Change of season can sometimes trigger our immune system, making us feel “low” all the time. Our immune system does a remarkable job, we have to admit it, by defending us against the majority of disease-causing microorganisms which are out there.
But sometimes it fails and there we have to intervene. Diet has an important part to play and here comes my recommendation: you should try to eat some immune-boosting fruits and vegetables every day.
This advice, to some extent, may sound boring and repetitive but it’s important to highlight that adopting a healthy lifestyle is your first line of defence. And yes, eating a variety of fruits and vegetables every day is the single best step you can take toward naturally keeping your immune system working properly.
You can take them in liquid form by making smoothies if you’ll find this easier.
A healthy digestive system is essential to support normal immune system function.
So, what gut-friendly foods should you eat?
You have probably seen this word everywhere. This collection of foods earned their heroic label due to the density and richness of their nutrient content. They’re packed full of vitamins, fibre and antioxidants; so a natural superhero!
Here are some popular superfoods:
- Sweet potatoes
- Whole grains
- Acai berries
Did you know that 70% of your immune system is located within your 9-metre-long gastrointestinal tract?
This is down to the trillions of gut bacteria living there. This diverse and unique community of bacteria is called microbiome and it has a big role in supporting your immune system.
Maintaining a healthy balance of essential good bacteria in your gut can have a big influence on your overall wellness.
Probiotics are well known for aiding digestion problems, such as bloating and constipation, and for helping reduce IBS symptoms.
But what is less recognised, is the role a healthy supply of good bacteria has in supporting immune system function.
Friendly bacteria are important in the formation of a healthy gut wall. This strengthens the barrier that’s protecting your immune system from pathogen invaders.
By helping prevent the growth and proliferation of harmful bacteria in the gut, probiotics are an important way to keep your gut microbiome healthy.
Probiotics come in the form of live bacteria and yeasts, they also come in the form of supplements.
Popular probiotic food sources:
- Live yoghurts
But to get all the probiotic benefits, the good bacteria must be alive when you eat it. So, it’s important that yoghurts are ‘live’ or contain ‘active’ ingredients and choose unpasteurised and fermented versions of these foods.
Prebiotic foods help to feed a growing population of good probiotic bacteria breeding in your gut. They are most commonly found in some fibre-rich foods (onions, garlic, leek, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, bananas and jackfruit).
Prebiotics are non-digestible foods that feed helpful bacteria formed in the gut. So, if probiotics introduce new bacteria into your gut, prebiotics will fuel the bacteria already in your gut.
Together they’re a highly compatible duo.
Citrus fruits are great for vitamin C, which can help to fight off infections.
Vitamin C can’t be stored by your body, so you need to try and incorporate foods that are rich in vitamin C every day. Try oranges, lemons and limes.
Watermelon contains citrulline, which helps keep your heart healthy, and they’re rich in vitamins A, C and B6 too.
Their red flesh supplies your body with lycopene, which helps keep your immune system balanced.
When it comes to choosing your five-a-day, make sure broccoli becomes a firm favourite as it’s bursting with nutrients like vitamins A, C and E and contains choline which is good for your gut.
Instead of cooking your broccoli, try to eat it raw if you can, as it’s more nutritious this way.
Similar vegetables that are classed as superfoods when it comes to your immune system include sprouts, kale and cauliflower.
Zinc is needed for white blood cell production so your body can fight off infection and for healthy skin, hair and nails.
As well as chicken, zinc can be found in seafood (like oysters), eggs, chickpeas, mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and cashew nuts, so eat these more regularly.
Raw garlic is brilliant at giving your body’s immune system a helping hand.
It has natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, helping you ward off illness and recover quicker.
Raw garlic can increase the number of t-cells in your blood, which in turn fight viruses.
Crush or slice garlic cloves and add to salad dressings as garlic’s health powers are best when it’s raw.
Mushrooms are an interesting food ingredient, because, as humans do, they synthesise Vitamin D when they are exposed to UV light.
You should therefore choose wild mushrooms or mushrooms grown in UV light. They are the only plant source of vitamin D, which supports your immune system.
Bell peppers contain lots of vitamin A, which can help repair your body’s mucosal barriers, which can be easily damaged by infection.
Fresh red and green chillies are incredible health boosters.
They contain lots of vitamin A and C and capsaicin which can help clear congestion.