Foods to Boost Immune System
This time of year often brings various winter ailments, such as colds, coughs, flu and low energy levels. One of the best ways to keep yourself healthy and energetic this winter is to take measures to support your immune system. We round up the top foods to boost immune system below.
The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs in the body that work together to keep us healthy and protect us against infection and disease. When our immune systems are weakened, we are more vulnerable to picking up any bugs that are going around. Signs of a weakened immune system include frequent colds, coughs and infections, which may take longer than usual to get better, slow wound healing, fatigue, mouth ulcers and allergies.
The factors that can contribute include poor diet, stress, lack of good quality sleep, over-exercising, smoking, pollution and some medications. Diet plays a vital role; in fact, more than 20 different nutrients are necessary for the immune system to function efficiently.
5 Key Immune System Nutrients
Selenium is essential for the immune system to function and has many different roles in immunity. One key function is enabling a type of white blood cells, called neutrophils, to defend us against invading bacteria and other pathogens Selenium also has antioxidant actions, which reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, both of which impair immune function.
Studies have found that higher blood selenium levels are associated with an enhanced immune response. Selenium deficiency, on the other hand, has been shown to lead to a slower immune response and increased risk of various diseases.
The best food sources are Brazil nuts, seafood, fish, wholemeal bread, rye bread, seeds and brown rice.
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C stimulates the immune system by enhancing the activity of various immune cells and increasing the levels of a substance called interferon in the body. Interferons are a group of proteins produced by the white blood cells, involved in the defence against viruses, bacteria and tumour cells. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant.
Studies have shown that taking vitamin C supplements has a modest effect in preventing colds and significantly reduces the duration of a cold. Interestingly, in people doing heavy exercise, the preventative effects are found to be much higher, indicating that exercise may increase our requirements.
The best sources of vitamin C are peppers, citrus fruit, kale, spinach, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes, peas, blackcurrants, kiwi, guava and papaya. The Beauty & Go range provides 20% of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin C in each bottle.
3. Pro and Prebiotics
The balance of bacteria in our gut influences many aspects of health including our immunity. 70% of our immune system is in fact, thought to be located in the gut and increase the numbers of beneficial bacteria here, strengthens our body’s defences.
Research studies have found that pre and probiotic supplements provide protection against harmful organisms that cause infections. There is also research indicating that the gut bacteria communicate with the main immune system, helping it to respond effectively.
Natural live yoghurt and fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha contain probiotics (the good bacteria themselves). The best sources of prebiotics (which feed the good bacteria) are leeks, chicory, Jerusalem artichokes, peas, onions, oats, beans and lentils. The fruit fibres in Beauty & Go drinks have a prebiotic effect in the body, encouraging the growth of good bacteria in your digestive tract.
Beta-carotene is converted in the body to Vitamin A, which is another essential nutrient that the immune system cannot function without. It is necessary for the production of a type of white blood cells called T-lymphocytes, which help orchestrate immune responses and kill dangerous cells.
Vitamin A deficiency is well known to lead to impaired ability to fight off infectious diseases. Beta-carotene also supports and protects the immune system further via its antioxidant effects.
Beta-carotene and other carotenoids have been shown in studies to increase immune cell numbers and activity, an effect that appears to be separate from their role as precursors to vitamin A. Effects include increasing white blood cell numbers, increasing natural killer cell activity and enhancing tumour-fighting immune functions.
The best food sources are sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, kale, butternut squash, peppers, cantaloupe melon, apricots, mango, Beauty & Go SKIN VITALITY.
Another essential mineral for immunity, zinc keep the immune system strong, aids wound healing and is important for regulating immune responses and inflammation, preventing them from spiralling out of control. Zinc is also required for the production, maturation and function of white blood cells.
Zinc supplements have been reported in various studies to improve immune function. In fact, some doctors recommend zinc supplements for people with recurrent infections. Zinc lozenges have long been used for reducing the symptoms and duration of colds.
Immune Boosting Superfoods
- Brazil Nuts – contains about 2,500 times more selenium than other nuts.
- Garlic – has antiviral, antibacterial and antiseptic properties, it is nature’s own antibiotic.
- Strawberries – have one of the highest vitamin C contents of all fruits.
- Oats – contain a special type of soluble fibre called beta-glucans, which protects against bacterial and viral infections. Also a source of selenium.
- Mushrooms – high in selenium, beta-glucans and vitamin D, which are all needed for a healthy immune system.
- Broccoli – contains sulforaphane a compound that fights toxins and glucosinolates, which protect your tummy from unfriendly bacteria.
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