Do our immunes systems need boosting?
Whilst you might be reading lots of articles about how to boost your immune system it’s important to understand how the system actually works. In fact, the term ‘boost your immune system’ is a little misleading. A boosted immune system is technically one with too much activity meaning it’s in overdrive and may mistake harmless substances or cells for something hazardous. For example, in
the case of allergies, harmless food proteins are mistaken as harmful substances and the body produces antibodies to attack these proteins. We don’t want an immune system that overreacts unnecessarily so rather than ‘boosting’ our immune system we simply want to ‘support’ a healthy immune system.
Will superfoods support my immune system?
There is no single magic food, juice, pill or potion that will suddenly help your immune system function more efficiently. You might read claims that celery juice has healing powers or that ginger cures the common cold but many of these claims are not backed by robust evidence. Even the term ‘superfood’ is not an approved nutrition claim. If you really want a ‘super diet’ aim to eat a healthy balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, proteins, healthy fats, and dairy (or plant based, fortified alternatives).
Should I take vitamin supplements to help my immune system?
If you eat a healthy balanced diet there is no need to guzzle down supplements in order to support your immune system. Whilst vitamins A, C and other antioxidants (from fruits and vegetables), zinc (from meats, fish, seafood, and cereals), iron (from meat, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, pulses) and selenium (from nuts) have been linked to immune function you can get the right amount from your diet alone.
The only vitamin we don’t get enough of from food is vitamin D. It is recommended to take a vitamin D supplement of 10mcg daily during the winter months.
What are the best foods for my immune system?
You might be noticing a theme here but there aren’t any specific foods to focus on to support a healthy immune system. Instead the focus should be on inclusion of a variety of foods including;
1; fruits and vegetables including fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi. Variety is key and aim to eat a rainbow of colours.
2; lean proteins including; lean meat, fish, eggs, beans, pulses, lentils, nuts and seeds,
3; wholegrains such as; wholemeal, brown or granary bread, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta,
4; dairy foods or plant-based alternatives including fermented dairy
If you want more information on foods to eat as well as recipes, take a look at this blog: 5 foods to support your immune system
Besides food, what else should I do to support my immune system?
As always diet is just one part of the puzzle. As well as eating a healthy, balanced diet aim to keep physically active – as much as your health allows, get plenty of sleep and don’t drink too much alcohol. And if you haven’t heard it enough recently – wash your hands!!