By Florencia Tagliavini, Nutritionist.
With summer coming to an end and flu season around the corner, it's a good idea to check in with your immune system. What are you doing to nourish or boost immunity and help prevent illness?
Nutrition is one of the big factors that play a role in immunity and can change the outcome of your health. Your overall diet is very important, but there are a few key nutrients that have a more significant impact specifically on the immune system.
Take a look:
Vitamin A: Foods that are especially yellow and orange in color are high in compounds called carotenoids - your body turns these carotenoids into vitamin A, which has an antioxidant effect that helps strengthen the immune system against infection. Good sources include carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cantaloupe, squash as well as tuna, spinach and bell peppers, dried apricots and goji berries.
Vitamin C: Protects you from infection by stimulating the formation of antibodies and boosting immunity. Sources include bell peppers, kiwifruit, strawberries, oranges, papayas, broccoli, tomatoes, kale, snow peas, gooseberries, black currants, and goji berries.
Vitamin E: Works as a powerful antioxidant, neutralizes free radicals and may improve immune function. Some of the best sources are nuts & seeds including almonds, hazelnuts and sunflower seeds. You can snack on these raw or consume their butter or plant-based milk. Other sources are avocado, spinach, broccoli, and kiwi.
Vitamin B6: This vitamin is involved in nearly 200 biochemical reactions in your body and has a critical role in how your immune system functions. Foods high in vitamin B6 include bananas, pistachios, lean chicken breast, cold-water fish such as tuna, baked potatoes, and chickpeas. Bring on the hummus!
Zinc: Helps the immune system work properly. It appears to help slow down the immune response and control inflammation in your body and may help wounds heal. Some of the best sources come from animal foods such as oysters, beef, and poultry. Good plant-based sources are tofu, hemp seeds, cashews, lentils, and oats.
Selenium: This mineral seems to have a powerful effect on the immune system, including the potential to slow the body's over-active response to certain aggressive forms of cancer. The best source of selenium is Brazil nuts - they are actually so high in selenium- you have to make sure you pay attention to the serving size as too much selenium can cause toxicity. Other nuts and seeds such as sunflower, chia and flax seeds are also excellent sources as well as shellfish, tuna, beef and tofu.
Others nutrients have important roles in immunity as well such as iron, vitamin D and various antioxidants, which is why an overall healthy diet is key. Dont forget to add spices to your diet such as turmeric, garlic powder, and ginger which have many health promoting properties and will contribute to supporting your immune system.
What can negatively affect your immune system?
Not only should you nourish your immune system with a healthy diet and include the essential nutrients listed above, but you should also stay away from foods and things that can negatively impact your immune function such as:
- An unhealthy diet, high in sugar, salt, saturated fats, highly processed and refined foods.
- Other lifestyle factors such as chronic stress, smoking, excess alcohol, lack of sleep, excessive use of medication, etc.
By including these immune boosting nutrients and making sure the rest of your diet is balanced and healthy, you will be armed to fight off any foreign invader next time around.
Looking for an immune-boosting beverage? Try our Goji Berry & Orange Almond Milk.