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Immune boosting has been the key phrase in nutrition over the past few months. There have been all kinds of tips and advice about what to eat to boost your immune system and avoid getting sick. But can you really boost your immunity? Do you really want to?
Your immune system is a complex system that doesn’t just deal with viruses and bacteria. Your immune system manages inflammation as well – and an over active or “boosted” immunity can mean too much inflammation. Not good. Allergies and autoimmune diseases also come (in part) from an overactive immunity. So what’s the best approach? Really what you want is to give your immune system the foods and nutrients it needs to work as it should – not too much and not too little. This article is going to take you through the foods and nutrients that your immune system needs to work at its beautiful, balanced, best.
No, you don’t have to throw out anything in a packet. Just try including lots of foods that are as close to their natural state as you can. Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. Unprocessed meats. Whole or crushed nuts and seeds. Foods with lots of healthy whole grains. It’s really about adding some healthy ingredients to your meals and snacks. Look for simple ways to add wholefoods into what you eat everyday and try some of the tips below to get you started.
Is the most famous immune nutrient but remember that you can pack a lot of vitamin C in by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables everyday. In an ideal world, fruit, vegetables and/or salad should make up around one third to one half of your meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner. Fruit makes a great snack along with vegetable sticks and soups. You can also top up your vitamin C with pressed fruit juice and a glass of juice counts as one of your 5-a-day.
Zinc is a key nutrient for a normal, healthy immune system. It is quickly catching up on vitamin C as one of the best-known immune nutrients. Where do you find it? Nuts and seeds are fantastic sources of Zinc so look for zinc in sunflower seeds, chia seeds, almonds and hazelnuts. Fish like sardines are also good sources and you can’t beat some dark chocolate as it is rich in zinc and tastes delicious.
Although vitamin D is usually linked with healthy bones, did you know that vitamin D is also needed for a healthy immune system? Although we should be getting all of our vitamin D from the sun, not everywhere gets the consistent sunny weather needed for that to happen. You will find vitamin D in oily fish like salmon and mackerel. Tuna is also a good source and you will also pick up some vitamin D in eggs. However, if you live in a country that doesn’t get a whole lot of sunshine you might need to think about a supplement or fortified food as well. 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day should do it.
A healthy gut is now well-known to be important for a healthy immune system. Your gut needs plenty of fibre to stay healthy and there has been a lot of interest in fermented and functional foods as well. Do make sure you are eating plenty of fibre – find fibre in fruits, vegetables and wholegrains as well as nuts, seeds and oats. Don’t go crazy, though! If you haven’t been eating a whole lot of fibre up to now, introduce fibre slowly and carefully so that your gut and your gut bacteria have lots of time to get used to your new, healthier, way of eating.
Your body needs rest just like it needs good food. Make sure you are getting plenty of sleep and that you build some rest in to your day if you can. Sometimes we just need to stop for a few minutes and recharge. Not always possible, but do what you can. Your body will thank you.