Want to get through the winter as healthy as possible? Take special care of your immune
system. If there’s one system in our body we tend to neglect, it’s this one. Only when we get sick
do we remember how important it is. Wintertime often means sharing close quarters with people
and their germs, putting our immune system at risk. Think of your immune system as
your body’s own personal department of defense, armed and ready to fight off any foreign
substance that wants to cause you harm. If it’s not fully functioning, you become more vulnerable
to disease-causing microorganisms that can make you sick.
There are three keys maintaining your immune system at peak performance– exercise, rest and
good nutrition. This article focuses on good nutrition and its role in keeping you out of the
doctor’s office this winter.
People who are malnourished are more vulnerable to infectious diseases. In order to keep you
healthy, the immune system must be adequately nourished with nutrient-rich food. There are
specific nutrients within food that have an important supporting role in protecting you from
infections and boosting your immune system to be at its optimal best.
Immune boosting nutrients
Vitamin C - This is often the first nutrient people think of in protecting themselves from illness.
This antioxidant protects you from infections by stimulating the formation of antibodies which
improve your immune functioning. Next time you are at the grocery store, head to either the
produce or frozen food aisles to stock up on berries, broccoli, oranges, grapefruit, bell peppers,
tomato juice, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe and honeydew melon.
Vitamin E - Here is another vitamin working as an antioxidant by neutralizing free radicals.
Foods rich in vitamin E include sunflower seeds, almonds, broccoli, peanut butter, spinach and
Protein - Protein forms the immune system molecules that fight disease. When the body detects
foreign antigens, it makes antibodies which are giant protein molecules to fight them. Without
enough protein, a person becomes less resistant to infectious diseases due to a reduction in
antibodies. Eat a variety of foods rich in protein such as lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans
and peas, soy products and nuts and seeds.
Vitamin A - Scientists have known for a long time of vitamin A’s role in keeping your skin and
tissue throughout the body healthy which protects you from infections. In the 1920’s, it was called
“the anti-infective vitamin.” A deficiency of vitamin A is associated with impaired immunity and
increased risk of infectious disease. Excellent food sources are carrots, kale, spinach, sweet
potatoes, apricots, eggs and vitamin-fortified foods such as milk and cereal.
Zinc – This mineral enhances your immune system by healing wounds and keeps the immune
cells functioning as they should. Find zinc in poultry, lean meat, beans, nuts, seafood, whole grain
products and dairy products.
Selenium - Although we only need minute amounts of this trace mineral, it is important to our
health as it works with vitamin E to prevent oxidative damage to lipids and decreases damage to
cell membranes. Since selenium is found in the soil, the content in plant-based food depends
on the amount of selenium in the soil. As a result, selenium concentrations in plant-based foods
vary widely by geographic locations. Good food sources are seafood, organ meats like liver, also
red meat, poultry and eggs along with various grains.
Stock up on healthy foods this winter
Eating a nutrient-rich diet is the easiest way to get in the above nutrients. There is scant
evidence taking a vitamin/mineral supplement will improve your immune system the way
consuming a healthy diet can do. When you choose foods naturally loaded with vitamins and
minerals in addition to numerous phytochemicals and fiber, your body will say “YES!” and will
respond by giving you an enhanced immune system working at its optimal best. Stocking up on
immune-boosting foods, exercising and getting plenty of rest will maximize your ability to weather
this winter with minimal illnesses.