Nutritionist Shares 5 Immunity Essentials For Your Diet
Our immune systems are the first line of defense against illness, but many don’t know where to start when it comes to giving our bodies what they need. Grow has five essentials to help you build a strong immune system and keep you fighting fit this summer and into the Fall season.
It’s more important than ever to look after ourselves as we try to emerge from months of lockdown hibernation, and a huge part of maintaining a robust immune system comes down to what we’re putting into our bodies. Yet with so much information out there, it can feel like you need a nutritional qualification to even know where to begin.
Building a fighting fit immune system comes down to eating a varied diet and ensuring our bodies get their recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for all essential nutrients. For nutrients such as Vitamin D, omega-3 fats and omega-6, exceeding the RDAs may actually provide extra benefits for the immune system, so it’s worth paying attention to individual nutrients to ensure your immune system is the best it can be. So where to start?
Here are our Top 5 nutritional essentials to kick start your way to a healthy immune system:
• Vitamin D
Also known as the “sunshine” vitamin, our bodies can make Vitamin D from sunlight, which helps support several different white blood cells to protect the body against foreign invaders. During the lockdown, our bodies may not be absorbing as much sunshine as they normally would during this time of year. Unless you regularly eat oily fish, such as salmon and trout, getting enough vitamin D isn’t easy. One of the next best sources of vitamin D are eggs, which still only contain 11% of the US RDA, followed by cheeses. it’s worth considering supplementation.
• Vitamin C
Vitamin C helps support the production and function of the special types of white blood cells that attack bacteria and viruses. While the popular idea of vitamin C prevents the common cold has been exaggerated, a good vitamin C intake of at least the RDA is essential for an efficient immune system. One orange will be enough to hit the RDA while a red pepper has triple the amount of vitamin C as an orange, so eating five a day really helps here.
• Essential fats
Omega-3 fats and omega-6 fats are found in several foods including oily fish, nuts, and seeds. They have important immune-regulatory functions. We tend to get enough omega-6 in our diets but many of us struggle to consume enough omega-3 (which produces less inflammatory signaling molecules) so inflammation can become a health issue. This is why it’s important to have a good balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fats, but this can be tricky if you don’t know where to look for it in your meal prep. The main source of omega-3 fats is oily fish, hence why their intake is often low. A plant-based diet can obtain omega-3 through flaxseed and walnuts, but most people don’t eat enough of these foods, if at all.
Staying hydrated is super important when it comes to the immune system. The mucus in the mouth, nose, and respiratory tract is on the front line when it comes to protecting our body against foreign invaders. If you’re dehydrated, you’ll make less mucus and this quite simply means you’ll be less protected. This is an added stressor to the body and can increase susceptibility to infection, so it’s important to drink up - it’s suggested to aim for about eight glasses a day.
Protein is well known for its ability to help build muscle, but it’s actually also vital for supporting immunity, as it’s necessary to repair damaged tissues. Consuming at least the RDA or above of protein will help keep immune systems strong and sturdy.
While it’s one thing to know what you should be putting into your body, it’s challenging to work out RDAs from food packaging alone.