Reviewed by: Erica An, APD, BNutr&Diet
As the winter chills often bring winter ills, above all, it is important to focus on optimising your immune system by focusing on real food nutrition to keep those nasty bugs at bay.
Supplement companies love this time of year as literally thousands of immune promoting supplements not only line the shelves, but the company pockets. But… did you know… No supplement benefits beat good ole’ Mother Nature who perfectly portions and packages nutrients to be absorbed and utilised optimally in our body!
Let’s take a look at a few of the most notable immunity optimising vitamins, minerals and nutrients to see where mother nature packs a punch with its real food sources.
1. Vitamin C
A powerful vitamin important for healing, it has been shown that it can reduce the length of the common cold. Vitamin C has long been known to boost our healing powers. Second only to guava in vitamin C content kiwi fruit is high on the Vitamin C powerhouse foods. A single kiwi fruit provides 100% of your vitamin C needs.
Antioxidants are substances which help fight damage to our body and immune system caused by oxidation. Plant foods are rich sources of antioxidants. They are most abundant in fruits, vegetables and herbs. A perfect way to increase antioxidants in your day would be to include some of the following:
Green Tea, berries, tomatoes, soybeans and green leafy vegetables
3. Prebiotics & Probiotics
As approximately 70% of the immune system can be found within the gut it certainly pays to support good gut health.
Probiotic containing foods are those that actually contain beneficial bacterial strains. These include yoghurt, kimchi and sauerkraut.
Prebiotics are the ‘food’ for our existing gut bacteria. Prebiotic rich foods include: chickpeas, bananas, barley and cooked, then cooled boiled potatoes, for instance.
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4. Anti-inflammatory rich foods
Inflammation is actually an important component of the immune system. That said ‘chronic’ or ongoing inflammation can weaken our defences and open the doorway to illness.
Avocado, Nuts & Seeds are a terrific source of healthy fats that contain natural anti-inflammatory properties, they also provide a superior source of vitamin E which is essential for antiviral defence mechanisms.
5. Anti-bacterial rich foods
Most foods contain their own defence system of nutrients to protect it against bacteria, viruses and fungus. As humans, we can benefit from these plants defence systems by consuming these foods regularly. Foods known to pack an anti-bacterial punch are:
Garlic– Long recognised for its antibacterial properties’ garlics therapeutic ingredient allicin has earned it the nickname ‘nature’s penicillin’.
Honey-This sweet nectar has been used by both externally (to heal skin grafts and wounds) and internally since the time of Aristotle.
6. Zinc & Iron
Two powerful infection-fighting minerals found in large amounts in red meat.
Protein rich foods, such as lean red meat contain impressive amounts of iron and zinc – and if you’re inclined, enjoy a couple of palm-sized amounts of red meat each week to strengthen immune function.
Tip: eat your meat alongside vitamin C rich foods such as capsicum, tomato and citrus to enhance iron absorption.
7. Vitamin D
An important nutrient involved in immune cell production. Above all, vitamin D is the only nutrient your body produces when exposed to sunlight.
With winter weather diminishing out sunlight exposure it is important to focus on getting ample amounts of Vitamin D from Vitamin D rich foods. The best sources are Salmon, herring, sardines, and eggs (yolk mainly).
We must remember that a balanced diet is essential to ensure our body works at its best through all the seasons. Most importantly, ALL wholefoods contain unique combinations of nutrients to support good health so there’s never any real substitute for a balanced diet full of a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, whole-grains, nuts and seeds.
Remember – variety is the key to optimal immunity
To learn more about transforming your nutrition habits for you and your family, click here.