should be avoided, as unnecessary inflammation hinders immunity. Fast food, sugary treats, and highly processed foods full of unnatural chemicals usually cause inflammation, as the body often struggles to digest additives. Haar also shared that overeating can cause difficulties, and that mindful practices such as meal-planning and eating more slowly support a well-rounded diet.

What other steps can be taken to increase one’s health?
Exercising directly decreases inflammation and minimizes stress, Haar shared. She also reminded students that regular and consistent sleep is exceedingly important, as the body repairs cellular damage during sleep, and this rest allows the body to fight infections faster.

The Students First: Community Conversations is a series of discussions aimed at informing students about the changes to be made at New York Tech during this pandemic and the support systems that are available to members of the New York Tech community. Tune in on Thursday, July 30 at noon to hear from Tiffani L. Blake, interim assistant provost for student engagement and development, and Mary H. Pelkowski, interim dean of students and director of student engagement, on student life, career services, and housing.