Tuesday, February 27, 2024
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Immunity boosters

Magdalena Marvell, our resident nutritionist, provides her advice on how to stay healthy this winter.

As the crisp autumn breeze rolls in, so does the inevitable cold and flu season. While there’s no secret potion to magically boost our immunity, our body’s defence system thrives on a nourishing feast of diverse nutrients. Think of it as a superhero diet – packed with vitamins and minerals, ready to battle those pesky infections! So, let’s indulge in a colourful array of foods and empower our immune warriors to stand tall against the seasonal sniffles and sneezes. Here’s to a vibrant, healthy autumn!
 
Magdalena Marvell is a Nutritional Practitioner and Founder of the Persea Clinic which helps support clients who want to optimise their health in areas such as gut health, hormonal balance, skin conditions, weight management, family nutrition. To find out more about her work please visit www.persea.clinic.
Our immune system acts as our body’s shield against diseases and infections. Maintaining a robust immune system is crucial for our overall well-being and productivity, whether it’s at work, school, or university. A balanced diet, rich in diverse foods from various food groups, is the secret weapon to keep our immune system in top shape. Alongside essential nutrients like protein and omega-3 fats, specific vitamins and minerals play pivotal roles in supporting our immune functions.
 
By nourishing our bodies with the right nutrients, we empower our immune systems to fend off infections effectively. So, let’s prioritise a healthy, balanced diet to ensure our immune warriors are ready to protect us whenever the need arises. After all, feeling good, sleeping well, being active, and staying productive are the keys to a high-quality life! 
 
In the world of essential nutrients, vitamin A takes centre stage, and its sources are diverse. Traditional heroes like eggs, cheese, and liver have long provided this vital nutrient. Nature’s marvel, betacarotene, found in spinach, carrots, and sweet potatoes, can transform into vitamin A within our bodies.
 
Ever considered indulging in a baked sweet potato? Not only does it make for a delicious meal, but it also emerges as a champion in the vitamin A arena. One serving of this delectable dish can provide us with all the vitamin A (in the form of carotene) our bodies need for the day. It’s a simple and tasty way to ensure we’re meeting our nutritional needs.
 
Vitamin B6, a nutritional powerhouse, can be found in diverse sources. From poultry and fish like tuna to fruits like bananas and veggies such as Brussels sprouts, avocados and plantains – its presence is widespread. Nuts and seeds like walnuts and sesame seeds are also rich in this vital nutrient.
 
Vitamin B6 plays a crucial role in supporting brain function, enhancing the immune system, and facilitating oxygen transport throughout the body. Additionally, it contributes to the creation of essential neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine1. Incorporating B6 into our diets can be a creative endeavour. Sprinkle nuts and seeds on yogurt or experiment with unsalted peanuts in salads and curries. Just 20g of walnuts (six halves) delivers 10% of our daily B6 requirement.
 
Discover the world of Vitamin C in everyday foods like citrus fruits (such as easy peelers and grapefruit), berries, kiwi, and vegetables like cabbage, kale, cauliflower, peppers, and tomatoes.
 
Vitamin C not only enhances our immune system but also boosts antioxidants, lowers blood pressure, protects against gout attacks, improves iron absorption, and reduces the risks of heart disease and dementia2.
 
A quick and tasty way to get your daily Vitamin C? Make a stir fry with sugar snap peas and red pepper. It’s easy, delicious, and ensures you get the Vitamin C your body needs.
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in regulating both the innate and adaptive immune responses, aiding the body in combating bacteria and viruses. Additionally, it is vital for maintaining bone health, as well as supporting muscle and nerve functions3.
 
In the autumn and winter, the sun lacks the strength needed for our bodies to naturally produce vitamin D. To compensate, it’s important to consume foods high in vitamin D and consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms (400IU) of vitamin D during these seasons4.
 
You can get vitamin D from oily fish, eggs, specific fortified breakfast cereals, as well as certain fortified dairy and dairy alternative products (just make sure to read the labels).
 
Zinc, a vital mineral, plays numerous roles in the body. This essential element strengthens our immune system, accelerates wound healing, and supports normal growth patterns. Interestingly, zinc has gained traction as a potential remedy for the common cold. 
 
Research suggests that zinc lozenges might shave off a day or so from the duration of a cold and even reduce the frequency of upper respiratory infections. This mineral is crucial for fighting infections and promoting wound healing5.
 
Yet, if you already receive sufficient zinc through your diet, it remains uncertain whether additional supplementation provides any significant benefits.
 
Zinc is abundant in various foods, including red meat, poultry, cheese, certain shellfish like crab and mussels, and a variety of nuts and seeds such as pumpkin seeds and pine nuts. You can also find zinc in wholegrain breakfast cereals and seeded breads. Incorporating zinc into your diet is easy; try wholegrain cereals and oats with added fruit for a nutritious breakfast, or indulge in a cheddar cheese sandwich on wholegrain bread paired with plenty of fresh salad. If you’re fortunate enough to soak up the sun at the seaside, treat yourself to freshly caught oysters—also a fantastic source of zinc!
 
Selenium is a key player in supporting our immune system. As a powerful antioxidant, it reduces inflammation and enhances immunity by lowering oxidative stress in the body. Research has shown that higher selenium levels in the blood are linked to improved immune response. Conversely, a deficiency in selenium can impair immune cell function, leading to a slower immune response. Studies indicate that selenium deficiency is associated with increased risks in diseases, especially in individuals with conditions like HIV.
 
Supplementing with selenium has shown promising results, reducing hospitalisations and improving symptoms in patients. Additionally, selenium supplements may enhance the immune system in those battling influenza, tuberculosis, and hepatitis C.
 
Incorporating selenium into our diet is essential for a robust immune system. Fish stands out as an excellent source, with a recommendation to consume at least two portions per week, including one oily variety like salmon or sardines. For vegetarians and those who don’t like fish, there are creative alternatives such as nut roasts, ensuring everyone can benefit from the immune-boosting properties of selenium.
 
Brazil nuts are incredibly rich in this vital mineral, containing more selenium than any other nut, averaging around 96 mcg per nut. Surprisingly, meeting your daily selenium target (RDI) is as simple as enjoying three to four Brazil nuts. 
 
It’s important to note that selenium intake should be capped at 400 mcg per day to maintain optimal health and avoid potential risks associated with excessive consumption6.
 
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