With the recent virus spreading like wildfire, doctors have advised people to boost their immune system. One may ask how? But before we rush into it, we need to understand what it is.
First, The immune system is a host defense system comprising many biological structures and processes within an organism that protects against disease. As we get older, our immune system becomes less sturdy, which is why we are at greater risk of infections as well as more serious problems, such as cancer, as we age. The good news is there are plenty of ways to help your immune system stay firing on all cylinders. Here are some useful tips:
- VITAMIN D- A DATE WITH THE SUN: Vitamin D, which is synthesized in the skin from UVB rays, is vital to maintain a healthy immune system. And, while you can get vitamin D from some foods – think oily fish like salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel, red meat, liver, egg yolks and fortified foods like fat spreads and some breakfast cereals – the best way to get some is to expose your skin to sunlight. If you aren’t in a hot area, what better excuse to book that sunshine holiday?(Saga.co.uk).
- CITRUS FRUIT: Most people turn to vitamin C after they’ve caught a cold. That’s because it helps build up your immune system. Vitamin C is thought to increase the production of white blood cells. These are key to fighting infections.
Popular citrus fruits include:
- OATS MEAL AND IMMUNITY: Beta-glucan, a soluble fibre found in oats, has been found to stimulate the immune system. And that’s not all. Oats also contain a unique group of antioxidants called avenanthramide (AVA) which have anti-inflammatory properties. Eat porridge for breakfast, add oats to the top of a crumble for extra crunch or mix into a smoothie.
- RED BELL PEPPERS: red bell peppers contain twice as much vitamin C as citrus. They’re also a rich source of beta carotene. Besides boosting your immune system, vitamin C may help maintain healthy skin. Beta carotene helps keep your eyes and skin healthy.
- YOGURTS: According to Saga News, Probiotics have been shown to stimulate white blood cells which help keep you from getting sick, but you needn’t take pills. Research shows that yogurt – and in particular a strain of the lactobacillus bulgaris bacterium found in some yogurts – helps stimulate the immune system at least in mice. Meanwhile in people a clinical trial found this same strain lowered incidence of the common cold in older people who took it in yogurt.
- CINNAMON: can reduce bacteria’s ability to multiply, and if you do end up suffering from a cold, it should help it to clear up quicker. Sprinkle some over hot chocolate or a cup of tea, or try mixing it with raw honey, which has similar properties.
- WATERMELON: these contain citrulline, which helps keep your heart healthy, and they’re rich in vitamins A, C and B6 too. Their red flesh supplies your body with lycopene, which helps keep your immune system balanced.
BROCCOLI: when it comes to choosing your five-a-day, make sure broccoli becomes a firm favorite as it’s bursting with nutrients like vitamins A, C and E and contains choline which is good for your gut. Instead of cooking your broccoli, try to eat it raw if you can, as it’s more nutritious this way. Similar vegetables that are classed as super foods when it comes to your immune system include sprouts, kale and cauliflower.
CHICKEN: zinc is needed for white blood cell production so your body can fight off infection and for healthy skin, hair and nails. Zinc can be found in seafood (like oysters), eggs, chickpeas, mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and cashew nuts, so eat these more regularly.
- CHILLIES: fresh red and green chillies are incredible health boosters. They contain lots of vitamin A and C (nutrients which can boost the immune system) and capsaicin which can help clear congestion and phlegm.
- ELDERBERRIES: these are full of flavonoids and they can help stop viruses in their tracks. Even if you do develop a cold or flu, you may find that your body recovers much more quickly if you’ve been eating elderberries.
The best vitamins and minerals for your immune system
VITAMIN A, C, D AND ZINC
A– this supports the normal functioning of the immune system as it’s thought to help develop a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies. Some sources of vitamin A include eggs, dark green leafy vegetables and cod liver oil.
C – this can help support cellular functions needed by the immune system. Oranges, orange juice, broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries and red/green peppers are your best source.
D – this will help to keep your immune system strong, with the ability to fight off infections quickly. As most vitamin D is received from sunlight, the UK Government recommends a daily supplement between October and March.
ZINC – this contributes to the normal function of the immune system and can be found in seafood, red meat, chickpeas, eggs, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Be careful not to consume more than the recommended daily allowance, which is 25mg.
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