Great food to build your natural resistance!.
#In This Together
Strong immune systems need nutrient-rich food and great Gut Health….read on for all the foods to enjoy right now!
Vitamin D supplement 10 mcg daily, all age groups and pregnancy.
95% of our Vitamin D comes from the action of direct sunshine on our skin, so our stores are always low after the winter. Vitamin D is required by our immune cells in addition to its better-known role regulating calcium. (For healthy adults, 25mcg/ 1000IU is still well within the maximum safe daily dose.) Available in all pharmacies. If you already take a multivitamin or similar, check for its Vitamin D content.
Fibre (Natural prebiotic for Gut Health)
Over 80% of the cells which make up our immune system are located in the wall of our intestine. Gut bacteria here support a well-developed immunity. Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that can’t be digested in the small intestine, passing instead to the colon (large intestine). Here it provides fuel for billions of these beneficial gut bacteria, which ferment it to produce many compounds essential for our everyday metabolism and the correct functioning of our gut wall. Collectively known as our ‘Microbiome’ and with 150x our own genetic makeup, our microbiome is to be nurtured! Our gut bacteria also have an important role activating antioxidants in some foods which are also beneficial in boosting our immunity.
Skin-on Veg and Fruit, Nuts, Seeds, grains like Oats and other Wholemeal Cereals, Brown & Wild Rice, Wholemeal Pasta, Quinoa, Beans, Peas and Pulses like Kidney & Fava beans, Chickpeas & Lentils.
Hodmedods in Essex are a fabulous British company supplying UK grown grains, peas, beans and pulses – source sustainably!
Quinoa top tips!
Heat 1 cup-full in a saucepan for a minute or two giving it a shake around to stop it burning.. Add twice as much cold water. It will bubble up! Simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on then leave off heat with lid on for a further 10 minutes. Add to couscous for a quick lunch: mix with chopped salad, sundried tomatoes & soft cheese or tinned fish, nuts & seeds. You can even add it to morning porridge for extra fibre; just cook your porridge in the normal way but with some quinoa added in place of some of the oats.
Fermented Foods (Natural probiotics for Gut Health)
These foods have been fermented so are already brimming with good bacteria and their beneficial products of fermentation as described above.
Bio-live yogurt, Yakult, Actimel, Marmite, Vegemite, Sourdough (bacteria inactivated on cooking but beneficial fermented products still present), Blue cheese.Sauerkraut, Kimchi & Miso.
But the champion of them all is Kefir! An ancient fermented milk drink (meaning ‘Live Long’ in Turkish) bursting with billions of beneficial bacteria and yeasts. Now being made with British milk and delicious! Try Biotiful, Nourish (you can purchase kefir grains and ferment at home!) or Biokef
Add Miso to stir fries for instant flavour (or try British grown Hodmedods Fava bean Umami paste), Kefir as above, Sauerkraut/ Kimchi as a side dish, Marmite on toast, Soak porridge oats overnight in milk – both begin to ferment, increasing their gut health benefits, then cook as normal for porridge or enjoy cold with yogurt and fruit. Sourdough – delicious toasted and dipped in olive oil, topped with honey or a poached egg!
Oily, pink fish are especially good choices as they contain Astaxanthin, an antioxidant and precursor to Vitamin A, both of which have a role in ensuring the cells of the immune system function correctly. Two types of Omega 3 in fish are also well known to regulate the immune system. (see below)
British trout (often good value), mackerel, salmon and even tinned sardines
Try pan fried trout 2 minutes each side then add some lemon juice. Other easy ways to cook fish are a kedgeree, fish pie, fish cakes, fish fingers, mackerel pate, ‘hot smoked’ salmon/ trout flaked onto warm potatoes with watercress and mayonnaise or even on pizza with a green pesto base!
These micro-nutrients constantly protect us from cell damage by removing potentially harmful by-products of our ‘everyday’ metabolism. This ensures our cells are able to function correctly. As the immune system has many different types of cells with many different functions, antioxidants are essential. We make our own antioxidants but when our need is increased, extra from our food is a great help.
Brassica vegetables like Sprouts, Watercress, Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale and Cauliflower, colourful fruit and veg like Carrots, Tomatoes, Beetroot & Sweet Potato, Spinach Blueberries, Blackberries & Apples (skin on). Pink Fish. (Happily – Dark Chocolate, Red WineJ, Tea, Coffee and also Green tea, Matcha tea, Turmeric and Olive Oil)
Our immune system has a high demand for energy due to constant cell multiplication and the movement of these immune cells to potential infection sites around the body. Vitamin C has a key role in making the energy in our food available for our body cells. Vitamin C also enables immune cells to kill germs and recover afterwards and is important in the chemical signalling which attracts immune system cells to the area in the body that needs them. We also need Vitamin C to make our own antioxidants. Try watercress pesto to concentrate all the nutrients in watercress – loads of great recipes at Love Watercress here!
