1. Eat vitamin A rich foods
Vitamin A is a major determinant of immune status. Found in liver, dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and yellow-orange fruit and vegetables including carrots, sweet potato and squash.
2. Eat plenty of herbs and spices
Ginger (contains anti-inflammatory agents called gingerols that inhibit the formation of inflammatory cytokines, chemical messengers of the immune system) and horseradish (contains a potent antibacterial agent).
Include plenty of garlic in your diet (garlic contains allicin which has powerful antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial activity). Add thyme, oregano, rosemary to your cooking, such as meat, soups and stews (these herbs have volatile oils with antibacterial, antioxidant and antiviral properties).
3. Eat a rainbow of different coloured vegetables and fruit
They contain bioflavonoids (powerful antioxidants that support the immune system and help prevent damage to the immune cells themselves). For example, red peppers, leafy greens and yellow and orange vegetables such as squash, carrots, pumpkin, yellow pepper that are high in beta-carotene and purple berries.
4. Eat lots of vitamin C rich foods
Vitamin C is essential for the production of lymphocytes (the body relies on vitamin C to launch effective immune responses). Plentiful in fruits and vegetables, particularly citrus fruits, red peppers, parsley, dark leafy greens, strawberries, kiwi, papaya, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.
5. Have Nuts and seeds
Cold-pressed nut and seed oils (such as cold pressed sesame oil or hemp seed oil) but do not heat these. Instead use them cold and drizzled over vegetables, salads, and other dishes. Also eat raw whole almonds and sunflower seeds, raw almond butter and avocado for vitamin E (important for the normal function of immune cells).
6. Up your Zinc intake
Make sure to include pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and seafood for the crucial immune boosting mineral zinc.
7. Include good fats (EFA’s)
Found in these protein-rich foods; oily fish like mackerel, wild salmon, sardines, fresh anchovies, walnuts and chia seeds.
8. Limit processed foods and sugar
And remember that alcohol contains sugar, so limit it too.
9. Get enough sleep
Essential for immunity; your body cannot heal without adequate rest.
10. Manage stress
Stress depresses immune function. Regular exercise, yoga, creative expression, meditation, breathwork and laughter all reduce the effects that stress has on the body.
11. Include probiotics
Think about your gut! If you’ve taken a lot of antibiotics in the past or suffer from digestive issues, eat probiotic foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, raw apple cider vinegar, tempeh and consider taking a quality probiotic supplement. The beneficial bacteria found in probiotics can strengthen your immune system (close to 70% of our immune system actually resides in our gut, so looking after gut health really is key for strengthening immunity).
12. Think about vitamin D
Consider taking a vitamin D3 supplement (especially if your skin hardly ever sees sunlight) and spend some time in the sun when you can, in the summer months. Vitamin D is an important immune supporting nutrient and as our main source of vitamin D is the sun, many people are deficient in this important vitamin (especially in the winter). You can also get a simple blood test to establish your vitamin D levels and to determine whether you need to supplement (and your ideal dose). Small amounts of vitamin D are also found in cod liver oil, sardines, salmon, mackerel and eggs.