Hyperaware of every sniffle and cough, we take a look at the ingredients that can support our immune system
Our immune system is incredibly complex and interconnected, helping our bodies fight off viruses, bacteria and other pathogens. And our lifestyle choices can either support or weaken our immune systems.
With the seemingly endless parade of headlines and social media posts about the risk of coronavirus, especially in those with pre-existing conditions that have weakened the immune system, I felt compelled to reset my dietary choices to make sure I’m giving my body all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and strong over the next few months.
There are varying opinions about how much you can influence your immune system with what you eat and drink, but everyone seems to agree that drinking plenty of water and eating a balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables is the most sensible way to go about it.
One vegetable that seems like it ticks all the boxes is broccoli. Full of fibre, vitamins A, C and E, this is an antioxidant heavy-hitter. Great in soup, as a side dish or as the main event in stir-fry or pasta, broccoli is showing up on the weekly menu a lot more frequently in my house.
Here are the five vitamins and nutrients I’m focusing on:
Food high in vitamin C
Vitamin C is the one that most people turn to when they’re facing cold and flu season because it can help our white blood cells fight off infections.
Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes are easy options. But red peppers and papaya are also bursting with vitamin C.
Food high in vitamin E
Vitamin E helps us maintain healthy skin and eye sight as well as strengthening our immune system. And the good news is that we will get most of what we need through food like avocados and dark leafy greens.
Nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts and seeds like sunflower and pumpkin are also high in vitamin E.
Food high in antioxidants
Antioxidants are a compound found in food that can stop or delay our cells from damage. Eating food that is high in antioxidants or drinking green tea can help.
Look for fruit like elderberry, blueberries and strawberries as well as vegetables like spinach, kale, asparagus and sweet potatoes.
Food high in zinc
Zinc can help your body regulate its immune response and attack infected cells as well as assisting in repairing body tissue.
Beans and legumes like chickpeas and lentils are high in zinc as are seeds like hemp seeds, pumpkin and sesame seeds. You can also get zinc by eating nuts and whole grains.
Food high in anti-inflammatories
One of the ways our body defends itself is through inflammation – it increases white blood cells to help fight infections. But if the body gets stuck in a loop of chronic inflammation, there can be negative effects.
Cutting back on refined sugar and carbs will help as will eating more of the fruits and vegetables mentioned above along with healthy fats like avocados, olives and coconut oil. You can also spice things up with ginger, turmeric, fenugreek and cinnamon.
Along with eating a balanced diet, don’t forget to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and help your system flush out any toxins.