You have probably all seen a post or two on social media regarding “immunity-boosting” foods you should be eating right now. Well, I am not sure you will like what I am going to say on this topic. Building a strong immune system doesn’t happen overnight, and definitely not just by popping supplements.
The key ingredients of strong immunity are a balanced, nutrient rich and varied diet, regular exercise, good quality and plenty of sleep, sunshine and keeping your stress levels low by practicing meditation/mindfulness.And doing all of the above consistently for a period of time.
I would like to look at these elements individually, so in today’s blog I will be focusing on the importance of your diet.
Having a varied diet is crucial not just to get the right vitamins and minerals into your system but also to help develop a healthy gut flora. The gut microbiota that resides in the gastrointestinal tract provides essential health benefits to its host, particularly by regulating immune homeostasis.For example, certain cells in the lining of the gut spend their lives excreting massive quantities of antibodies into the gut. Eating as varied diet as possible increases the diversity of your gut bacteria and it is the best way to keep your gut biome healthy.
What does this mean on a day to day basis? Eat as many types of vegetables and fruits as possible. I organised a challenge on social media last year where people who participated had to eat 30 different types of vegetables in a week! That is not 30 portions, it is 30 different types!! Most of us keep buying the same fruit and veg throughout the year and not so willing to experiment with new flavours or recipes. My tip: Use the Internet and foreign cuisines to find inspiration to cook with a new ingredient at least once a week.
What else can you do improve your gut flora? Incorporate some probiotic rich foods eg, plain yoghurt, miso and fermented foods like kombucha, sauerkraut, kefir and kimchi in your daily meals.
Vitamins and minerals that play important role in immunity
Eating nutrient rich wholefoods also increase your vitamin intake.
Helps to regulate and support the healthy development of immune cells.
Natural food source: Liver, sweet potatoes (eat the skin!), carrots
As it effects the nervous system, it helps with stress tolerance and resilience, which is important for immune function.
Natural food sources: whole grains, red peppers, broccoli, kale and other dark leafy veg, tuna, eggs, turkey
Enhances white blood cell function and activity, increases antibody responses
Natural food sources: Citrus fruit, cantaloupe, brussels sprouts
Vitamin D turns on key peptides in your immune system that trigger a strong anti-microbial response, allowing you to quickly and effectively fight off invaders before they can develop into a full-blown infection
Natural sources: sunlight!!, salmon, eggs yolks (please say no to egg white omelettes!), organ meat like beef liver
Vitamin E (tocopherols)
A potent antioxidant found in higher concentration in immune cells compared to other cells in blood, is one of the most effective nutrients known to modulate immune function. (There is a progressive decline in immune response with advancing age and Vitamin E can help enhance that response among the elderly)
Natural food sources: raw nuts and seeds like almonds, sunflower seeds, avocado some leafy greens eg collard greens, spinach
Zinc is crucial for normal development and function of cells mediating innate immunity, neutrophils, and NK cells; it has a role in the prevention of free radical-induced injury during inflammation.
Natural food sources: whole grains, nuts, beans, poultry, red meat, pumpkin seeds
This antioxidant helps lower oxidative stress in your body, which reduces inflammation and enhances immunity.
Natural food source: Brazil nuts (only need 5-6 a day to cover your recommended daily intake), seafood
Other foods to consider
Turmeric, garlic, ginger – they have great anti-inflammatory properties and they also make your food taste delicious.
If you look at the information above, you will see how eating a varied diet will help you strengthen your immune system. Supplements can help you but they shouldn’t be substitution for a healthy diet.