10 foods for the immune system

We all know the importance of the immune system – it’s our inbuilt defence system against bacteria and viruses, etc. Many of us also understand that the foods we eat can contribute to the function of our immune system, with foods such as oranges often top of peoples list of immune system foods, but there are many others to consider.

1. Spinach

This green leafy vegetable, often attributed to Popeye’s amazing strength is actually an amazing immune system food. The humble leaf is rich in iron, folic acid and vitamin C, all of which are known to contribute to a healthy immune function.

2. Sauerkraut

A European delicacy made from fermented cabbage. It is rich in natural live bacteria which are already present in the gut. These bacteria are sometimes described as one of the front lines of defence against pathogens and ensuring they are in ample numbers enhances that defence.

3. Watermelon

Not only is it a refreshing and delicious fruit, but it is naturally high in vitamin C and vitamin A which contribute to the normal function of the immune system. In addition vitamin A contributes to the maintenance of normal mucous membranes; another barrier of defence against invading organisms.

4. Oysters

Many consider them to be a food of love, attributed to claims they have aphrodisiac properties. This is due to their rich zinc content, a mineral which is known to contribute to the normal function of the immune system.

5. Shrimp

Another source of nutrients from the sea. These are a source of the mineral selenium, which not only contributes to the normal function of the immune system, but also acts as a free-radical scavenger,
protecting cells from oxidative stress.

6. Sesame seeds

Like all seeds, they are a powerhouse of nutrients and sesame seeds are great sources of the mineral copper, zinc and iron; all needed for the normal function of the immune system. In addition they are a great source of fibre, support normal function of the digestive system.

7. Butternut squash

The vibrant orangey/yellow colouring of this vegetables is the result of its rich content of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A, with our bodies able to convert the beta-carotene molecule into vitamin A as needed. Vitamin A is known to contribute to the function of the immune system – it is also fairly low in its glycaemic index, meaning it won’t promote a spike in blood glucose levels.

8. Eggs 

A great source of vitamin B12 and protein. B12 not only is needed for immune system functioning, but also contributes to normal energy yielding metabolism. Protein is needed by the immune system to make its various components, such as antibodies which fight infection.

9. Shiitake mushroom

Used in Chinese medicine for millennia, they are said to activate macrophage cells (part of the immune system) to fight off infection.

10. Garlic

Not only can garlic ward off vampires, but due to its sulphur containing compound, allicin, it may be beneficial at warding off microbes. It is said it has an immune boosting effect, not to mention being linked to healthy cholesterol levels.

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Written by a listed nutritionist

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