The body’s immune system is our special ‘defense mechanism’ against disease and infection. Without our immune system – which attacks unwanted substances that invade our body, we are susceptible to illness and disease. It is, therefore, so important to not only be aware of the stresses on our immune system, but to also learn the ways in which we could help boost our immune system. For instance, being more considerate of the foods we choose to purchase and consume and, which particular foods have shown to improve immunity in some studies. Though do be careful on such health claims, as it may be that evidence is from animal studies and not human! Nonetheless, today’s blog is all about five potential immune boosting foods that you can add to your diet, without breaking the bank and without having to slave away in the kitchen for hours.
Berries, such as blueberries, blackberries and strawberries contain flavonoids (plant chemicals) which gives fruit and veggies their vibrant colours. For instance, the orange colour in oranges and the blue in blueberries! Research has indicated that flavonoid rich foods may have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-diabetic effects, which could reduce the risk of some cardiovascular diseases and cancers. It is suggested that this is possibly due to their detoxification effects.
Some of the best-known flavonoids include quercetin, kaempferol and catechises, so be sure to keep your eye out on your next grocery shop! Berries can be easily consumed throughout the day as healthy snack alternatives to confectionary items such as crisps or chocolate, that cause a spike to our blood sugar levels. I like to have my berries topped on my porridge in the morning; it gives it an extra burst of flavour and colour!
The immune system weakens due to oxidative stress (a negative imbalance of free radical production and the body’s ability to prevent this). Research has indicated that vitamin E (a fat-soluble vitamin) may be able to reduce the negative effects because of its ability to help normal functioning of immune cells. Some of the most important immune cells are leukocytes (white blood cells) such as lymphocytes, neutrophils and monocytes and proteins of the immune system, which include cytokines and antibodies.
Vitamin E is therefore known as an antioxidant, the term given to a substance in which can help to inhibit the oxidation process, by removing the oxidising agents that may be living in the body. Vitamin E can be found in nuts, such as pecans, brazil nuts and almonds. You can enjoy nuts by adding them to your salads or, to replace croutons on your soup!
Shellfish, such as oysters are great sources of zinc, a mineral that we should consume in small quantities to aid healthy bodily functions. Zinc is suggested to have an important role for the immune system; it has shown to aid cell growth, such as by influencing the rapid production of leukocytes (white blood cells). Zinc is thought to also improve the functioning of the immune system, by stimulating wound healing and infection resistance. If the thought of cooking oysters sounds a little scary, why not pay a visit to your local sea food restaurant and order some delicious, local oysters!
A diet which lacks vitamin C (a water-soluble vitamin) has shown to have reduced resistance to some pathogens (which causes diseases), meaning that those who lack Vitamin C are at increased risk of illness, compared to those who regularly consume vitamin C. This is said to be a result of Vitamin C being a high-energy electron donor to neutralise free radicals. It is the free radicals which are associated to with ill-health, such as the increased risk of developing cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases and also some cancers.
It should be noted that Vitamin C is water-soluble, which means that the body cannot store this vitamin like it would a fat-soluble vitamin such as vitamin E, which is stored in fat. This means that you should consume vitamin C daily, in order to reap such benefits. Broccoli is one example of a food that has more vitamin C than an orange (which are largely associated with their vitamin C content). If you’re struggling of ideas as to how you can add more broccoli to your diet, a simple suggestion is that you add it to your Sunday roast, a great way to eat 5-veggies in one sitting!
Allicin is a compound that is produce once garlic has been chopped or crushed. Allicin may help to stimulate the production and response of disease-fighting leukocytes (white blood cells). Additionally, with antibacterial and viral properties, garlic is renowned as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory food. You may not find it appealing to eat garlic whole so instead, you can chop or crush it and add it to almost any dish, including curry, Bolognese and sautéed vegetables.
To help reduce your risk of illness this winter, try consuming more of these foods!