Nutrients For Your Immune System
Mushrooms contain beta glucans, which prime the immune system and help to keep it strong, thus preventing infections like colds and flu, supporting immune enhancement and antioxidant functioning. Medicinal mushrooms are readily available such as shiitake and reishi. You can get them in a capsule or powdered form that can be added to smoothies or soups. Please note: mushroom supplements are not suitable for those with autoimmune conditions due to their immune-stimulating properties.
Vitamin C cannot be stored in the body and must be consumed regularly to help maintain a healthy immune system, promote collagen formation and aid the normal function of bones, blood vessels, gums and teeth. Numerous studies have proven the effectiveness of vitamin C in higher dosages for the prevention and relief of cold and flu symptoms.
70 per cent of the immune system resides in the gut. It is essential to keep a balanced microbiome in order to improve immune system function. Prebiotic food feeds the ‘good’ bacteria in the gut; apples, pears, oats, leeks, onions and high fibre foods are all great sources of prebiotics. A broad-spectrum probiotic also helps to support the balance of gut bacteria.
Elderberry syrups, teas and tinctures have been taken for hundreds of years in efforts to support the immune system, both while fighting off a cold or flu and for general upkeep of the immune system. Outside of winter, elderberry is also supportive of hayfever symptoms.
Zinc deficiency is very common and often missed in Western countries. This is an especially important nutrient when it comes to the winter months. Foods highest in zinc are meat, shellfish, legumes (such as chickpeas, lentils and beans), nuts, seeds and eggs. You can get supplemental zinc to help keep your levels topped up as well as including foods high in zinc in your diet.
Garlic is a fantastic immune-boosting food that has antimicrobial (antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal) effects due to a property called allicin. Release the allicin by crushing the garlic and leaving it for 10 to 12 minutes. When fighting off a viral infection, take the crushed garlic with a teaspoon, as you would a pill. If the taste is too much to stomach, you can get allicin/garlic extract supplements from health food stores, although do check the amount of garlic per capsule to ensure you are getting a good dosage.
Often forgotten in immune food lists, coconut oil is an excellent antimicrobial ingredient. Use coconut oil in cooking, as a healthy fat in smoothies (in small quantities) and topically to support fungal infections.