healthy eating to support immunity.

April 8, 2022

What is immunity?
Our immune system is extremely complex and works hard to protect our body from potential pathogens such as viruses, bacteria and toxins. Comprising of several organs, cells and proteins, our immune system has two subsystems that work closely to trigger an immune response. Firstly, the innate immune system, which provides a general defence to pathogens entering mainly via our skin and digestive system while our adaptive (specific) immune system, makes antibodies to fight specific germs the body has previously encountered.

How do we support our immune system through food?
Eating to support immunity is an important topic at the moment, especially given the ongoing Covid outbreak. Several nutrients synergistically play an important role in supporting our immune system to function optimally. Therefore, eating a diverse and varied diet will help you stay fit and healthy or recover quickly, during this challenging time.

1. Focus on high fresh vegetable and fruit intake
In season, fresh fruit and veg are loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, essential for immune function. Deserving of special mention, berries, citrus, leafy greens and broccoli are packed with vitamin C, known to strengthen resistance to infection and potentially reduce the severity and duration of symptoms of common viruses while brightly coloured orange veg
such as carrots, pumpkin and sweet potato are rich in beta-carotene with potent antioxidant and immuno-regulatory properties. 

2. Adequate protein intake
Protein is essential for the immune system to make antibodies. Aim to include a small serve protein with each main meal and choose a range of different protein sources throughout the day, as each has unique benefits. For example, red meat, poultry without skin, shellfish and legumes are rich sources of the mineral zinc, essential for immune reactions in the body, while oily fish (e.g., salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines) are high in omega 3 fatty acids, essential for healthy immune function. Snack on protein rich nuts, also rich in healthy fats,
and being an excellent source of Vitamin E and selenium, both nutrients shown to increase the immune response.

3. Include probiotic rich foods
Probiotics (good bacteria) can enhance the innate immune system and counteract pathogen inflammation. Include probiotic rich foods daily such as yoghurt with active live cultures (choose unsweetened varieties) and fermented foods such as kefir, miso paste, sauerkraut and kimchi.

4. Stay hydrated
Hydration is essential to deliver nutrients to cells. Home-made soups are a wonderful way to increase your water intake and therefore hydration while boosting your intake of vegetables. Even better, flavour your soup with garlic, ginger, turmeric, all with natural anti-inflammatory properties. Smoothies and fresh juices (make predominately vegetable based) are also great ways to boost hydration.