While sometimes getting ill is inevitable, there are definitely things you can do to keep your immune system at its best and make it less susceptible to infection. Your diet and nutrition are undeniably related to your immunity - your immune system requires a range of vitamins, minerals and nutrients to work properly and fight off infections. Having a varied, balanced diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables and getting plenty of sleep is the best thing we can do for our immune system but there are a few nutrients that are particularly important.
This essential mineral is crucial for the development and maintenance of our immune cells to help them ward off infections. Zinc is primarily found in animal sources of food such as oysters, beef, lamb, crab and lobster. However, some great vegetarian sources of zinc include chickpeas, pumpkin seeds and cashews.
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a highly powerful antioxidant (it removes toxic molecules) and it is also necessary for the daily function of our immune cells. These cells need even more vitamin C than usual when we are fighting off an infection so it is important to keep our levels high to protect ourselves as much as possible. As our bodies cannot store vitamin C, we need to consume it on a daily basis. Some great sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits, bell peppers, tomatoes, strawberries and kiwis.
3. Vitamin E
This fat-soluble vitamin is another strong antioxidant that traps harmful free radicals, it also plays a role in the immune response to infection and reduces inflammation. People with vitamin E deficiency have been found to have increased rates of illness so it is vital we get enough in our diets! Some great sources of vitamin E include almonds, sweet potato, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, spinach, kale, avocado and vegetable and nut oils.
4. Vitamin A
This is also necessary for normal function of our immune cells and it has been shown that vitamin A deficiency causes immunodeficiency – an immune system that is not working properly and is much more susceptible to infection. Some foods that are rich in vitamin A include liver, sweet potato, carrots, dark leafy greens, fish, eggs and apricots.
Another essential mineral that is vital for the normal immune response is selenium. It acts as an antioxidant, provides protection against viruses and it is also necessary for our immune cells to kill infecting cells. Selenium levels in our food vary based on where they are grown/harvested but some foods that are high in selenium include brazil nuts, grass-fed beef, tuna, halibut, sunflower seeds, eggs, turkey and spinach
1. Eat loads of fresh fruit and vegetables.
2. Lay off the exercise and rest if you are starting to feel ill.
3. Avoid binge drinking - it weakens the immune system!