Eating a rainbow of anti-oxidant rich fruit & vegetables each day helps to support and strengthen the immune system, ready to fight off winter colds and flu. Debra Whelehan, NEST nutritionist, suggests the best foods to keep your immune system fighting fit.
“Particularly at this time of year your immune system benefits from plenty of vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc and selenium” explains Debra. Eating plenty of food containing these vitamins and minerals is a start though you might need the help of a nutritionist if your digestive system is not efficient to make sure you absorb the nutrients from the food (signs of a unhappy gut include bloating, wind, loose stools, smelly stools, constipation).
Include plenty of anti-viral vitamin C, Debra suggests by eating lots of oranges, peppers, kale, broccoli, spinach, parsley, berries, sweet potatoes, carrots and butternut squash. Many of these foods also contain beta-carotene, which is converted Vitamin A and helps to support healthy lungs & airways. Also she says add in some avocados, sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts or spinach for a Vitamin E boost.
These immune boosting vitamins all work synergistically together, along with the minerals zinc and selenium. Great sources of zinc, Debra highlights, include chicken, seafood, oats, brown rice and pumpkin seeds. While for selenium, look to fish, brazil nuts, and mushrooms (shitake have the highest amount). Due to their anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties Debra advises using plenty of garlic, onions, ginger and turmeric which are another great addition to meals.
Supplements may be necessary if the digestive function is not working properly, cautions Debra or where the person’s diet is poor. She comments that, “around 70% of the immune system is in the gut and if you are not digesting food properly you may not be absorbing all these healthful nutrients.” As vitamins and minerals work together, a good multivitamin and mineral supplement is best taken, with top-ups of single supplements where deficiencies have been identified.
Remember exercise and stress impact on your immune system too!
Further information about Debra Whelehan can be found at NEST London or her website www.livewellnutrition.co.uk