Colds seem easier this time of year, so optimizing your immune system is very helpful in fighting it off.
For example, less absorption of vitamin D due to less sunlight due to shorter days is one thing that can affect it.
Therefore, it is important to eat certain foods to achieve a balance of vitamins and minerals.
James Vickers, Registered Dietitian with Vitality Health Insurance, comments on foods to keep your immune system strong this winter.
He said: “Maintaining a strong immune system during the winter is crucial. While it’s important to note that immunity cannot be ‘boosted’ per se, we can optimize its function through a healthy, balanced diet.
“While there is no one food that will completely help you get over the flu or cure you of a winter illness, certain foods contain vitamins and minerals that can help optimize the immune system and its overall function.
“At the end of the day, to feel your healthiest, you need to stay consistent and include a combination of foods and minerals every day.”
10 foods to help boost your immune system this winter
Carrots are a great way to increase your vitamin A intake, as are red peppers and leafy greens.
James adds: “Your skin is your first barrier to pathogens and vitamin A is incredibly effective and essential in keeping it healthy.
Oranges, berries and black currants can be an ideal way to increase your vitamin C intake.
James adds, “The most well-known vitamin to lend a helping hand to your immune system is vitamin C. It acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage and helping them function at their optimal level.”
Like the citrus fruits listed above, Brussels sprouts are also a useful source of vitamin C, so maybe have a few extra on your plate at Christmas dinner.
Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel are a great source of vitamin D, which is crucial for your immune system.
“This vitamin is crucial for calcium absorption, promotes bone health, while playing a role in cell growth and immune system function. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still get it in the darkest winter months.” James says.
James says: “Don’t forget the prebiotics either! Try to get plenty of dietary fiber from a variety of sources as they get all the important prebiotics into your gut. Prebiotics feed the good bacteria and help them grow and function!”
Examples of these are asparagus, onions, leeks, garlic, chicory, bananas, yams, beans, oats and wheat.
Sunflower seeds are a useful way to get vitamin E into your system, which can help strengthen your immune cells.
James says, “Vitamin E acts as a powerful antioxidant that protects cells from free radical damage and boosts the function of certain immune cells. It promotes healthy skin and strengthens the body’s natural defenses by flushing out infections.”
Olive oil and vegetable oil
Like sunflower seeds, these two oils are a good source of vitamin E, so they can be useful for cooking or drizzling other foods.
Yogurt is an example of a source of probiotics, which are the “good” bacteria in your gut.
James says, “Vitamin D also plays a big part in gut health, which is almost synonymous with immunity because a lot of your immune system is based in your gut, so it’s vital to keep your gut full of probiotics.”
Red meat is a good way to get zinc, which supports many body functions.
Brazil nuts are a decent food if you want to add selenium to your diet, which is an example of an antioxidant.
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