Boost your immune system

  • 6 Jan 2009
  • Reading time 3 mins
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When you are younger, it is easy to fool yourself into believing that all those degenerative and life threatening diseases will only happen to other people.

But are you really immune to both minor and major infections and will cancer pass you by? Are you free from allergies and do you rarely suffer from a cold or flu? Staying free from colds and flu, and recovering quickly if you do succumb, requires a fighting fit immune system.

Here are five easy steps you can take now to support a healthy immune system:

1. Load up on fruit and veg – aim for at least five portions a day and pick a rainbow selection of colours to get a good range of nutrients.

2. Have a clove or two of garlic a day – this is naturally anti-viral and anti-bacterial.

3. Eat sufficient protein – aim for lean (preferably) organic meat, fish, game, quinoa (a South American grain), eggs, pulses combined with grains, dairy foods or tofu.

4. Herbs and spices contain immune-supporting nutrients – for example, add turmeric to rice; grate ginger into stir fries or on to vegetables; make tea from the Cat’s Claw herb; add aloe vera to drinks.

5. Avoid sugar – it can suppress the immune system.

The immune power diet

The ideal immune-boosting diet is, in essence, no different from the ideal diet for anyone. Since immune cells are produced rapidly during an infection, sufficient protein is essential. Eating the right kinds of fats is important too. Diets high in saturated or hydrogenated fat suppress immunity and clog up the system, while essential fats – found in oily fish, nuts and seeds – boost immune function.

If you have an infection that increases mucus production (eg a cold), it is best to avoid meat, dairy produce and eggs – these foods tend to stimulate more mucus.

To ensure you get plenty of immune-boosting nutrients, eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Good sources include carrots, beetroot, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and beansprouts, plus watermelon and berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries etc – you can buy these frozen when they are not in season). Eat what you can raw, and lightly steam the rest. Avoid frying anything as this introduces harmful free radicals that increase your toxic load.

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