Tips To Support A Healthy Immune System

Now more than ever we shoud all be mindful of what we are eating and the affects our choices can have on our bodies. Our Head Dietitian, Dr Will Cook has written this piece on supporting a healthy immune system.

Despite some claims out there, no diet remedy or supplement has been scientifically proven to effectively prevent colds, flu or other lurgy’s, but it is recognised that a healthy immune system is important to help keep you fit and healthy and give your body the best chance of fighting off any illnesses.

Nutrients that are important for supporting your immune system include:

  • Vitamin C- found in fruits and veg.  Good sources include oranges, red and green peppers, strawberries, blackcurrants, broccoli, potatoes
    • Top tip- remember tinned and frozen varieties all count towards your 5 A Day and are still great sources of vitamin C- perfect if you are looking to store a supply of healthy ingredients at home that won’t perish
  • Folate- good sources include broccoli, leafy green vegetables, peas, chickpeas, fortified breakfast cereals
  • Iron- there are two main types of iron, haem iron that is found in meat and fish which is easily absorbed and non-haem iron that is found in beans, nuts, dried fruit, wholegrain cereals, fortified breakfast cereals and dark green leafy vegetables
    • Top tip- vitamin C rich foods, for example orange juice, help the body absorb non-haem iron from food.  Also try to avoid tea, one hour either side of meals as this reduces the body’s absorption of non-haem iron.
  • Vitamin D- from early April until the end of September we get most of the vitamin D needed from the sunshine.  We also get some vitamin D from foods such as oily fish, red meat, eggs and fortified foods including fat spreads and some breakfast cereals. 
    • Top tip- The Department of Health recommends that adults consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter.  If it is safe, from April onwards, try to expose your skin to the sunlight to top up your vitamin D levels. 
  • Zinc- good sources include meat, shellfish, dairy foods, bread and cereal products.  The Department of Health advice is no to take any more than 25mg of zinc supplements a day unless advised by a doctor. Taking too much zinc can be harmful and stops your body absorbing other essential nutrients. 

You can read more information on a healthier lifestyle on our You & Life website

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