While vitamin C and oranges may be top of mind when gearing up for cold and flu season there are a variety of other nutrients which are important for the immune systems' function. It might not seem very cutting-edge or glamorous, but the first consideration for immune system support should be enjoying a variety of foods.
There are certain nutrients needed by the immune system, which some foods contain higher amounts of.
As the saying goes, good things come in small packages. Vitamin E, zinc, iron, copper and selenium can all be found packed into a variety of nuts and seeds and contribute in different ways to the immune systems operations. Sprinkle them on porridge, cereal, salads, rice dishes or spread nut butters on wraps, fruit or sandwiches. Sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashew nuts, walnuts, pecans etc. All types of nuts have something to offer so consider what some favorite types of nuts or ways of enjoying them might be.
Choose berries and cherries
Vitamin C and zinc found in these purple and red juicy fruits are needed by the immune system. These fruits also come with antioxidants, which can help minimise some of the stress and damage cells experience. Zinc provides support for wound healing by helping with creation of protein in the body, stimulates the immune system and is needed for many enzymes in the body to do their jobs. Strawberries are actually one of the best sources of vitamin C. Cherries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are all great additions to smoothies, oatmeal, muffins, yogurt, salads or enjoyed on their own by the handful.
The colour of foods often indicates some of the nutrients they contain. This is why eating a variety of foods and colors works to support giving the body some of all the different things it needs. Oranges are still a great choice for vitamin C, but when it comes to other orange foods there are opportunities for another supportive nutrient vitamin A. Vitamin A is important in helping produce cells of the immune system and keep the fist line of defense strong (our skin and cells of mucosal lining). Carrots, cantaloupe, sweet potato, mango, apricots, papaya, mango and even egg yolk are some great options.
The largest source of immune related tissue is actually found within the digestive tract. The digestive tract is also the first line defense for the body in terms of what makes it inside (similar to our skin which is a more visible barrier to the outside world). Certain fiber rich foods called prebiotics help feed beneficial organisms living here which play a role in modulating the immune system, maintaining and protecting this barrier and much more. Some of these foods include Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, garlic, bananas, chicory root other foods such as yogurt or cereals may also have prebiotics added to them.
Some individuals may need more support for their immune system than just food and should talk with a trusted doctor or dietitian to make sure they are getting what the need. Food alone can’t keep an immune system functioning. Other aspects of a person’s health and wellbeing such as stress management, sense of community and connection, mental health and sleep should be considered too.