Although we are in the throws of spring, thousands of Brits are still suffering with pesky colds and coughs. And while many of us are able to enjoy the warm weather, some are bedridden with debilitating flu-like symptoms that you would usually associate with winter. However, all hope is not lost. Indeed the daily nourishment of your immune system can definitely make a huge difference to how your summer pans out.
With this in mind, I wanted to highlight a selection of delicious, immune system-boosting foods that you should start include in your diet, especially if you’re susceptible to a summer cold (or two!) Say goodbye to a weak and inefficient immune system, and hello to a summer of vitality and health.
Oats are an incredible super food that nourish your body and nurture your immune system. Oats are a rich source of beta glucans, which enable our immune system to recognise and destroy harmful organisms responsible for infections and disease. Better still, oats provide the highest protein content of all the cereals. Protein is essential for the production of antibodies (particles that help the body win the fight against viruses!) Still not convinced of how remarkable oats are? Well, they are also rich in vitamin E – a potent antioxidant (i.e., able to remove toxic particles) whose deficiency prevents our immune system from killing harmful organisms. Nuts and seeds such as almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts and sunflower seeds are also great sources of vitamin E.
Like oats, vitamin D helps the immune system fight infections. And people who are deficient in it are particularly exposed to infections. Did you know that vitamin D supplements were used to treat tuberculosis before antibiotics were widely available? Although fatty- fish, eggs, and fortified breakfast cereals can provide some vitamin D, the skin via absorption of sunlight produces most of it, which poses a significant obstacle for British people living in the UK. As such, individuals with poor exposure to sunlight are recommended to take a high-dose vitamin D supplement.
VITAMIN C-RICH FOODS
Did you know that vitamin C is the most consumed supplement in the world? Indeed many studies have shown that an appropriate daily intake of vitamin C can not only prevent infections, but also reduce their severity and duration. Which food contains the highest concentration of vitamin C? If orange sprung to mind, you will be surprised. Acerola, rose hips, peppers and horseradish all contain more vitamin C than an orange! Other sources include kale, broccoli, papaya, strawberries, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and mango.
ORANGE FRUIT N VEG
Fruits and vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and other foods such as cod-liver oil and whole milk, are all rich sources of vitamin A. Like vitamin C and E, vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant that affects the body’s wellbeing from the early stages of life. Maternal vitamin A levels influence the development of the baby’s immune system while still in the womb! A deficiency in vitamin A during pregnancy may lead to an impaired immune system in the baby, which is difficult to reverse.
Folic acid is a B vitamin that is needed to for both the health of your immune system and the repairing of damaged cells in our body, which can lead to cancer formation and development. Folic acid is contained in a good range of both animal and vegetarian foods such as poultry, dark leafy greens (spinach, turnip, lettuce), asparagus, citrus fruits, legumes and avocado.
THE IMMUNE-ENHANCER MINERALS
Minerals are also worthy of a place amongst the immune-enhancing foods. Individuals affected by anaemia – caused by low iron intake – are more prone to infections and increased disease duration. Iron is abundant in red meat, fortified cereals, kale, broccoli, quinoa, and pulses. Both zinc and selenium nourish the immune system and keep its cells healthy and active. Although they’re only needed in tiny amounts, a lack of zinc and selenium can compromise the immune system’s activity.
A good quality diet is about consuming the right foods in the right proportion. And in order to improve your immune system over the summer, start to include as many of these super-foods as possible.