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With COVID-19 still a threat, and flu season only months away, many of us remain concerned about protecting our health. Men have good reason to be worried: despite contracting the disease at a similar rate to women, in the U.S men account for 58% of the reported COVID-19 deaths, according to the CDC. The cause of this disparity is not well understood, but may be more than innate biological differences between the sexes: studies indicate that men typically have lower medical care service utilization rates than women and tend to neglect preventative care measures.

Fortunately, there are simple steps every guy can take to strengthen their immune systems and do a better job of fighting off any type of infection. Make sure you’re getting plenty of the following natural immunity boosters.

Diet and Supplements

We are what we eat, so it’s important to eat healthy. In addition to maintaining a balanced diet that’s rich in fruit, vegetables and leafy greens, be sure to incorporate vitamins and minerals that are known to help your body’s immune system function:

  • Vitamin B12: assists in white blood cell production. It’s found in animal-based products such as meat, dairy and fish.
  • Vitamin C: helps regenerate tissue throughout the body. It’s present in most fruits and vegetables, but citrus fruits (e.g. orange, lemons and grapefruits) and bell peppers have particularly high concentrations.
  • Vitamin D: also called the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D plays an important role in bone growth, but studies show it also helps reduce inflammation and fight off infections. If you don’t get enough sunlight in your day to produce your own vitamin D, eat plenty of oily fish (e.g. salmon, tuna and mackerel), egg yolks and mushrooms. Even consider a daily supplement of Vitamin D!
  • Vitamin E: speeds up the body’s production of, T-cells, which help kill off invading pathogens. You can get vitamin E from nuts, such as almonds, peanut butter and sunflower seeds.
  • Zinc: like vitamin C, zinc helps the body regenerate tissue and heal wounds. You can get this essential mineral by eating red meat, shellfish and legumes (e.g. chickpeas, lentils and beans).
  • Choose whole foods that are colorful and not processed. Limit Alcohol, red meat or processed deli meats, fried foods and refined flour and sugars.

Sleep

Experts recommend every adult should get a minimum of 7 hours’ sleep every night. How does sleep affect your ability to fight off infection? Well, scientists have found levels of T-cells and cytokines rise when you’re sleeping, and both of them are an important part of your body’s defensive mechanisms against invading viruses and bacteria.

Scientists have also observed sleep-deprived volunteers produced lower levels of antibodies compared with volunteers who got sufficient sleep.

Stay Hydrated

Not only does it keep your skin clear, raise your focus and boost your physical performance, the water you drink plays an important role in fighting infections. Water flushes toxins from your body, and is a vital part of the body’s lymphatic system, which orchestrates the immune response. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine said men should drink 3.7 liters of water per day to stay healthy.