As the H3N2 virus is going around, causing flu-like symptoms such as coughing, a running nose, and body aches, it is important to keep our immunity in top shape. The changing weather and high levels of dust are also adding to our respiratory problems. Children and older adults seem to be more affected by these conditions. Our immune system is a complex network of organs, cells, and proteins that work together to protect us against viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. Nutrition plays an important role in the health of our immune system.
Optimum nutrition is key to providing the necessary nutrients like minerals, vitamins, amino acids, cholesterol, and fatty acids that are critical for the development, maintenance, and functioning of our immune system. While there is no one "immune-boosting" diet, a wholesome diet that promotes health is needed daily. Some nutrients are crucial for our immune system:
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Essential Mineral For Immunity:
Iron is crucial to maintain a good supply of oxygen to the immune system. It is also involved in the immune process. Sources: organ meats, chicken, turkey, green leafy vegetables, guava, dried fruits, fortified foods.
Selenium is the most powerful mineral for protection against infections. It is crucial for the immune system to work. Sources: Brazil nuts, turkey, chicken, whole wheat, rajma, and dals.
Zinc is needed in adequate amounts for the production of new immune cells. This makes it a very important nutrient for maintaining the integrity of the system. Sources: shellfish, eggs, chicken, legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains.
Vitamins For Immunity:
1. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is probably the most important nutrient with respect to respiratory health. It is a strong antioxidant that protects the skin from oxidative stress. It supports the function of the immune system and is essential to maintain the integrity of the cells of the epithelial layer, making it crucial for maintaining lung health. Sources: citrus fruits, oranges, lemons, kiwi, strawberries, bell peppers, tomatoes, white potatoes, amla, and guava.
2. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is another very strong antioxidant that scavenges free radicals and prevents DNA damage. It is a part of over 200 metabolic processes and is very important for the functioning of the immune system. Sources: almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds and oil, safflower oils, hazelnuts, wheat germ, sunflower, safflower, and soybean oils, sunflower seeds, spinach, beet greens, pumpkin, mango, and avocado.
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3. Vitamin A
Vitamin A has strong antioxidant properties. It is needed for the development of the immune system and is involved in the regulation of the immune response. Sources: carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, organ meats, mango, and green leafy vegetables.
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is connected to the regulation of the immune system. It controls inflammation and boosts the ability of the immune cells to produce microbe-fighting proteins.
5. Folate and Folic acid
Folate and Folic acid are needed for healthy cell formation. They are required for DNA and RNA production, which describes the functioning of each cell. Deficiency of folic acid can lead to a compromised immune system. Sources: green leafy vegetables, Bengal gram, black gram, green gram, and red gram, and oilseeds such as gingelly and soybean.
Herbal Remedies for Immunity:
Maintaining a strong immune system is key to avoiding infections, and a healthy lifestyle is essential to building and maintaining immunity. Here are some herbal remedies that may help boost your immune system and fight off cold and flu viruses:
This flowering plant has been shown to be effective in destroying influenza viruses and preventing influenza.
Garlic is known for its anti-viral and anti-microbial activity against colds, thanks to its active compound Allacin.
These compounds found in tea leaves are associated with preventing cold and flu viruses from multiplying, while also boosting immunity.
Maintaining a strong immune system is essential to avoid infections, and a healthy lifestyle is essential to building and maintaining immunity. Incorporating a variety of healthy habits such as nutritious food, regular exercise, and rest can help keep your immune system robust. By following these tips, you can help keep the flu away and stay healthy all season long.
About Rupali DattaRupali Datta is a Clinical Nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She has created and lead teams of professionals to deliver clinical solutions for patients across all medical specialties including critical care. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.