Top 6 plant-based foods to support your immune system!
Your immune system is one of the most valuable things you have – and it’s not just for warding off the sniffles and sneezes.
Your immune system consists of an army of cells that work hard every single day to protect your body from all types of bacterial infections, viruses, food poisoning, autoimmune conditions and even cancer. Immune system warriors need good, regular nourishment and these six foods can play a vital role in helping our immune system cope with daily attacks on it.
These nuts are a true immunity super-food as they contain good levels of both Selenium and Vitamin E, both of which are vital for a normal antibody response – a process that identifies and neutralises pathogenic bacteria and viruses.
Unfortunately British soil is very low in Selenium, therefore produce grown in it is also low in this mineral. If you have a weak immune system, ensure you are taking a good quality Multi-Vitamin that contains Selenium.
Read our blog on How your diet can improve your mental health, including Brazil nuts.
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Did you know that peppers contain more Vitamin C than oranges? There is no question that Vitamin C is absolutely essential for immunity. It can be bacteriostatic (hinder growth of bugs) or bactericidal (kill bugs), depending on the bug!
However, research suggests that its role in immunity may be purely prevention – in other words it will help prevent you from catching a bug, but it won’t help in getting rid of it once you’ve go it!
The gorgeous orange pigment of sweet potatoes is due to the phytochemical beta-carotene, which gets converted to Vitamin A within the body.
Vitamin A is responsible for maintaining an active Thymus (a key gland in immune health) and is highly anti-viral as it helps cells become resistant to viral attacks, making it a true hero in boosting immunity.
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Pumpkin seeds contain a good amount of Zinc which is involved in over 200 enzymes in the body, and it is crucial for immune health. However, while it is important to have sufficient Zinc in your diet (15–25 mg per day), too much Zinc can inhibit the function of the immune system. You should maintain a regular intake to prevent deficiency, partly because your body doesn’t have a dedicated storage system for the mineral. Other good food sources of Zinc are legumes and wholegrains.
There’s plenty of research showing that mushrooms support a healthy immune system and also help lower inflammation. They’re rich in B Vitamins (riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid) which is good for heart health, and contain phytochemicals which moderate and support the immune system. Niacin (Vitamin B3) is also good for your digestive system and helps maintain healthy skin.
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Each mushroom variety is unique and provides its own distinct health advantages. Exotic mushrooms like Reishi, Shiitake, Lions mane and Maitake are great for adding earthy flavours and meaty textures in your meals.
The smell of garlic you emit via sulphur compounds through your skin helps repel mosquitos, so it's great to eat on those hot summer holidays to repel annoying mozzies!
More importantly, garlic stimulates and activates your white blood cells, aka your immune system soldiers. It contains sulphur phytochemicals which are an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, especially Allicin, which gives the most powerful immune system support when garlic is eaten raw.
Raw garlic can be delicious, grated or chopped into fine pieces, or when added in to dips and spread. If you’re using garlic in cooking, try to add it in at the end of the cooking to keep the maximum nutritional benefit of garlic.
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It's not a food and we're approaching Winter so its going to be more difficult to find but don't underestimate the importance of sunshine, by far the best source of Vitamin D which is essential in activating our immune defence.
Research suggests that when faced with bacteria and viruses, immune cells first search for Vitamin D in order to do their job properly. If however they cannot find enough Vitamin D, they will not complete their activation process, which could mean bugs take hold and wreak havoc.
According to the British Medical Journal, more than 50% of us have insufficient levels of Vitamin D, and just as many of us have problems utilising Vitamin D from food sources, so it's advisable to take a Vitamin D3 supplement and if you're not, make the most of the sunny days!
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By Rose Glover, RoseGlover Nutrition