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Immune boosting tips

The immune system is constantly on high alert, trying to protect against viruses, bacteria and infection. The moment a person sneezes next to you, the immune system kicks into action and white blood cells start to defend your body.  It is a complex system, with many different components that need specific nutrients to function.

Top tips to support your immune system:

Get your vitamin C
This powerful anti-oxidant helps to produce protective white blood cells.  Unlike other mammals, we are unable to make or store vitamin C in the body so it is important to get plenty from the diet. If you are a smoker your requirements for vitamin C will be higher.  It is found in most fruit & vegetables but key foods to eat include citrus fruit, peppers, kale, broccoli, spinach, parsley, berries, sweet potatoes and butternut squash. Many of these foods also contain beta-carotene, another immune boosting nutrient.

Load up on zinc

Zinc also helps to manufacture white blood cells and promotes healing. Good sources include chicken, seafood, oats, brown rice and pumpkin seeds.

Have an avo

Avocadoes, sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, tuna & swisschard all contain vitamin E, which works in synergy with Vitamin C and zinc. Throw in a few brazil nuts for selenium too, and you will have everything covered.

Spice it up

Garlic, onions, ginger & turmeric have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties so making a curry or spicy soup is great for the immune system.  Ginger is the perfect addition to a fresh juice too.

Check your vitamin D
Vitamin D is vital for immune function.  Our bodies make most of our vitamin D through sun exposure, so there is often a deficiency in the winter months.  Food wise, oily fish is the best source and a smaller amount is found in eggs and mushrooms. Some breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin D but they often contain too much added salt & sugar to be a healthy option.

Eat mushrooms
As well as containing vitamin D, some varieties of mushrooms, particuarly shitake and oyster, are rich in beta-glucans. These powerful fibre like molecules trigger the release of white blood cells to fight infection. Beta-glucans are also found in oats, barley and rye.

Ditch the sugar
Sugars from both food and alcohol can deplete vital nutrients, not only impacting on the immune system but also on energy levels.  Save cakes & biscuits for an occasional treat and switch refined sugars (white rice, white pasta, white bread) to brown rice, wholegrain pasta and rye bread 

Boost your good bacteria
Around 70% of the immune system is in the gut which makes looking after your gut flora very important. Poor diet, stress and antibiotics can all affect the balance of “good “ and bad “bacteria”.  Live natural yoghurt is good for a small boost, or try taking a probiotic supplement.

Stress can deplete the body of nutrients and lower the immune response, leaving you more susceptible to infection. Try to reduce stress by taking time out for yourself and doing something relaxing like reading a good book, watching a film or going to a yoga or pilates class.  Always try to get a good night’s sleep too.