Yes, it is that time of the year again – peak season for the common cold and the influenza virus. More people contract the flu and other devastating colds between now and the end of the winter than any other time of the year.
Fortunately for you, there are ways you can fight back. By modifying, adding, and subtracting from your diet, you can help boost your immune system and ability to resist infection. Adequately feeding your immune system boosts its fighting power. Immune boosters work in many ways. They increase the number of white cells in the immune system army, train them to fight better, and help them form an overall better battle plan. Boosters also help to eliminate the deadwood in the army, substances that drag the body down. Here are the top eight nutrients to add to your family’s diet to cut down on days missed from work and school because of illness.
1. Vitamin C. Vitamin C tops the list of immune boosters for many reasons. There has been more research about the immune-boosting effects of Vitamin C than perhaps any other nutrient. Vitamin C supplements are inexpensive to produce, and it’s available naturally in many fruits and vegetables (citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers and tomatoes to mention a few).
Here’s what the research shows about how this mighty vitamin protects your body.
• Promotes wound healing.
• Commonly used for supporting immune function and protection from viral disease and cancer.
• It may also help in people with high cholesterol, cataracts, diabetes, allergies and asthma, and periodontal disease.
• As an antioxidant, it protects blood vessels and the lenses in your eyes, and helps keep body tissues strong.
• Popular for warding off and shortening the unpleasant effects of the common cold.
2. Vitamin E. This important antioxidant and immune booster doesn’t get as much press as vitamin C, yet it’s important to a healthy immune system. It’s not difficult to get 30 to 60 milligrams every day of Vitamin E from a diet rich in seeds, vegetable oils, and grains, but it’s difficult for most people to consume more than 60 milligrams a day consistently through diet alone.
Supplements may be necessary to get enough vitamin E to boost your immune system. People who don’t exercise, who smoke, and who consume high amounts of alcoholic beverages will need the higher dosage. Those with a more moderate lifestyle can get by with lower levels of supplementation.
3. Carotenoids. Beta carotene increases the number of infection-fighting cells, natural killer cells, and helper T-cells, as well as being a powerful antioxidant that mops up excess free radicals that accelerate aging.
Like the other “big three” antioxidants, vitamins C and E, it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by interfering with how the fats and cholesterol in the bloodstream oxidize to form arterial plaques. Carotenoids can be found in Sweet Potatoes, Kale, Carrots, Spinach, Collards, Lettuce, and Turnips.
4. Bioflavonoids. A group of phytonutrients called bioflavonoids aids the immune system by protecting the cells of the body against environmental pollutants. Bioflavonoids protect the cell membranes against the pollutants trying to attach to them.
Along the membrane of each cell there are microscopic parking spaces, called receptor sites. Pollutants, toxins, or germs can park here and gradually eat their way into the membrane of the cell, but when bioflavonoids fill up these parking spots there is no room for toxins to park. Good sources of bioflavonoids are Red Bell Peppers, Strawberries, Oranges, and Broccoli.
5. Zinc. This valuable mineral increases the production of white blood cells that fight infection and helps them fight more aggressively. It also increases killer cells that fight against cancer and helps white cells release more antibodies.
Zinc supplements have been shown to slow the growth of cancer. Zinc increases the number of infection-fighting T-cells, especially in elderly people who are often deficient in zinc, and whose immune system often weakens with age. Eat some Oysters, fortified cereals, crab, beef, turkey or beans.
6. Garlic. This flavorful member of the onion family is a powerful immune booster that stimulates the multiplication of infection-fighting white cells, boosts natural killer cell activity, and increases the efficiency of antibody production.
The immune-boosting properties of garlic seem to be due to its sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin and sulfides. Garlic can also act as an antioxidant that reduces the build-up of free radicals in the bloodstream.
7. Selenium. This mineral increases natural killer cells and mobilizes cancer-fighting cells.
Best food sources of selenium are tuna, red snapper, lobster, shrimp, whole grains, vegetables (depending on the selenium content of the soil they’re grown in), brown rice, egg yolks, cottage cheese, chicken (white meat), sunflower seeds, garlic, Brazil nuts, and lamb chops.
8. Omega-3 fatty acids. A study found that children taking a half teaspoon of flax oil a day experienced fewer and less severe respiratory infections and fewer days of being absent from school. The omega 3 fatty acids in flax oil and fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) act as immune boosters by increasing the activity of phagocytes, the white blood cells that eat up bacteria.
Remember before you take any supplements or vitamins please consult with your doctor for any possible side affects or issues with any prescription medications you may be taking currently.