How to support a healthy immune system
Eating a variety of healthy foods packed with immune-enhancing nutrients is one important step you can take. The following nutrients have been shown to be particularly beneficial in supporting a healthy immune system:
Protein: is part of the body's defense mechanism, and plays a key role in regulating the body’s immune response. Include a variety of protein foods in the diet including lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans and pulses, unsalted nuts and seeds.
Vitamin A: helps regulate the immune system and protects against infection by keeping skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines and respiratory system healthy. This immune-boosting vitamin is in carrots, dark leafy greens, squashes, dried apricots, peppers, fish and liver.
Vitamin C: protects you from illness by increasing the production of antibodies and infection-fighting white blood cells. Include more of this healthy vitamin in your diet with citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit and tangerines, green leafy vegetables, peppers, Brussels sprouts, strawberries and papaya.
Vitamin E: works as an antioxidant, stimulating the formation of natural killer cells that seek out and destroy germs and cancer cells. Include vitamin E in your diet with dark leafy greens, almonds, sunflower seeds, avocadoes, shellfish, and olive oil.
Zinc: increases the production of white blood cells that fight infection. This valuable mineral can be found in oysters, poultry, red meat, beans, wholegrains and nuts.
Other nutrients: including vitamin B6, folate, selenium, iron, as well as prebiotics and probiotics, have also been shown to have a positive effect on immune response.
Cummings, John H., et al. (2004) PASSCLAIM1 – Gut health and immunity. European Journal of Nutrition, ii118-ii173.
Marcos, Ascensión, Esther Nova, and A. Montero. (2003) Changes in the immune system are conditioned by nutrition. European journal of clinical nutrition 57: S66-S69.