Keeping colds and flu at bay in winter is always a challenge, especially when you have the whole family to try and keep healthy. While there is no guarantee that you can create a cold and flu free zone this winter, a good balanced diet will help provide plenty of nutrients that will boost your immunity and help your body perform at its best.
Essential vitamins to keep your immunity strong
One of the best ways to keep your immune system strong during winter is to consume lots of foods containing immune boosting antioxidants. The main role of antioxidants in the body is to help fight free radical damage which can interfere with our immune systems.1
- Betacarotene - Betacarotene is essential for the health of the immune system. It works as an antioxidant, protecting cells from free radical damage and maintains general well being. Betacarotene is found in yellow and orange coloured fruits and vegetables such as apricots, beets, cantaloupe, carrots, corn, mangoes, peaches, pink grapefruit, pumpkin, squash, spinach, sweet potato, tangerines, tomatoes, and watermelon.1
- Vitamin E - Vitamin E supports a healthy immune system by increasing antibody production and stimulating the activity of immune cells. It’s an antioxidant that also helps protect cell walls from free radical attack that can cause illnesses, inflammatory disorders and skin damage. It is naturally found in spinach, carrots, nuts and sunflower seeds.1
- Vitamin C - Vitamin C supports immune function and reduces the duration of colds. It works together with Vitamin E as an antioxidant for the maintenance of good health. Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of vitamin C. Some examples include berries, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, nectarines, orange, papaya, red, sweet potato, strawberries and tomatoes.1To benefit from all the goodness in these wonderful antioxidant foods, try to eat many of them raw or lightly steamed. This will retain their goodness. Think salads, stir‐fry’s and fruit snacks or desserts. Boiling and overcooking will make these foods less nutritious.1
Vitamins are not the only antioxidants. The minerals zinc and selenium are also regarded as important antioxidants that may help boost immunity. Zinc is found in oysters, seafood, red meat, nuts and whole grains whilst selenium is in tuna, beef, poultry and Brazil nuts1
Essential vitamins and minerals for health
Stress, poor diet and busy schedules are all factors that can affect the balance of nutrients in our bodies. Topping up your diet with the right nutrients goes along way towards helping you achieve wellbeing and maintaining good health.
- Essential nutrients for women - Iron helps reduce fatigue and assists with energy levels. It is also important for immune health; inadequate iron intake may affect the functioning of the immune system. Calcium is essential for bone health, muscle contraction, immunity and energy production. Importantly, during pregnancy and lactation women’s need for calcium increases. Another important nutrient is Vitamin B. It is particularly beneficial for a healthy nervous system and during times of stress.
- Essential nutrients for men - Zinc and vitamin E are both antioxidants. Zinc is beneficial in supporting healthy sexual function in males and vitamin E helps maintain a healthy heart and assists with blood circulation. B group vitamins and magnesium are also beneficial for men as these help support the nervous system and are beneficial during times of stress.
- Essential nutrients for children - As parents we are often concerned whether our kids are getting all the nutrients necessary for optimal growth and development. In particular, we want to make sure that they stay healthy during winter. You can help support their little immune systems by topping up their diets with vitamin C and zinc. Zinc is also necessary to ensure proper growth and development in kids. Omega‐3 fatty acids found in fish oils and supplements, are essential as they are involved in the growth and development of their young brains. Because the body cannot make fatty acids, it is important that they are included in their diets.