With the recent change in season there have been many illnesses going around. It seems that at this time of the year everyone is catching something. Sometimes it’s hard to avoid so supporting your immune system may be a good way to increase your chances of either not getting sick, or being able to recover faster. A good diet and lifestyle is the best way to remain healthy, however there are a few vitamins and minerals which have been shown to provide support for the immune system.
Vitamin C is great for supporting your immunity. While there is some evidence showing it can reduce the length of colds by taking it in supplement form, the best way to get vitamin C is through food. Food sources will not only give you vitamin C but will also provide many other nutrients which will also benefit your immunity. Vitamin C is quite a safe supplement to take. It is a water soluble vitamin so your body does not store it, however you may suffer diarrhea from taking too much.
Zinc is beneficial for immunity and also assists in wound healing. The best sources of zinc come from animal products such as meat and eggs. However if you do not eat meat you can find zinc in nuts, legumes, beans and some grains such as wheat and wild rice.
Vitamin A is a immune regulator and also provides protection from pathogens by keeping the linings of the intestines and skin healthy. Good sources of vitamin A include carrots, spinach, sweet potato, kale, eggs and red capsicum.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant. It helps the immune system by reducing free radicals. You can find vitamin E in foods such as sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, hazelnuts, peanut butter and some fortified cereals.
A balance of good bacteria is essential for a health considering 80% of you immune system is located in the gut. However it’s no use taking probiotics and not eating a healthy diet. You must feed the good bacteria with whole foods full of fibre otherwise they will not survive. The best source of good bacteria is through probiotic foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir and some cheeses. Probiotic supplements may benefit some people, however they only provide a limited variety of strains when compared to food sources.
While these are all beneficial nutrients for the immune system, focussing on single vitamins and minerals alone will not create a strong immune system if the rest of your diet is poor. Consuming a well balanced healthy diet packed with whole foods will ensure your immune system has the best opportunity to fight off infections. Supplements cannot replace whole foods. Many nutrients work together as a team to provide your body with benefits which as yet, have not been reproduced in a lab. So don’t forget, a healthy diet first, and supplements as a support when needed.