It’s really important to be supporting our immune system at the moment. I like a food first approach putting lots of nutritious real food into our body and avoiding processed food to give our immune system the support it needs. Here are some key nutrients and foods we can add into our diet to support our immune system:
Vitamin C – a powerful antioxidant which protects our cells from damage and supports our body to fight infections. Good sources are brightly coloured fruit and vegetables, in particular peppers, kiwis, broccoli and berries.
Zinc – supports the function of our immune cells. Dark green leafy vegetables i.e. cabbage, spinach, kale, broccoli, nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin seeds), fish and seafood.
Vitamin A – being low in vitamin A can lower our immunity. Good sources include liver, fish, cheese and eggs, also orange fruit and vegetables.
Vitamin D – key for supporting the immune system. Being outside will increase your exposure to natural light and increase your intake of vitamin D which is important for regulating sleep and boosting mood. Oily fish and eggs are good food sources of vitamin D.
Eat a rainbow – Supporting the immune system is not just about vitamins and minerals. Different fruit and vegetables contain phytochemicals, plant compounds which protect our cells from damage, support our immune system and reduce inflammation in the body. Try to eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables to benefit from all the different phytochemicals.
Eating a variety of fruit and vegetables is also important to support the beneficial bacteria in our gut. Our gut microbiome plays an essential role in maintaining immune function. Eating prebiotic foods such as asparagus, green bananas and onions, and probiotic fermented foods support our gut bacteria. 70% of our immune cells are located in our digestive system so looking after the bacteria in our gut will support our immune health.
Healthy fats – oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and anchovies are high in omega 3 fatty acids. These essential fats help to reduce inflammation in the body. Other healthy fats include nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocados.
Load up on foods which have natural antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties such as garlic, onions, ginger, oregano, turmeric and coconut oil.
Keep hydrated – drink plenty of water, herbal teas are also a good option for some warm fluids.
Sleep is important to enable the body to rest and repair, this is also a time when new immune cells are produced, aiming for 7-8 hours a night can be very beneficial.
Finally, remain calm and don’t panic. Stress weakens our immune system so anything you can do to manage stress levels will be helpful.