Research has revealed the remarkable influence of dietary choices on our body’s defense mechanisms. However, with an abundance of misleading information in the media, it’s important to tread carefully.
To help navigate through the noise, our partner nutritionists, Anna and Alex from The Biting Truth have curated a practical guide below, outlining effective strategies to boost your immunity through nutrition.
So, get ready to separate fact from fiction as we embark on a journey to strengthen your immune system. Join us as we uncover evidence-based insights and empower you to make informed decisions about your health. Let’s dive into the realm of nutrition and its profound impact on bolstering your immunity.
What actually is the immune system?
What actually is the immune system?
Essentially, the immune system functions as the body’s own military team, tirelessly defending against any potential threats and working to protect the body from diseases, infections, and injuries. Its intricate mechanisms work together to identify and eliminate harmful pathogens, keeping the body healthy and functioning properly. It is often oversimplified by the media, likened to a muscle that you can strengthen, however, this is not the case. It is not a single entity or a simplistic process, but rather a complex system that requires intricate coordination. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to strengthen or manipulate the immune system. Achieving optimal immune function relies on maintaining a delicate balance.
What role does diet play in your immunity?
Diet plays a crucial role in supporting our immune system’s function. The immune system is a highly active part of our body, and like any other active tissue, it requires an adequate supply of fuel. The macronutrients – carbohydrates, fats and proteins – serve as essential sources of energy for our immune system.
In addition to macronutrients, the immune system also relies on micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, to effectively mount an immune response. Several vitamins and minerals have been identified as particularly important for immune function, including vitamin C, zinc, vitamin D, and iron. These micronutrients play vital roles in supporting various aspects of the immune response.
Foods to include in your diet to support your immune system.
1. Citrus fruits
Citrus fruits are well known for being a rich source of vitamin C. Rather than waiting until you’re already sick to dose up on vitamin C, incorporate vitamin C rich foods into your diet on a regular basis. Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits are a great option.
Fun fact: our bodies cannot store or produce vitamin C, so it is important that you consume foods rich in this essential vitamin everyday. Try snacking on an orange, adding lemon to your salad dressing or squeezing some lemon over a piece of chicken or fish.
Garlic is a nutritional powerhouse and well-known immunity agent. Packed with the antioxidant allicin, it has antibacterial properties that can support your immune system and potentially lower your risk of viral infections.
Ways to include garlic: consider adding a couple of cloves as a flavorful base to your sauces, soups, pastas, or casseroles. This simple addition can not only enhance the taste of your dishes but also contribute to a stronger immune system, helping you stay healthy and protected.
3. Red capsicum
In addition to being an excellent source of vitamin C, red capsicums are also abundant in beta carotene, the pigment responsible for their vibrant red colour. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that plays a crucial role in safeguarding the body against diseases and illnesses.
Fun fact: Did you know that one red capsicum contains almost three times the vitamin C of an orange? By consuming just half of a medium-sized red capsicum, you can meet your daily requirement of vitamin C.
Ginger is a popular choice for many when seeking relief during illness. Ginger possesses a range of beneficial properties, including potential anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral effects. By incorporating ginger into your regular diet, you can harness its health-promoting benefits.
Fun fact: ginger has been used for centuries as a natural remedy to support immune health.
5. Broccoli & Spinach
Green vegetables, like spinach and broccoli, are incredible allies for your immune system. Packed with vitamin C and an array of antioxidants, they provide essential support in the fight against infections. To maximize their nutritional benefits, it’s important not to overcook spinach or broccoli, as this can deplete their nutrient content.
Ways to include more green vegetables: Start your day off right by adding a handful of spinach to your morning smoothie for an instant nutritional boost. Or for a more savoury breakfast, lightly sauté spinach and pair it with eggs. By incorporating spinach and broccoli into your meals, you can tap into their vitamin C and antioxidant properties, nourishing your immune system and promoting overall well-being.
6. Greek Yoghurt
Yoghurt is a superfood packed with nutrients like B vitamins, folate, and calcium. It’s also a fantastic source of probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that promote a healthy gut.
Including yoghurt in your diet can be a great way to boost your immune system. The probiotics in yoghurt help strengthen your body’s natural defenses and improve the activity of immune cells.
So, by enjoying yoghurt regularly, you not only get its nutritious goodness but also support a healthy immune response. It’s a simple and tasty way to give your immune system a little extra love!
Tip: when selecting yoghurt, be sure to choose options that contain probiotics. Look for terms like “active cultures” or “probiotics” on the label.
For centuries, people around the world have turned to mushrooms for a healthy immune system. The Shiitake and maitake varieties of mushrooms are believed to pack the biggest punch when it comes to immunity.
Ways to include mushrooms: Mushrooms can enhance the flavour of your meals. Try adding a handful to pasta sauce, sauté with a little olive oil and enjoy with eggs, or add to stir-frys. If you leave your mushrooms in the sunshine for a little while they will also produce vitamin D (another important nutrient for immunity!).
Nuts such as almonds are packed with protein, healthy fats and vitamin E, all of which contribute to supporting the immune system.
For an extra burst of flavor, try roasting your nuts in the oven with spices like cumin, garlic, or chili. By incorporating nuts into your diet mindfully, you can benefit from their nutrient content, including protein, healthy fats, and vitamin E, which can help strengthen your immune system.
Tip: It’s best to choose raw and unsalted nuts, otherwise you may unknowingly be doubling your sodium intake.
Oily fish such as salmon serves as an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for maintaining a healthy immune system. While the best source of vitamin D is from the sun, certain foods including salmon, can provide us with this essential vitamin as well. Other sources of vitamin D include eggs and fortified dairy products.
Tip: If you’re a fish eater, aim to have it 2–3 times a week. By doing so, you can benefit from the omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D content, both of which contribute to supporting a robust immune system.
Herbs and spices are not only known for adding delightful flavors to meals but also for their potential immune-boosting properties, often attributed to their antioxidant content. Among these, turmeric stands out as a vibrant, yellow spice renowned for its ability to reduce inflammation. The key compound responsible for its beneficial properties is curcumin, which is abundantly present in turmeric.
Fun fact: To ensure that you reap the benefits of turmeric, combine it with black pepper when adding it to your meals. A chemical in black pepper has been shown to increase the absorption of curcumin which is found in turmeric.