It's the early days of winter here in Sydney and the chemists are full of pills and potions designed to help you avoid catching winter colds.
Can you boost immunity - and would you want to?
The idea of boosting your immunity is appealing, however the immune system works as a whole. There are many cells in the immune system that respond to different microbes in different ways. Which cells should you boost and in which number? Athletes that engage in blood doping to increase their number of blood cells run the risk of stroke.
That said maintaining a healthy immune system is always important, especially during colder months when we’re often indoors in closer contact with germs. The link between strong immunity and nutritional intake is clear - more whole foods, fewer processed foods, and a balanced intake of essential vitamins and minerals can keep you, and the people around you, from getting sick.
What you can include in your diet
Why: A powerful antioxidant that aids in the production and function of white blood cells, helps prevent cell damage, and is needed for the function of essential enzymes.
Where to find it: Citrus fruits and drinks, and vegetables like red capsicum
Did You know? Vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient, meaning it is not stored in cells. Excess amounts pass through the body, so vitamin C can be consumed throughout the day. It is pretty easy to meet your Vitamin C RDI of 45mg if you eat fruit and veggies, for example, one medium kiwi fruit contains about 64mg vitamin C or ½ a cup of broccoli will give you 40mg.
Why: A mineral required for essential proteins and antioxidants that play a major role in maintaining immunity. Zinc also enhances the function of T cells, which detect and eliminate infectious and abnormal cells in the body.
Where to find it: The best sources include red meat, poultry, seafood and smaller amounts in nuts and seeds
Did you know? The recommended daily intake for Australian adult men and women is 8 and 14mg respectively. 100g lean red meat will give you approximately 12mg of zinc or 30g pumpkin seeds provides 3mg. A 2012 systematic review suggested that "zinc formulations may shorten the duration of symptoms of the common cold", but that further research was needed and that possible adverse effects needed to be studied.
Why: Bacteria for your digestive tract that stimulate the production of antibodies and T cells and help cells communicate as they fight off infections.
Where to find it: Yogurt. Check labels for “contains active/live cultures.” Also raw sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and other fermented foods.
Did you know? In contrast to antibiotics, which means “life-killing” in the Greek etymology, probiotics means “for life” because they are organisms that stimulate growth.
Instead of wasting your money on random immunity supplements at the chemist - which are not clinically proven to enhance immunity - spend that money on seasonal fruit & veg, some yoghurt and soap to wash your hands.