Besides eating a balanced diet that consists of adequate protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates, some foods contain the nutrients that exert particular influence on the health of the immune system either via the gut microbiome or direct influence on cells and chemical reactions in the body. Nutritional Therapists know that if you want a healthier immune system certain nutrients must be in your diet in abundance and those are Vitamins A, C and E as well as the Minerals: Zinc, Selenium and Omega3 EFAs (Essential fatty acids).
Of course, many nutrients are required for a healthy body but when looking for robust nutritional support for the immune system you can’t go wrong adding the following foods to your diet.
Foods with Vitamin A
Best source: carrots, sweet potatoes, papaya, mango, apricots, butternut squash and courgette all contain Beta-Carotene that converts safely to Vitamin A.
Foods with Vitamin C
Good source: sprouted broccoli, seeds, berries, peppers, citrus, cabbage, kiwi fruit, papaya, guavas, kale, fresh tomatoes, potatoes with skins. Eat raw or very lightly cooked as overheating destroys this precious nutrient.
FOODS WITH OMEGA3 EFAS (ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS)
These oils protect cell membranes making it harder for viruses to enter and recent studies also show that these fats exert a modulating influence by supporting immune signalling.
Best source: mackerel, wild salmon, anchovy and sardines.
Good source: flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts. Algae supplements are now seen as a good alternative to fish oil.
Foods with Vitamin E
Vitamin E is found in foods that naturally contain healthy cold presses fats.
Best source: sunflower oil and seeds, fresh almonds, wheat germ oil, avocados and their oil, extra virgin olive oil and sesame oil.
Good source: butternut squash and green leafy vegetables.
Foods with Zinc
High content: seafood, beef, chicken thighs, pumpkin seeds, tempeh.
Good source: hemp seeds, lentils, oats, shiitake mushrooms, green peas, spinach, butter beans, asparagus, okra.
Foods with Selenium
High content: freshly shelled Brazil nuts - but only a couple at a time, fish and shellfish.
Good source: sunflower seeds, fresh walnuts.
A note on Vitamin D
There are very few foods that contain Vitamin D and the only active form in useful amounts may be found in Wild Salmon, but cooking may destroy this. The best way to get Vitamin D is from sunshine, but during the Winter months, everyone needs at least 1000iu (international units) per day supplement of active Vitamin D3.
Try this delicious immune-supportive
Butternut and Ginger Bisque
Ingredients (3-4 servings)
1 whole butternut squash, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
1.5 pints filtered water
White part of a large leak or 1 large white onion, finely sliced
1 level tbls of olive oil, flax oil or avocado oil
A little light olive oil for cooking
Pink salt or sea salt
Cup of tempeh (or butter beans or chickpeas)
Handful of fresh coriander, chopped
Place light olive oil in a large pan on medium heat, soften (not brown) the onions/leeks and garlic and ginger.
Add the diced squash and stir for a couple of minutes. Cover with the filtered water - keep some water back if all ingredients are all covered, you can add more later if you need to. Once the squash is soft, use a hand blender to blend the mixture.
Serve with a large drizzle of olive, flax or avocado oil and the fresh coriander.
Sam Bourne is a qualified Nutritional Therapist, Wellbeing Speaker and Author. www.foodspa.co.uk