A healthy immune system is something we take for granted most of the time. It's working all day every day to protect our body from unwanted invaders and potentially harmful pathogens, and we're generally completely unaware!
As a thanks for all its hard work, why not give your immune system a helping hand? Eating a variety of nutrient rich foods – especially fruits and vegetables – is the best way to support a healthy immune system. But there are also certain foods which contain nutrients that can specifically help to boost our immunity and enable it to function better. Where you can, try to include some of these foods in your diet to support your immune system.
The yolk of an egg is one of the few food sources of vitamin D (we make most of it ourselves using sunlight). Vitamin D deficiency can increase our susceptibility to infection, so it’s important we get enough. Choosing vit D rich food sources will help, but it’s also advised that we consider taking a supplement in winter months and when exposure to sunlight could be limited – such as times like now for some of us. See my blog about Vitamin D.
You may actually find turkey easier to come by than chicken at the moment, and the good news is that turkey can help boost our immunity. Not only does it provide great low fat protein which is important for healthy cells, but it is also a source of zinc, which plays a role in controlling our body’s immune response.
Orange coloured fruits and vegetables are a good source of beta-carotene, which our body converts into vitamin A. Vitamin A is an antioxidant with an important role to play in keeping our immune system strong – and it’s particularly important for our respiratory health. Just 100g of sweet potato has more than your daily requirement of vitamin A.
Like most sweet and juicy fruits/vegetables, peppers are a great source of vitamin C – another antioxidant, which I'm sure most of us know is important for a healthy immune system. Vitamin C is used by the body for growth and repair, helping to keep us healthy and strong.
This healthy oil will provide you with some of your daily vitamin E needs – another antioxidant. Vitamin E prevents free radicals from damaging our cells, which is important for maintaining a healthy immune system.
These are one of the best sources of selenium, which has been shown to have protective effects against pathogens and aging. Just 4 Brazil nuts meet your daily selenium needs.
This oily fish provides us with all important healthy fats – omega-3 fatty acids. Fats are essential for our body to absorb fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, so these good fats are an important part of a healthy diet. Choose wild salmon over farmed varieties to give you the best omega-3.
This popular grain is full of riboflavin, niacin and zinc. Zinc plays an important role in immunity and cell regeneration. Ensure you are getting enough zinc to help fight off illnesses and help keep your cells healthy.
With everything going on in our lives right now, a little chocolate indulgence may be just what we need, and the great thing is that picking the right type can be good for us too! Dark chocolate will give you a sweet hit and an antioxidant boost. Antioxidants are important for protecting our cells, so are super important for immunity. Opt for at least 70% cocoa solids for the most benefit!
Nutritionist Emma Brown (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.