We are well into winter now and maybe you’ve managed to avoid some of the many bugs going round or maybe you’re someone who finds themselves picking up every little bug, either way it is always a good idea to look at boosting your immune system.
There are some tried and tested immune boosters that should be a staple at winter time such as Vitamin C, but there are other nutrients which are just as important, for boosting your immune system that you may not be aware of.
There is growing research that suggests gut health is key to our overall health and immunity (1). Our gut contains many bacteria, which can help or hinder our body's digestion and immunity and it is this bacteria that can be influenced by the food we eat. More and more emerging research suggests probiotics improve resistance to disease and infection by enhancing the immune response in the intestine. When choosing probiotics it is really important to note the quality, quantity and variety, as they are susceptible to light, heat and age so ideally you would choose a product that starts out with billions of live bacteria – ideally this would be shown on the label. Having good gut health can also mean your body is better able to absorb nutrients which will also contribute to good immunity. Good probiotic foods include fermented foods such as kombucha, sauerkraut and kefir but probiotics also come in supplements and yoghurts in differing amounts.
Just 4-5 Mussels can give you your daily Zinc requirement (2). Zinc is one of the most important nutrients for immunity but is also one of New Zealand’s most common nutrient deficiencies (3). If you’re not a fan of mussels, chickpeas, red meat and other seafood also contain high amounts. To make sure you have a constant supply of Zinc I would look at planning to have at least 2 meals containing seafood per week + 1-2 with red meat + 1-2 meals containing chickpeas.
It may seem simple but most of the clients I see are not drinking nearly enough water. Water helps deliver nutrients around the body (via your blood), aids digestion and can keep help with concentration and energy – something we often lack when run down or sick with a bug. There is no set amount that everyone should abide by but around 2-3L a day is right for most people – more if you exercise.
Not only do all of the above foods help to boost immunity, they are also nutrients that, as kiwis, we are commonly deficient in. While we do tend to think of our immunity at winter time, it is important all of the time so we should try to work these foods into our diet all year round!
References: A. Borchers, C. Selmi, F. Meyers, C. Keen and M. Gershwin. Probiotics and Immunity. Journal of Gastroenterology. January 2009, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 26-46. Grant MacDonald, PhD. Identification of Health and Nutritional Benefits of New Zealand Aquaculture Seafood’s. Report for Aquaculture New Zealand.P. Bonventura, G. Benedetti, F. Albarede and P. Miossec. Zinc and its role in immunity and inflammation. Journal of Autonomy Reviews. Volume 12, Issue 4, April 2015, g 277-285.