Your immune system functions to keep you feeling energized and healthy by helping to protect your body against infection and disease. What and how you eat affects your immune system, and inadequate intake of certain micronutrients can lead to immune deficiency. So how can you eat to support your immunity? Here’s a look at five of the most vital vitamins and minerals to support your immune function and total wellbeing:
Vitamins A, C and E
Function: Help to maintain the lining of the respiratory and digestive tract, which acts as a barrier against infection.
Food sources: Fruits and vegetables with purple, blue, red, orange and yellow hues.
Tips: Aim for 3-4 servings of fruit and 4-5 servings of vegetables per day.
Function: Works with T cells, a type of white blood cell that is key to the immune system’s ability to fight off infection and disease.
Food sources: Milk, canned tuna and vitamin D-fortified soy beverages.
Tips: It can be very difficult to get enough vitamin D through diet alone; take a vitamin D supplement daily as prescribed by your physician or dietitian.
Function: Part of many selenoproteins that act as antioxidants to help fight infection and protect the body against oxygen free radical damage.
Food sources: Brazil nuts, walnuts, tuna, beef, poultry and grain products.
Tips: Pair just 1-2 brazil nuts with fruit for a snack that boosts energy and immunity.
Function: Help to maintain the integrity of the lining of the intestines, thereby helping to boost immunity.
Food sources: Yogurt with probiotics, and fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and miso.
Tips: Consider adding fermented foods to your diet, and speak with your dietitian to determine if a probiotic supplement is right for you.
Omega 3 fatty acids
Function: Essential for reducing chronic inflammation, which dampens our innate immune response over time.
Food source: Walnuts, chia, hemp, flax seeds, canola oil and oily fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel.
Tips: Aim for 2 servings of oily fish per week, or speak to your dietitian about an appropriate supplement.
Zinc, copper, B vitamins and iron are other micronutrients that are important for optimizing your immune system health, but it can feel overwhelming when trying to make sure you’re getting the nutrients that your body needs.