8 tips to boost your immune system this winter

8 Tips to Boost Your Immune System this Winter

As winter is fast approaching and another lockdown is upon us, it’s no surprise we want to ensure our immune system is fighting fit. Unfortunately, there’s no magic trick to ‘boost’ our immune systems and instead all we can do is provide it with what’s needed to function well. A healthy diet and adequate supply of certain nutrients are key to this, and we set out below the key foods to think about 

8 Vitamins and Minerals That Support Your Immune System and Where to Find Them

1. Vitamin A – There are two types of vitamin A available in our diet:

  • Ready-to-go (preformed)  vitamin A:
    •  Mainly found in animal-based foods, like cheese and margarine (if fortified). 
    • provitamin A that the body needs to convert 
      • found in dark green leafy veg and orange or red coloured fruits and veg, like spinach,carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, apricots, mangoes.

2. Vitamin B12

  • Found in meat, fish, cheese and eggs
  • Since Vitamin B12 is exclusively found in animal-based foods, fortified foods and/or a daily supplement are recommended when following a vegan or plant-based diet 

3. Folate 

  • Found in a wide range of plant-based foods, such as dark green leafy veggies, pulses, berries, nuts and grains. 

4. Vitamin C

  • fruits and vegetables are the best source of vitamin C.  Particularly citrus fruits, kiwi, bell pepper and green veggies (such as broccoli, kale and Brussel sprouts)

5. Iron

  • Animal foods are rich in this nutrient, such as beef, chicken, turkey
  • Plant-based sources include dark green leafy veg, beans and pulses.

6. Selenium

  • Animal-based sources include meat and seafood
  • Plant-based sources include nuts and seeds (if served for young children remember to finely chop or ground because of the risk of choking) and lentils

7. Zinc

  • Animal-based sources include meat, cheese
  • Plant-based sources include  seeds and nuts (if served for young children remember to finely chop or ground because of the risk of choking) and whole grains 

8. Vitamin D 

  • The best source of vitamin D is sunlight since few foods contain the nutrient. You can find small amounts in oily fish, eggs and some spreads or dairy (if fortified). 
  • As it is difficult to get enough Vitamin D through food,  the UK government advises a supplement of 8.5-10 µg per day for babies (who are receiving less than 500ml of infant formula a day) and 10 µg (400 IU) per day for children from 1 year and all adults. This is typically throughout the winter months only but specific advice during coronavirus lockdown measures, and increased time indoors, is to continue supplementation throughout this period.

Lifestyle Tips to Support Your Immune System:

Aside from nutrition there are a few other lifestyle factors that influence our immune health, which include taking regular exercise, trying to minimise stress, getting enough sleep and taking steps to prevent infections – such as washing hands regularly and following recommendations for vaccinations. Smoking cessation and moderate alcohol intake are also advised.

6 Lifestyle Changes to Support Your Immune System

 

  1. Regular exercise has been shown to benefit immune function but remember to keep the balance, since excessive exercise and overtraining may do just the opposite!
  2. Quitting smoking is advised since smoking increases the risk of respiratory infections and second hand smoke has a similar effect on children
  3. Try to minimise stress – we know it’s easier said than done but chronic, psychological stress is another factor that reduces immune function
  4. Drink alcohol in moderation since excessive consumption can increase risk of infection
  5. Try to get an adequate amount of sleep – again, easier said than done…we know!
  6. Take steps to prevent infections, for example,  wash your hands regularly, cover a cough, and follow the recommendations for vaccinations

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