Tomatoes, Watercress (weight for weight more than an orange!), Spinach and other green vegetables, Potatoes, Oranges and other Citrus fruits, Berries, Peppers, Kiwi & British Sea Buckthorn – see note at end.
Smoothie top tips!
Eat more veg by adding to smoothies: Carrots, beetroot and raspberries or watercress, frozen peas and tinned pears! Add milk/ kefir, oats, a few nuts, honey or chopped dates. Blitz and enjoy!
Head to the recipe section for Watercress and Pear smoothie…
Essential to ensure immune cells are able to function correctly as well as providing ‘barrier’ immunity within the mucosa of our gut wall and airways.
Meat, oily Fish, Poultry, Dairy (especially whole fat as this is a fat-soluble vitamin), Liver and Kidney, Carrots, Sweet potatoes, Watercress and other leafy greens, Tomatoes.
This fat-soluble vitamin is an important part of cell membranes and has a vital antioxidant role. More recently it’s been associated with improved immune responses with increasing age.
Cold Pressed vegetable oils especially rapeseed oil, Cod liver oil, Olive Oil, Nuts especially Almonds and Seeds, Wheatgerm, Potatoes, Green Leafy Veg, Fats and Spreads and fortified Breakfast Cereals.
Unsaturated Fats; Omega 3 and 6
Both of these in the right balance have many health benefits including essential regulation of the immune system. Two types of Omega 3 are especially important and abundant in oily fish. Plant Omega 3 however needs to be converted by our bodies into these two forms already in fish, before we can get the same benefit, so non-fish eaters need a lot more from plant sources. (and most plants contain much more Omega 6)
Omega 3: Oily fish like trout, salmon, mackerel & sardines. Plant Omega 3: Rapeseed oil (also great for cooking as not denatured at high temperatures), Flaxseed, Walnuts, Almonds, Hemp and Algal oil.
Hillfarm Oils in Suffolk lovingly produce cold pressed oil and love their bees too!
Used by our body cells for every energy-zapping process. The immune system has a high requirement for energy and iron stores can easily become depleted during growth and pregnancy or intense sport training programs. Top Tip for non-meat eaters – Iron in plants (non-haem iron) is poorly absorbed by our body as it’s in a different form to that found in meat (haem iron). Vitamin C and A convert this plant iron into a much more absorbable form so always make sure you have foods rich in Vitamin A and C in the same meal. (see above)
Red Meat (once weekly) Watercress & other Green Leafy Veg, fortified Breakfast Cereals, Quinoa, Wheatgerm, Bran, Tomatoes, Lentils and pulses.
.Folic Acid (Folate) and Vitamin B12
Both of these are needed for the normal functioning of the immune system. Folate supplements are recommended before and during pregnancy when demand doubles. (400mcg daily). Vitamin B12 deficiency can occur in older age as long-term medicines and changes in the lining of the stomach can reduce our ability to absorb it from our food.
Vit B12: Fish, Meat, Dairy, Eggs, Fortified Breakfast Cereals, Marmite
Folate: Fibre-rich food (see above) including Leafy Greens, Beans and Pulses. Fortified Breakfast Cereals, Breads and Eggs.
Keep calm, keep active, get plenty of rest, eat and hydrate well…..
And a final note on a ‘new’ and novel fruit being grown by a few innovative UK farmers – British Seabuckthorn. A bright orange gem of a berry packed full of antioxidants, vitamins, unsaturated fats and with fibre too, a daily dose as a porridge topper or added to a smoothie will go a long way to nurturing best health – read more here!
Valdes, A.M., Walter, J., Segal, F., Spector, T (2018) Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health British Medical Journal: 361 K2179
Card A.C., Maggini S., (2017) Vitamin C and Immune Function Nutrients (9) 1211; doi:10.3390/nu9111211
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Dr Lucy Williamson Msc
I am a Registered Nutritionist working to inform and inspire better health for all. Previously a Vet and with a family of my own, I understand the need for practical, evidence-based Nutrition advice within busy lives. My focus is on achieving healthier, happier lives through sustainable, good food choices and giving clarity amid confusing ‘healthy eating’ messages. Sharing Nutrition knowledge is my passion and, I believe, beneficial to everyone!