Foods to Boost your Immune System
Updated: Jun 1
Overall health is affected by both internal and external factors.
External factors include the environment, financial strains and social support systems. Internal factors are genetics, behaviour, and the food that we eat.
What we eat is broken down and absorbed by our body, the nutrients then travel around lending themselves to the parts of the body that need them the most.
You really are what you eat. In our current climate of COVID-19 we are at a higher risk of developing a flu-like illness.
But your hygiene and social behaviours and the foods you eat can help limit your risk of catching the virus.
You can also boost your immune system at the same time.
Our food can be broken up into food groups such as proteins, carbohydrates, dairy and eggs and sugars.
But when we are looking at foods that boost our immune system it's easier to group them into their nutrients.
These include micronutrients such as Vitamins and Minerals and macro-nutrients.
The most useful nutrients for strengthening our immune system include Vitamins A, B, and C and the macro-nutrient Phosphorus.
Water is also essential in fighting flu symptoms and getting your immune system to work at its peak.
Vitamin A is known for generally boosting our reproduction, vision and overall immune system.
It also aids cellular formation. It's often found in animal products such as meat, poultry, fish and dairy products.
If you're lactose intolerant or are a vegetarian/vegan, taking a daily supplement can help strengthen your immune system.
B-Complex vitamins all aid bodily functions and energy.
The vitamins we want to focus on include:
Vitamins B1 and B2 as they help cell production and heart function
B3 as it regulates your digestive system and helps successfully turn your food into energy
B5 as it focuses on hormone and energy production.
Again, you can find B-complex vitamins in animal products such as meat, poultry and dairy.
However, you can also find Vitamin B in green leafy vegetables (think spinach and kale), avocado, potatoes, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds, soy products (soy milk and tempeh) and fruits such as citrus fruits, bananas and watermelon.
If you're allergic to or do not have access to any of these foods, supplements are also available. It should be noted Vitamin B supplements should be taken with food.
Vitamin C is one of the more well-known nutrients that boost our immune system.
When we get a cold we often reach for the vitamin C. This is because Vitamin C encourages the production of white blood cells.
White blood cells fight off diseases and infections in our body to help keep us healthy.
Vitamin C is also vital for cell growth and repair, making it a key factor in boosting our immune system.
Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwifruit, tomato, green and red capsicum, broccoli and brussel sprouts.
Vitamin C supplements often come in a chewable form and in an orange flavour.
This means that younger children may be more inclined to take them if they are still fussy about their fruits and vegetables.
Phosphorus is the quiet achiever of macro-nutrients. It helps filter waste out of the body and aids the repair of tissues and cells.
This means it can help us bounce back quickly if we experience an illness.
Phosphorus can be found in animal products specifically chicken, turkey, fish and pork, nuts and seeds (sunflower and pumpkin seeds), whole grains including oats, rice and quinoa, beans, lentils and soy products.
Phosphorus supplements come in both tablet and powder forms meaning it can easily be incorporated into a daily diet.
Water helps carry oxygen around our body which aids the functions of our organs and bodily systems.
Water is also great at flushing out toxins, this limits build up in our systems, which in turn, limits the risk of us getting sick.
Warm water from teas, showers or steam can also help break up mucus in our lungs and get rid of all the nasties.
We should be aiming to drink 2-3 litres of water every day. While this may seem like a lot, we lose water when we breathe, sweat and digest, so it's important to keep our fluid levels up.
Whilst our health is affected by a number of things, what we put in our body has a huge impact on how our systems function. By eating a healthy and balanced diet we can fight off a number of illnesses more effectively and recover faster.
If you would like further information on the foods that boost your health have a read of our 'Foods that Boost your Immune System' Module below.