Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is key to helping your immune system function properly. Whilst we can’t guarantee that a perfect diet can warn off all coughs, colds and viruses, one thing we can do is support our immune system to work at it’s best through good nutrition.
An immune supportive diet is one that is packed with vitamins, minerals, good fibres and plenty of phytochemicals like antioxidants. The more unprocessed foods and plant based foods you have in your diet the better. And variety is key!
To have a really strong immune system the nutrients essential to fight infection include vitamins A, B, C, D, and E, and the minerals iron, selenium, and zinc.
So where to find these nutrients? The best way is to include at least 5 serves of bright coloured veggies every day, get 2 serves of fruit, and include a variety of grains, nuts and seeds daily, along with good quality proteins. Here are a few tips to get those specific immune supportive nutrients:
- Vitamin A: oily fish, egg yolks, cheese, tofu, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes.
- B vitamins: legumes, green leafy vegetables, fruit, nuts, fish, chicken and meat.
- Vitamins C: oranges, lemons, limes, berries, kiwifruit, broccoli, tomatoes and capsicum.
- Vitamin E: nuts, green leafy vegetables and vegetables oils.
- Vitamin D: food sources including eggs, fish and some milks and margarine brands may be fortified with Vitamin D (meaning extra has been added). But most people need just a few minutes outdoors most days.
- Iron: meat, chicken and fish. Vegetarian sources include legumes, whole grains and iron-fortified breakfast cereals.
- Zinc and Selenium: found in oysters and other seafood, meat, chicken, dried beans and nuts.
Putting it all together
To optimise your immune system, choose a good variety of bright coloured plant based foods, and keep those energy dense, nutrient poor processed foods to a minimum.
Beyond diet, there are other measures you can take to stay as healthy as possible like not smoking, keeping alcohol to a minimum, getting enough sleep and of course exercising regularly.
Stay healthy this winter with this delicious and veggie filled minestrone soup.