Nutrition to Support the Immune System
Our immune systems are amazing; working day and night to protect our bodies from disease-causing microorganisms and to keep us on top form. However, what happens when our immune system fails us? A microorganism successfully evades our defences and unfortunately, we become ill.
It is important to remember that no food, vitamin or mineral is a ‘superfood’ that can prevent you from catching an illness, however ensuring that you include a wide variety of foods that are rich in certain vitamins and minerals can help to strengthen your immune system and support it in functioning to its best. Good nutrition, coupled with enough sleep, physical fitness and good hygiene practice should give your immune system the best chance of coping with everything around you.
To make it a bit easier to navigate the world of vitamins and minerals, below are some of the key vitamins and minerals involved in immune system support and their best dietary sources.
Vitamin C is one of the best scientifically understood vitamins out there, with a high amount of research validating its important role in an effective immune system. Vitamin C is required for essential tissue growth and repair around the body, giving it an important role in body healing.
Some of the best dietary sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits and strawberries as well as green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and cabbage.
Vitamin A is crucial for maintaining vision and is involved in promoting growth and the protection of our bodies. It is also known as an anti-inflammatory vitamin because of its critical role in enhancing immune function.
Green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and cabbage, alongside foods such as eggs, dairy and fish are all good dietary sources of vitamin A.
Zinc is less often talked about, but is still a crucial mineral that is involved in the correct and effective functioning of the immune system by supporting our anti-inflammatory cells.
Good dietary sources of zinc include nuts and seeds, meat and fish. Wholegrain products, such as pasta and bread are also often fortified and therefore also become a good source of zinc.
Selenium, another lesser-known mineral, can also have important benefits on the immune system. It acts as an antioxidant, reducing oxidative stress in your body’s cells and subsequently reducing internal inflammation.
It is only needed in very small amounts, but is best found in nuts and seeds, shellfish, eggs and lean meat.
Although there are many foods out there that are rich in immune-supporting vitamins and minerals, due to various dietary restrictions and limitations it is possible that not everyone will be able to obtain enough of them through dietary intake alone. Therefore, supplementation of these can be beneficial for some. But please remember, taking a high-dose supplement of a singular vitamin or mineral is not going to over-haul your immune system’s effectiveness; it is the co-ordinated reactions between all of the above, and more, that keeps your immune system working. If you would like some more advice on supplementation, please do get in touch.