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looking after your immune system

11th September 2017 by Jess

As autumn closes in, our nutritionist Jess explains which vitamins and minerals our immune system needs to keep those defence barriers up.

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The foods we eat affect both our day-to-day and long-term health. The building blocks of protein go on to create all of the cells of your immune system, which helps to defend you from infection. The vitamins and minerals then help these cells to function properly, keeping the rest of the body in great health with an abundance of energy so we can have a cold/flu free season.

Jess, graze nutritionist
juice ingredients 1

vitamin C

We're kicking off with the most famous of the immunity-strengthening vitamins! You can get these in many fruits and vegetables as part of a balanced diet. If you're trying to ward of a cold try making a citrus fruit smoothie, but avoid shop-bought vitamin concoctions which contain an excess of sugars.

Vitamin C helps to reduce inflammation and stimulate the immune system to help fight off bugs by promoting white blood cell reproduction and destroying histamine. Absorption of iron, a mineral that is critical for healthy immune system function, is enhanced in the presence of vitamin C, too. Vitamin C is not a nutrient the body can store, so eat vitamin C rich foods throughout the day.

The best dietary sources: Citrus fruit (lemons, oranges, limes), watercress, fresh peppers, strawberries, kiwi fruit, pineapple, broccoli, kale

recipe: Jess's miracle healing juice

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brazil nuts 2

selenium

Selenium doesn't just contribute to the immune system, it also helps to keep your hair and nails healthy!

Selenium is an antioxidant that helps to regulate immune function and inflammation. Very few foods contain selenium due to fields being over-farmed and the nutrients not being replenished, and if a nutrient isn't in the soil, it can't be in our food!

The best dietary sources:
Brazil nuts (Just two to four brazil nuts per day is enough to meet your daily selenium requirement), tuna, shrimp, sardines, salmon, turkey, cod, chicken, lamb, spring onions, beef

the benefits of brazil nuts

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protein top-ups 3

protein

Is there anything protein can't do?

Amino acids, the sub-units of protein can go on to create our immune cells. Ensuring we have high quality protein throughout the day is best to ensure we get a complete specturm of healthy amino acids.

The best dietary sources: organic and grass-fed meat, eggs, quinoa, seafood, nuts, seeds

shop protein snacks
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iron

While your body is busy fighting an illness there aften isn't much energy left for other things. That's another reason why iron is a great mineral to focus on, as it helps reduce tiredness and fatigue!

Iron is found in every human cell and affects everything from our immune system, brain development and even our body temperature. Our bodies use iron to make proteins called hemoglobin and myoglobin, which help carry and store oxygen in the body through red blood cells and muscles. Iron is also part of many other proteins and molecules that ensure good health.

The best dietary sources: Edamame beans, lentils, spinach, sesame seeds, lima beans, olives, navy beans, Swiss chard

DIY baked beans
quinoa 5

zinc

Zinc is a mineral that's important to the body in many ways. Zinc keeps the immune system strong, fight infections, helps heal wounds, and supports normal growth.

The best dietary sources: Beef, lamb, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, lentils, cashews, turkey, quinoa

the benefits of quinoa

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lemonade

Other tips for fighting colds...

Lemon juice in warm water when you get up or before a meal not only gives the body a dose of vitamin C, but it can help to stimulate stomach acid production, which supports an optimal pH gradient in the digestive tract. This impacts how well we digest our food and enhances absorption of nutrients that are essential for the immune system, such as zinc.

Garlic is wonderful for boosting the immune system. Enjoy it in curries, soups, as part of a salad dressing or any place else you can sneak it into your meals.

Garlic has anti-infective properties and is also a prebiotic, which means it contains fibres that nourish our gut bacteria. Around 70% of the immune system is located in the gut, and the gut microbiome helps to modulate our immune responses. To enhance the amount of allicin, the main bioactive compound in garlic, crush or chop the garlic and wait 10 minutes before cooking it.

Reducing stress is critical to help your body repair. Schedule time to deep diaphragmatic breaths each day to help lower stress hormone production, as this signals to the body that it is safe (not in danger – which is what stress hormones can communicate), and can focus on rest and repair work - which includes good immune function.

jess fruit

By Jess, graze nutritionist.

Our nutritionist extraordinaire, Jess trained at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition and is a registered practitioner with the British Association for Applied Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She's the creator of our health badges, to help you choose the snacks and boxes that are right for you. Check out everything from Jess on our blog, with recipes and tricks to help you keep making better choices, or go to Jess's blog at jessipes.co.uk for even more.

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