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 or make tea from it or drink moringa tea.
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.
Sugar is not good news at the best of times, but studies show that it can actually depress immune activity, so avoid any forms if you are fighting an infection. Also avoid refined grains (which quickly digest down to sugar and contain few nutrients), instead opting for wholegrains (oats, rye bread, brown rice etc).
Further information can be found in the book Boost Your Immune System.
There are a multitude of studies which demonstrate the immune-supporting effects of taking supplements (see Boost Your Immune System for details). To keep your immune system fighting fit, I recommend you take:
• A high-strength multi vitamin and mineral complex.
• Extra vitamin C in a formula containing zinc and anthocyanidin rich extracts such as black elderberry and bilberry, and ginger.
• Extra vitamin D – I recommend supplementing 15mcg a day all year round (that’s what my optimum nutrition multivitamin provides), plus eating dietary sources such as oily fish and eggs. Together with half an hour of sun exposure in the summer, this will give you 30mcg a day. But, during the winter months, in the absence of sun, you need to take more. I take an extra 10mcg a day, or four drops of Biocare’s liquid vitamin D.
To ward off a cold, vitamin C can be very effective. I take 3 grams immediately, followed by 1 gram an hour, together with other supporting nutrients such as zinc, ginger and black elderberry.
For a personalised diet to help boost your immunity try my online 100% Health Programme.
Read Boost Your Immune System co-authored with immunologist Jennifer Meek.
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