So, the weather is cooling down, everyone’s lining up for flu shots and you’re wondering if there is a natural way that you can stay well this winter. There are a few key vitamins and minerals that I always think of for a healthy immune system. Making sure you fill your plate with these vitamins and foods will help keep your immune system firing.
Vitamin D is a potent immune system modulator that enhances our in-born innate immune system and provides defence against infections. Foods to eat – herring, kipper and sardines, eggs, butter, fortified milks and cod liver oil.
Vitamin A is nicknamed the anti-infective vitamin because it helps to normalise the immune system. Our body has skin cells that line our airways, digestive tracts and urinary tracts that all act as a first line defence against infection. Vitamin A helps to maintain the integrity of these cells. It also helps the development of our white blood cells, which are important in fighting off infection. Foods to eat – cod liver oil, grass fed cream and butter, egg yolk, butter, pumpkin, carrot, rockmelon, mango, broccoli, kale, collard greens, sweet potato and raw carrots.
I can’t think of anything in the body that zinc isn’t used for. The body uses zinc for over 100 enzyme reactions in the body relating to mood, digestion, hormone secretion, thyroid function, DNA replication and immunity. Zinc and vitamin A work together, with zinc helping us to convert and extract the vitamin A from our foods (called carotenoids) into an active vitamin that can be used by the body. Foods to eat – fish, red meat, chickpeas, chicken (dark meat – thighs), turkey, pork, cashews, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pepitas, walnuts, almonds, muesli, dahl and wheat germ.
Vitamin C stimulates the production of white blood cells. It’s also a major anti-oxidant and protects against oxidation, which reduces inflammation. In times of sickness, the body’s requirement for vitamin C is greatly increased. Many people try and get adequate vitamin C levels from fruit such as oranges, but did you know that one orange contains 44mg of vitamin C. To reach your daily recommended amount of 1000mg, you’d need to eat 23 oranges. Foods to eat – red capsicum, brussel sprouts, papayas, kiwi fruit, blackcurrants, mango, cabbage, broccoli, strawberries, lychees, oranges and sprouts.
What should I eat to keep my immune system healthy?
I’m a big fan of eating for the seasons. Now that the weather is cooling down I like to enjoy warm and nourishing meals. I save my salads for the summer. Some of my favourite meals are:
Slow cooked, warm and nourishing meals. These types of meals ensure that the meats are easily digested, and the slow cooking enables the leaching of vitamins and minerals from the bones into our food. Purchase organic meats to prevent consumption of unwanted toxins. Because the meat is being slow cooked, cheaper cuts can be purchased.
Foods that use warming spices to stimulate digestion, such as turmeric, garlic and ginger.
Foods that have an anti-viral and antimicrobial effect, such as ginger, garlic, onions, leeks and shallots.
Foods that are rich in flavonoids, such as green tea, apples, blueberries, cocoa and onions.
Reducing sugar and managing stress also has a big impact on your immune system. Get outside, go for a walk, meditate, read a book, or laugh with a friend. These tips will all help keep you well this winter.
Should you come down with something, book an acute consultation, as we can often get you back to feeling well again quickly and reduce your symptoms without the need for antibiotics. Call 8354 1534 to speak to a nutritionist about keeping healthy this winter.