The diet can play a large role in supporting the immune system.
As I mentioned in my last blog post, the immune system is complex and requires large amounts of energy to mount an immune response. Our energy mainly comes from the food we eat. Eating foods that can support the immune function can be beneficial for keeping our immune system strong and healthy.
Nutrients/foods that support our immune function include:
1. Aromatic herbs and spices
There are quite a few culinary herbs and spices that you can add to your meal which can support your immune function.
- Thyme and sage are antimicrobial and have an affinity for the upper respiratory tract.
- Ginger is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.
- Oregano has a strong antibacterial action.
- Rosemary has immune stimulating effects.
- Garlic is a potent antimicrobial agent also.
2. Vitamin C
This is one most of us have heard about in relation to the immune system. Vitamin C supports the epithelial barrier of our skin, enforcing the barrier for infections through the skin. Vitamin C also regulates the function of particular immune cells and prevents further damage to body tissues. Deficiency of vitamin C has been shown impair immunity and create a higher susceptibility to infections.
Vitamin C rich food sources include: red and yellow capsicums, kiwi fruit, broccoli, cauliflower, cantaloupe, asparagus, mango, Brussel sprouts, mandarines, green leafy veggies, peas, tomatoes and citrus fruits.
3. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that also helps the body to fight off infection by enhancing particular immune cells.
Sources of vitamin E in the diet include: almonds, sweet potato, tuna, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, peanut butter, avocado, mango, pistachios, spinach and olive oil.
4. Vitamin A
Vitamin A assists in maintaining structural and functional integrity of mucosal cells in barriers such as the skin, respiratory tract and digestive tract.It is also important for the normal functioning of immune cells.
Vitamin A can be found in highest quantities in the following foods: liver, cod liver oil, carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, spinach, cantaloupe, broccoli, peas, beans, avocado, peach, plums and oranges.
Selenium is an antioxidant that is usually thought of in relation to the thyroid gland but it also has a range of benefits for the immune system. One of its roles is to support the antioxidant host defence system.
Food sources of selenium include: Brazil nuts (sourced from Brazil), chicken liver, tuna, salmon, turkey, eggs, brown rice and mushrooms.
Zinc has a strong affinity to the immune system. It helps to maintain membrane integrity, and have a central role in cell growth and differentiation of immune cells.
Zinc can be found in highest sources: asters, beef, lamb, turkey, cashews, lentils, beans, chickpeas, red rice, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, salmon and sunflower seeds.
Water is important for flushing our systems and clearing waste from our body - our respiratory system needs water to clear toxins.
Making sure we are drinking enough water is important. Drinking black tea or coffee unfortunately doesn't count - herbal tea, or plain water are the best sources.
From my perspective, I don’t recommend supplementation without the advice of a natural health practitioner as with everything, too much of a nutrient can cause harm.
These food sources can appear to be overwhelming, however consuming a balanced and varied whole food diet full of veggies, protein (either animal or plant based) and wholegrains can support the immune system and keep you fighting fit through winter!
If you are worried about your immune function or feel you need further support, please hit the Book Now Button above.