There are a lot of nasty colds and flus running rampant this year – I just recently recovered from a cold that just wouldn’t let go, hanging on for a few weeks.
And who wants to be dragged down by getting sick, when there is so much to enjoy in this wonderful world of ours? If you want to make sure your body is in tip top shape to fight off any threats that might come it’s way this season, then you’ll probably want to give your immune system some extra support.
If you don’t get enough of important vitamins and minerals (as a lot of people don’t), then your immune system can become compromised, making you more susceptible to illness.
Here are some of the immune-boosting nutrients (and some of the best sources of each) that you need to keep your immune system in good shape, ready to take on everything:
5 Immune-Boosting Nutrients
1. Vitamin C. This one might be obvious, but that doesn’t make it less important. People who have more vitamin C in their diets are less likely to get upper respiratory tract infections like the common cold.(1,2,3)
Where to find it: Citrus fruits are the most well-known source, but you can also get lots of vitamin C in things like peppers, broccoli, kale, tomatoes, kiwis, strawberries, Brussel’s sprouts, and papaya.
2. Vitamin D is important for almost all areas of your health, and one of its many superpowers is helping to strengthen the immune system. Because it helps to regulate many of the essential functions of the immune system, if we don’t get enough of it, our immune systems suffer.(4,5)
Where to find it: Vitamin D is common in seafood sources such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and other wild-caught fish, along with wild mushrooms, egg yolks, and high-fat dairy.
3. Selenium is a mineral that has several important functions in the body, including maintaining a healthy immune system. It can be especially useful in helping to protect against infections, like viral infections.(1,2,6)
Where to find it: Selenium can be found in foods like fish and shellfish, chia seeds, mushrooms, Brazil nuts, and sunflower seeds.
4. Zinc helps the cells of the immune system to grow, proliferate, and survive. When we don’t get enough zinc, our immune system becomes compromised and inflammation levels rise, which puts us at higher risk for getting sick.(7)
Where to find it: Many seeds are good sources of zinc (such as pumpkin, sesame, and squash seeds). You can also get zinc in meat, poultry, and seafood sources, along with beans, chickpeas, and oysters.
5. Iron. Having enough iron in your diet is important for your immune system, because when our cells don’t’ have enough of it, they aren’t able to properly defend themselves against an invading infection.(1,8)
Where to find it: Iron is found in meat, poultry, pork, and seafood, along with vegetarian sources like beans and leafy green vegetables. Cooking your food in cast-iron cookware is also an effective way to up your iron intake.
Keep eating healthy this season, and incorporate the above foods to supercharge your immune system! And don't forget to rest up - self-care can go a long way in preventing illness.
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2. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2002 Aug;56 Suppl 3:S73-6.
3. J Am Coll Nutr. 2011 Aug;30(4):248-58.
4. Nutrients. 2015 Sep 24;7(10):8251-60.
5. Nutrients. 2015 May 29;7(6):4240-70.
6. Adv Nutr. 2015 Jan 15;6(1):73-82.
7. Autoimmun Rev. 2015 Apr;14(4):277-85.
8. J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2011 Mar;118(3):315-28.