5 ways to boost your immune system

Just in time for winter, here are five ways to boost your immune system.

04 June 2010
by The Clicks health team

Keep the flu at bay by washing your hands more frequently and by stocking up on these five essential nutrients to feed our immune systems and prevent illness.

Vitamin A: also known as betacarotene

It’s a powerful antioxidant – which basically mops up free radical waste that is produced during normal bodily functions. Even a modest deficiency can weaken the immune defenses of our respiratory tract by damaging mucous membranes that form a naturally protective barrier against viruses and bacteria.
Top food sources: all orange and dark green fruit and vegetables. They contain large amounts of betacarotene, which the body converts to vitamin A when required.

Vitamin C

Synonymous with winter health and fighting off colds. This antioxidant helps increase the number of infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies needed to help destroy harmful bugs. Although large amounts of vitamin C do not signifi cantly lower your risk of catching a cold, supplemental doses may reduce the duration and severity of symptoms by inhibiting the release of histamine, an inflammatory chemical that causes a runny nose and respiratory congestion.
Top food sources: citrus fruits, guava, strawberries, kiwi fruit, bellpeppers, tomato, broccoli.

Vitamin E

Vital for a healthy immune system. As we age, our immune response declines. Research among the elderly showed a positive effect of supplementation on the incidence of upper respiratory infections.
Top food sources: wheatgerm, seeds, vegetable oils, leafy green vegetables such as spinach.

Selenium

This mineral is also part of the antioxidant family, protecting immune cells against free radical damage. Research shows that a deficiency contributes to the decline in immune function and supplementation improves the immune system’s production of antibodies in response to foreign invaders.
Top food sources: seafood, whole grains, nuts, egg yolks.

Zinc

This mineral fights more aggressively by releasing more antibodies and is known for its ability to reduce the severity and duration of colds. It helps protect primary barriers such as our skin and mucous membranes.
Top food sources: seafood, meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, whole grains.