Top 7 Immune Enhancing Foods and Nutrients:
Good Old Vitamin C
Vitamin C has been long known for its health and immune benefits. However, it seems to have become less ‘trendy’ amongst the health conscious in recent years as many have been trying different natural vitamins, herbs and other remedies. I still strongly believe, however, Vitamin C has a very important role in keeping us healthy and fighting off infections and should be the first ‘go – to’ nutrient when it comes to us fighting colds and flu. The plasma concentrations of this important vitamin have been shown to drop during periods of infection and stress. Vitamin C cannot be stored in the body, and regular consumption of vitamin C rich foods as well as Vitamin C supplementation have been shown to improve the immune system’s antimicrobial and natural killer cell activity, support overall immune function and protect against free radical damage within the respiratory tract and in the inflammatory response.
The best sources of Vitamin C include: uncooked tomatoes, strawberries, pineapple, sweet potato, potato, citrus fruit, broccoli, parsley, Brussel sprouts, blackcurrant and aloe vera juice.
Bioflavonoids, sometimes referred to as ‘Vitamin P’ are magical super – nutrients which are widely available through the food we eat. They are found mostly in the same foods Vitamin C is found in, although they are in larger concentration in the fruit or vegetables’ skin as well as in the pith of any citrus fruit. The Bioflavonoid group as a whole helps strengthen the immune system by increasing the number and quality of white blood cells. The specific Bioflavonoid Quercetin has been shown to hold anti-viral properties as it actively binds to the virus proteins and interferes with viral RNA and protein synthesis.
The best sources of Bioflavonoids include all citrus fruit, nectarines, strawberries, capsicum, tropical fruits including mango and pawpaw, garlic, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green tea.
More Zinc for more Zing!
This more than essential micro mineral has more than a full time job looking after the function of our immune system. It is a potent immunostimulant which nourishes our cells. Zinc deficiencies have been associated with weakened immune response as low zinc levels have been shown to impair our immune cellular mediators including natural killer cell activity for instance. Zinc supplementation combined with vitamin C has been shown to have a positive effect improving symptoms of colds and flu as well as shortening the duration of viral infections. Studies have concluded sucking on zinc lozenges rather than swallowing zinc tablets have the most favourable results.
The best sources of Zinc include pumpkin and sunflower seeds, ginger, seafood (especially oysters), eggs, ginger, beef, lamb, capsicum.
Forget about Bad Breath – Have More Garlic
This wonderful flavour enhancer we use so often in cooking is more than a powerful antioxidant. Garlic also contains over 100 sulfuric compounds which along with a compound called allicin, give it strong antibacterial, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Tip: include garlic in cooking regularly to boost the immune system, but when fighting a cold or any infection, have raw crushed garlic mixed in salad dressings or with honey as some of the sulfuric compounds it contains are lost in the heating process. Garlic taken in capsule or tablet form is also a great way to support the immune system.
Binge on Ginger
Another common and popular ingredient used frequently in cooking, baking and in herbal tea, ginger is a super food you can’t ignore. Many are aware of the benefits ginger has on the tummy, as it helps relieve nausea, sooth a sore or bloated belly and helps improve constipation. But when it comes to our immune system fighting viruses and infections, ginger is an absolute super star. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant plus it has also been demonstrated to have antiviral properties, as it stimulates respiratory cells to secrete antiviral protein.
One study suggests combining ginger with garlic and lime may help combat some types of drug – resistant bacteria.
Heat Things Up with Chilli
Chilli is a rich source of Beta – Carotene which the body converts into Vitamin A. This essential nutrient is needed to help maintain healthy mucus membranes which protect the body against foreign invaders. Chilli also contains Capsaicin, a substance which acts as an anti-inflammatory and helps clear congestion. Regular consumption of chilli has also been associated with an increase in antibodies.
Marvellous Manuka Honey
The delicious Manuka honey contains up to four times the amount of nutrients we get in regular honey. It is quite significantly more expensive than regular honey, but when it comes to looking after your immune system – it’s money very well spent. It also contains significantly higher amounts of enzymes than those of regular honey, which create natural hydrogen peroxide that works as an antibacterial. The Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) rating you may find on Manuka Honey jars, relates to its antibacterial strength. The higher the rating – the stronger the antibacterial properties. Lower UMF values of none to 10+ are beneficial to use as maintenance, while UMF of 20+ or higher are best used therapeutically, especially when treating any upper respiratory tract infections, sinus congestion and colds.
Tip: to treat a sore throat, have one teaspoon of UMF 20+ (or higher) Manuka Honey every two hours. Manuka honey is best consumed at room temperature as many of its immune properties are lost when heated so avoid adding it to your tea.
Flu – Fighting Tea
Bring 1 litre of water to the boil and then add:
1 tbsp. honey
2 tsp. fresh grated ginger
1 lemon, sliced (with skin)
1 cinnamon stick OR ½ tsp of cinnamon powder
1 clove of garlic
¼ tsp. fresh chopped chilli
After adding ingredients continue to boil for 1 minute.
Allow to cool slightly and have through the day.
Immune Boosting Juice
1 small piece of ginger
2 apples or 1 cup chopped pineapple
1 fresh beetroot
Handful of parsley
Process all ingredients in a juicer and drink fresh.