Keeping Your Immune System Happy!

Your body (including your immune system) runs on the fuel you put into it. It’s as simple as that!

If you feel tired and groggy, change the things you are eating, how you are exercising and the emotional draining things/people you have in your life. You may have to let some things go, even some people, but it’s important to nurture YOU!

Eating well, along with several other good-for-you behaviours, is vital.

In a nutshell, it’s your immune system’s job to defend your body against illness and disease. The complex system is made up of cells in your skin, blood, bone marrow, tissues, and organs that, when working the way they should, protect your body against potentially harmful pathogens (like bacteria and viruses), and limit damage from noninfectious agents, such as sunburn, and cancers.

The immune system is really just like an orchestra, and you want every instrument and every musician in the orchestra to perform in harmony. You don’t necessarily want one musician performing on double speed or one instrument suddenly producing sound at twice the volume it usually does. You want every component to perform exactly as planned and the best way you can ensure that happens is to increase the ‘good stuff’ every day!

The nutrients you get from food, in particular, plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices are essential to keeping your immune system functioning properly. Many plant-based foods also have antiviral and antimicrobial properties, which help us fight off infection. Spices like clove, oregano, thyme, cinnamon and cumin contain antiviral and antimicrobial properties that prevent the growth of certain bacteria like Bacillus subtilis and Pseudomonas fluorescens, or harmful fungi like Aspergillus flavus and antibiotic-resistant microorganisms like Staphylococcus aureus. They can all be detrimental to our health and challenging to the body.

Minerals such as zinc, folate, iron, selenium and copper, as well as vitamins such as A, C, E, B6, and B12 can be provided in the food that you eat and are the nutrients your immune system needs to do its job.

When you eat a rainbow diet, each colour plays a unique role in supporting immune function.

Vitamin C deficiencies may increase the likelihood of infection, as our bodies do not produce this essential, water-soluble vitamin on their own, so we need to get it through foods (such as citrus fruits, kiwi and several cruciferous vegetables).

Did you know you can get 95 milligrams (mg), or 106% of the daily vitamin C you need by snacking on a half-cup of red pepper so it’s not as difficult as you may think!

Protein is also critical for immune health. The amino acids in protein help build and maintain immune cells and skimping on this macronutrient may lower your body’s ability to fight infections.

So, when it comes to a diet that supports good immune health, focus on incorporating more plants and plant-based foods. Add fruits and veggies to soups and stews, smoothies and salads, or eat them as snacks. Carrots, broccoli, spinach, red bell peppers, apricots, citrus fruits (such as oranges, grapefruit, tangerines) and strawberries are all great sources of vitamins A and C, while seeds and nuts will provide protein, vitamin E, and zinc.