We do not need reminding that winter is upon us again! It’s not just cold, miserable weather that gets us down, but it’s also the onset of the cold and flu season. And that’s not withstanding other potential health concerns with COVID-19.
The good news is that nature has our backs by providing a wealth of immune-boosting vitamins and minerals to protect us against unwanted invaders.
Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top vitamins and minerals to support the immune system all winter long.
Vitamin C is one of our most important immune-boosting vitamins. This is because it helps uprate production of white blood cells within the immune system to help fight of viruses and infections. It’s also one of our key antioxidant vitamins, further supporting overall health and helping bat away those unwanted invaders.
Interestingly, whilst citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, they are not the richest sources. All fruits and vegetables deliver good levels but guava fruit, bell peppers, kiwi fruits, strawberries and broccoli come out tops.
Iron is very protective of our immune defences. As its name suggests, disease-causing microbes literally must penetrate its steely wall to cause harm. One of the main symptoms of iron deficiency is tiredness and fatigue so do get your levels checked with a blood test from your GP if you’re concerned.
The best food source of haem iron (its most absorbable form) is red meat. However, for non-meat eaters, green leafy vegetables, all types of beans, dried fruit and fortified cereals are good sources. And if you eat your fortified breakfast cereal, together with a glass of orange juice, its vitamin C content will further help iron absorption.
Vitamin B6 helps ramp up the immune system in a number of ways, making it a clear player when it comes to protecting the body from colds and infections. It’s also needed to help the body produce energy from food so its importance can’t be overlooked.
With Christmas fast approaching, nut lovers will be pleased to know that pistachios are a great source of vitamin B6, although you’d clearly need to eat quite a few! Fortified cereals, salmon, bananas, beans, cheese and eggs are all rich in vitamin B6. In fact, it’s found in most whole grain foods so make sure they feature highly in your diet.
Often described as one of the hardest working minerals, zinc is needed for over 300 different enzyme reactions within the body. Essentially, it plays a role in most body systems, especially the immune system, specifically helping to fight off viruses. There is also research to suggest that it can help shorten the duration of colds. However, prevention is always better than cure, hence it’s a key mineral to eat plentifully.
Oysters are one of the richest sources of zinc. However, they are not everyone’s bag, so seafood, seeds, wild rice, beef and spinach also contain good amounts of zinc.
Vitamin A is key for immunity, initiating antibody responses as well as increasing white blood cell production to help kill off unwanted invaders. It also works on maintaining mucous membranes within the body which play a protective role.
Vitamin A is only found in animal foods which can be tricky for vegetarians and vegans. However, vitamin A is also produced within the body from beta-carotene and this is found primarily in red, orange, green and yellow fruits and vegetables. Sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe melon, broccoli and apricots are especially rich in beta-carotene.
With so many immunity-boosting foods to choose from, why not make this winter your healthiest yet!
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