Vitamins for immunity: give yourself a boost naturally

Essential nutrients for Immunity

Vitamins for immunity through food rather than a bottle.

Are you sick of a cold? Want to fix it?

Thinking about vitamin C, zinc, and fluids? Well, you’ve ticked a few boxes, but I think you’ll find it’s not that simple. Immunity is made up of a complicated network of cells, tissues and organs working together to protect the body and it’s affected by many factors! We do know some particular vitamins for the immune system which are easy to get through food. The research is telling us:

  • Extra Vitamin C helps to shorten the duration of a cold
  • Zinc deficiency is common in Australians and may reduce immunity
  • Probiotics strengthen the immune system
  • It’s important to get enough Vitamin A and Vitamin E, but there is no point in taking supplements beyond the recommended daily intake (RDI)
  • The jury is still out on the impact of Selenium on immunity
  • There isn’t strong evidence to say sugar directly affects the immune system
  • There is no evidence behind chicken soup in particular, -but it is tasty, high in protein and soothing!

This stuff is fascinating to read but what do we need to eat? The dietitians at My Nutrition Clinic practice the ‘food first’ approach before considering the expensive stuff in the bottles for extra help. Here are 10 steps to stronger immunity:

  1. Vitamin C is needed for growth and repair. Be sure to enjoy 2-3 serves fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables every day. Kiwi fruit, capsicum, cauliflower, strawberries and broccoli are great sources. Oh, and oranges of course!
  2. Vitamin A is an antioxidant and has many roles in the immune system. Sweet potato, carrots, pumpkin and spinach have Vitamin A. Chicken liver has heaps too, but be careful not to over-do it.
  3. Protein isn’t just for muscles. Protein breaks down into amino acids needed for the immune system. Meat, fish, chicken, egg, dairy, nuts, beans and legumes help us to fight illness and keep us strong. Enjoy these every day.
  4. Meat, fish, chicken and egg stand out again! Try pairing iron-rich foods with high vitamin C foods for better absorption in the body. Steak and salad?
  5. Meat, oysters, milk and wheat bran help us meet our zinc requirements. We need zinc to build the immune system, heal wounds and taste flavours effectively.
  6. Omega-3 fatty acids are a must. Enjoy oily fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel) 2-3 times a week and add some walnuts to your day. Chia seeds can help out too.
  7. As soon as you’re thirsty you’re already dehydrated, eek! Tea, hot lemon waters, and soup count towards your fluid intake.
  8. Moderate exercise each day helps your immune system and reduces stress! Every little bit of movement helps.
  9. Unwind before bed and schedule enough sleep. 7-9 hours a night is optimal for most people.
  10. Stress Less and don’t forget to breathe! Listen to music you love. Have a laugh. Take time (even 1 minute) to completely relax. Those that are less stressed have stronger immune systems.

Some things are easier to control than others, right? Tick off the foods and vitamins for the immune system you can tackle easily. Firstly, try to get enough fruit and veg to get your vitamins. Then some oily fish, lean meat and dairy for the protein, iron, zinc, and omega-3 fats. Don’t forget to sleep well, move your body, relax and stay hydrated!

Do you want help building these steps into your own eating plan? See a dietitian at My Nutrition Clinic who can translate the aspirational into the doable!

 A list of vitamins for the immune system

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