Eat Well this Autumn to Super Boost your Immunity
As we move into Autumn the cold and flu season is fast approaching we might be wise in thinking what steps we can take now to protect ourselves. Debra Williams, Freelance Dietitian offers us some information on how diet has such an important part to play in the immune system.
It is well documented that eating a healthy well balanced diet and exercising regularly can help boost immunity. Research studies have linked a number of foods and nutrients to the strengthening of the immune system.
Vitamin C – helps increase the number of white cells and antibodies in our bloodstream and can be found in fruits (especially citrus) and vegetables.
Vitamin A – increases the bodys T cells and can be found in orange and green produce (e.g. carrots, pumpkins, spinach and broccoli)
Vitamin E- helps the body produce antibodies that aid in fighting and attacking foreign substances and can be found in various foods especially nuts, wholegrains and vegetable oils.
Protein rich foods supply the amino acids that your body needs to build up the components of your immune system. Meat, fish, eggs, milk, pulses, nuts, seeds and soya based foods all supply protein. Three average sized portions a day of any of these should be enough to meet your dietary recommendations.
Zinc is a mineral that is important for the formation of antibodies and zinc can be found in beef, eggs, seafood and wholegrain foods.
Iron is important mineral which plays a part in the immune system. Deficiencies of iron are more common especially in women. Iron can be found in red meats, green leafy vegetables and fortified cereals.
Selenium is an antioxidant that protects against disease and can fight viral infections. Most common food sources are chicken, wholegrains, tuna, garlic, egg yolks, brown rice and nuts.
Garlic contains powerful antioxidant properties and also contains an agent known as alliin. Alliin acts as a powerful, natural decongestant and aids in the removal of infected mucus associated with the cold or flu.
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential to our health and there in much scientific evidence documenting the function of omega 3’s in the immune system and prevention of diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease to name but a few. The main sources of omega 3’s are oily fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, nuts and flaxseed oil. However these can also be taken as a supplement from your chemist.
Probiotics can also help strengthen the bodys resistance to infection. Probiotics are the “friendly bacteria” provided by yoghurt, other fermented foods and drinks or dietary supplements. However it is essential that the yoghurt contains live and active cultures.
By following a healthy well balanced diet containing sufficient protein, carbohydrates and fruit and vegetables (5 a day) and bearing in mind the food sources of the above nutrients we can be sure that we are well on our way in helping to boost our immune system. However for those people that may find it hard to follow a well balanced diet for various reasons it might also be prudent to take a general multivitamin/mineral as a precaution. Obviously in an ideal world it is much better to get as many vitamins and minerals through food rather than supplements because the body absorbs nutrients from food more effectively.
With regards herbal supplements Echinacea and medicinal mushrooms (maitake and Reishi) are also known to have immune enhancing properties.
In addition to eating well there are also other lifestyle changes one can make to protect against colds and flu. These are good hygiene measures such as catching sneezes in a tissue, throwing the tissue in the bin, washing hands and surfaces on a regular basis. Getting plenty of sleep, reducing stress, stopping smoking, consuming alcohol in moderation and maintaining a healthy weight.
If you have any specific dietary matters you would like to discuss with Debra or advice on how your diet can be improved she can be contacted via email firstname.lastname@example.org or mobile 0778099872. Debra offers advice on a wide range of matters in the form of private consultations within the Exeter area.