With the world around us experiencing unease and dysfunction, it is important to focus on what we can control rather than what we can’t.
Whilst we must be adaptable to changing conditions to ensure the health and wellbeing of our community, there are many things we can do to boost our immune system and promote overall health.
The following nutrients are essential in maintaining our body’s defence system, and are easily accessible through food. That’s right, we are bringing it back to basics!
This mineral is incredibly important for our immune system but is also involved in several hundred enzymatic reactions throughout the body, as well as gene replication & function, free radical metabolism and pH regulation. It can impact the body’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients from food and therefore yields power over many more bodily functions.
So how do we ensure that we are getting enough?
One of the richest sources of Zinc is oysters. These little powerhouses contain over ten times more Zinc than any other food source. There are many plant-based sources too, including seeds, nuts & legumes. In particular, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, cashews, almonds, lentils, kidney beans & chickpeas, which all have adequate amounts of zinc.
Vitamin A plays a huge role in preventing disease as it is involved in maintaining the integrity & function of the mucosal & epithelial layers throughout the body. This essentially forms the first line of defence. Vitamin A also works to regulate immune cells in order to provide both innate and targeted immune function.
Whilst there are many forms of Vitamin A, Retinol is the most bioavailable. This means that the body is able to extract the nutrient from food with less metabolism required. Foods with the highest volume of Retinol are organ meats, especially liver. Butter, eggs, and oily fish such as mackerel, salmon & trout also contain good amounts of Retinol. Carotenoids, which are a precursor to Vitamin A, are found in orange fruits & vegetables such as carrot, sweet potato, and red or yellow capsicum. Dark green leafy vegetables are also an excellent source of Carotenoids and contain an abundance of other essential nutrients as well.
This nutrient is famed for being a strong antioxidant but is also essential for nutrient metabolism and aids in the absorption of iron. Vitamin C is unable to be synthesised by the human body therefore we must obtain it through diet. As it is also a water-soluble vitamin, it is easily excreted and therefore it is of utmost importance to maintain consistent dietary intake.
Citrus fruits, berries and capsicum are, of course, the most well-known sources of vitamin C, but there are many more foods that are packed with this powerful nutrient. These include dark green leafy vegetables such as chard, kale and spinach, brussel sprouts, broccoli, herbs including parsley and thyme, and kiwi fruit and tropical fruits, in particular lychee, guava, cantaloupe and papaya. The food containing the highest amount of Vitamin C, however, is indigenous to Australia, the Kakadu Plum and contains both water-soluble & fat-soluble antioxidants, magnesium, zinc and iron, all of which are required for immune function.
It is also important to remember that cooking, processing and exposure to air can all affect the nutrient content, so raw is best when it comes to Vitamin C.
Unlike Vitamin C, Vitamin D can be synthesised by the body by converting cholesterol in the presence of ultraviolet light. Whilst it is widely known that Vitamin D works closely with calcium to maintain musculoskeletal health, it is lesser known that Vitamin D plays an integral role in the immune system. Vitamin D works to reduce inflammation throughout the body and plays an important role in both the innate and adaptive immune systems.
Sunlight is by far one of the best ways to increase vitamin D levels within the body however it is important to moderate sun exposure & be mindful that UV-B can inactivate newer Vitamin D molecules.
As Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient, the best food source is liver, especially that of cod and beef. Mushrooms and eggs also contain some Vitamin D, as do oily fish like mackerel, sardines and salmon.
A good gut health diet – full of immune-boosting foods like those listed above – is important year-round, and especially when it is important to ensure your immune system is working as best it can.
Get in contact with the team here at Merge Health for a Telehealth consult today to discuss the best food and supplements for you.