All-natural ways to strengthen your immune system
Winter is officially here, which also means there is a chance to catch the flu bug and get sick. Being under the weather does not only bring down your productivity, it also affects your mood and energy levels. While you can reduce your risk of catching a flu by getting vaccinated, you can also consider eating a well-balanced diet by incorporating foods with nutrients that have immune boosting properties.
As one of the most notorious nutrients that helps maintaining a healthy immune system, vitamin C is found in many vegetables and fruits such as: broccoli, kale, bok choy, gailan, tomatoes, sweet peppers, oranges, kiwis, grapefruits, guavas, strawberries and blueberries. In addition to its immune boosting properties, vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and an antioxidant that helps prevent cell damage and may reduce your risk for certain types of cancers and other chronic diseases. Furthermore, it may help to reduce the levels of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, in your body. In other words, if you eat a variety of vitamin C-rich foods as part of your diet, you may help your body to reduce unnecessary stress and in turn improve and strengthen your immune system.
You are probably eating foods with vitamin C on a daily basis, but here are some easy tips to include them as part of your diet:
- Keep easy to peel fruits such as oranges and grapefruits by your desk at the office.
- Enjoy a leafy green salad instead of a hot meal for a change. You can also add quinoa and lean meats or tofu for added protein, and sliced fruits such as strawberries, pears and mandarin oranges for extra flavour and dietary fibre.
- Add extra vegetables such as sweet peppers to your favourite pasta dishes.
Selenium is another notable antioxidant that helps with maintaining a healthy immune system and preventing cell damage. It is commonly found in beef, oysters, shrimps, crabs, salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, trout, tuna, mushroom, couscous, chia seeds and sunflower seeds. However, the best and highest selenium source is found in Brazil nuts. In fact, for every five pieces of Brazil nuts, there is 340mcg of selenium.
To incorporate selenium into your diet, try the following:
- Enjoy unsalted brazil nuts as a healthy snack. While they have the highest selenium content and are a good source of polyunsaturated fatty acids, a type of good fats, they are calorie-dense. Eating too many can increase your intake of extra and unnecessary calories and fat. To keep your portions in check, have no more than more than ¼ cup of Brazil nuts or mixed nuts at each sitting.
- Try couscous ss a change for your source of grains for your meals. Simply switch it up with rice for dinner or add couscous to your leafy green salads for added nutrients, crunch and texture.
- Give your oatmeal, porridge and homemade breads and scones a nutty texture by adding chia seeds.
No matter how old you are, zinc is an important nutrient that helps with growth and development. More importantly, it helps with strengthening your immune system and plays a pivotal role in healing wounds. One of the richest sources of zinc is oysters. For every 75 grams of oysters, there are at least 25 grams of zinc. Other food sources with zinc include: meats, seafood, dairy products, legumes, nuts such as peanuts, almonds, cashews and seeds such as pumpkin seeds.
Have zinc-rich foods as part of your diet cannot get any simpler. Here are some practical tips:
- Plan an oyster night at home. While raw oysters taste fresh and briny with a buttery texture, they may be best to be eaten fully cooked to prevent food poisoning and its symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea.
- Include meats, poultry, fish or beans with your meals, which are also rich in protein.
- Spread a thin layer of nut butters onto your favourite whole grain toasts for breakfast and whole grain crackers for your mid-morning and afternoon snacks. A healthy serving size of nut butter spreads is one tablespoon.
- If you are a vegetarian or would like to enjoy a vegetarian meal for a change, or simply want to make a quick and easy meal, use a blend of beans such as chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, black beans and peas to make a hearty soup.
Vitamin C, selenium and zinc play a vital role in maintaining a healthy immune system. Together, they create a nutrient powerhouse for your immune system for protecting you from and fighting effectively against the common cold and flu and other illnesses. Start the new year and breeze through the winter by eating well with the foods mentioned!