If you’re looking to support a healthy immune system, then be sure to enjoy a wide variety of healthy foods, including protein-rich real meat and poultry, nutrition experts say.

Animal-based proteins, including real beef and pork, are good sources of zinc, iron and B vitamins, which support immune health, explains Ruth Litchfield, professor of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University.

Litchfield says studies have found that in populations struggling with malnutrition, small amounts of high-quality animal-based proteins can significantly improve their immune status.

Animal-based proteins provide specific amino acids, such as glutamine and arginine, that are required for a healthy immune system, Litchfield adds.

Animal-based proteins also provide important micronutrients that are essential to human health, including zinc, copper, selenium and Vitamin D.

“It’s all about variety and moderation,” Litchfield says. “Eat a variety of foods from the different food groups, always in moderation. Don’t try to go overboard on one particular food item or food group.”

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