It’s that time of year when we are more susceptible to the bugs that can leave us nursing those nasty colds and coughs, leaving us feeling tired and less than our best. One of the most important things we can do to protect ourselves is give our immune system a natural boost through taking a look at our nutrition and lifestyle.
The immune system is a complex web of glands, organs, cells, and fluids in our body. But the way we can boost it doesn’t have to be complex – in fact, it’s pretty simple. Plus, there’s an added bonus – integrating these things will also have broader health and wellbeing benefits.
Here’s a few ways you can give your immune system a boost this winter.
EAT THE RAINBOW
This is one of the most simple, yet effective, ways to ensure you are consuming healthy immune-boosting nutrients on a regular basis. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits on a daily basis, and make sure they cover as many of the colours of the rainbow as possible.
If you can have 7 portions of vegetables and a couple of fruit portions in a variety of colours you will be giving your immune system a major injection of powerful immune boosting benefits. Not to mention the many other parts of your system that will be thanking you for it. I find the easiest way to pack in the portions is through the 3 S’s – soups, stews and smoothies.
If you’re someone who likes to get a bit more specific about which nutrients and which foods, then this next point is just for you.
Consume Immune-Boosting Vitamins & Minerals
Eating the rainbow is a perfect and simple place to start, but for those of you wanting the detail, here it is. This is your go-to list of immune boosting vitamins and minerals and where you can find them.
Vitamin A – found in carrots, leafy green vegetables, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, squash, broccoli, tomatoes, cantaloupe melon, apricots, and even calf’s liver
Vitamin C – found in bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, citrus fruits, kiwi, leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts
Vitamin D – your best source of Vitamin D is via the sun, but for food sources look to salmon, sardines, cod and eggs
Vitamin E – found in sunflower seeds, almonds, green leafy vegetables, bell peppers, kiwi, tomatoes, blueberries, broccoli, Brussel sprouts
The B Vitamin Family – these are widely distributed across foods and you’ll find them in meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, and broccoli
Zinc – a really powerful immune nutrient and you can find in oysters, calf’s liver, beef, lamb, chestnut mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, pumpkin seeds, and broccoli
Iron – found in chicken’s liver, beef, lamb, spinach, Swiss chard, romaine lettuce, shitake mushrooms, tofu, green beans, beans and pulses
Selenium – found in Brazil nuts, cod, sardines, salmon, chestnut and shitake mushrooms, eggs, turkey, lamb, and chicken
That might seem a long list of nutrients and foods, but if you look closely there’s plenty of overlap. Mother Nature is very clever in the way she combines lots nutrients in foods.
NUTRIENT INSURANCE POLICY
The best way to consume and absorb all the right nutrients is through food – our body is designed to recognise and deal with it in that form. A good insurance policy, however, is a high quality nutritional supplement. I appreciate the supplement market can be overwhelming, so I always recommend getting advice from a professional or get yourself to your local health shop where trained people can help you.
The obvious one is a good quality multi-nutrient that’s suited to your needs. Buy the best your budget allows – it’s worth it.
LOOK AFTER YOUR GUT
Surprisingly, at least 70% of your immune system is based in your gut. Yes, the health of your digestive system will directly influence the strength of your immune system! If you have digestive issues, then it could be the case that it’s compromising the strength of your immunity.
Here are some things you can do to look after your gut, to then look after your immunity.
- Stay well hydrated
- Eat plenty of high fibre foods such as vegetables, fruit, lentils, beans, and seeds
- Have beneficial bacteria through foods such as live yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, or kimchi
- Reduce common irritants to the gut lining such as alcohol, caffeine, and refined sugars (sorry!)
- Eat in a relaxed state – your digestion will thank you for it
REST AND RELAX
This last one isn’t about food at all. It’s all about that all important down-time that allows the body to recover, repair and strengthen. All too often we sacrifice this with our busy and all-consuming lives. And to top it off, stress also acts an immune system zapper and so keeping those levels manageable through appropriate rest and relaxation is key.
Rest can look different for everyone but would typically enable you to switch off and feel relaxed, and after which you would feel re-charged and energised. Prioritising sleep, daytime downtime, movement, and things you find fun are my top tips when it comes to this subject.
With just a few of these things in place you’ll be giving your immune system a welcome boost.