Having a healthy immune system is absolutely vital to ensure one’s quality of life. I don’t know about you but I certainly want to be around for a while and in a good quality of health, mental and physical.
Your immune system has the amazing capacity to protect you from disease and fight off foreign invaders that may cause your body harm. It’s in your interest to fully appreciate your immune system before it stops operating efficiently. Let’s look into what we can do to help ourselves and the ones we love.
If you do not receive adequate nutrition your immune system may become weakened thereby reducing your body’s ability to fight off infections or illness.
A weakened immune system can leave you feeling run-down and fatigued, increase your susceptibility to colds and flu, increase allergic responses, and worst of all may leave you open to serious illness or disease.
To ensure you have a strong, healthy immune system start with feeding your body with whole foods and nutrients that will provide the nourishment required by your immune system to keep you strong and functioning at an optimal level.
Vitamin C is an essential water-soluble vitamin, this means that you must continually replenish the vitamin stores as it is easily excreted from the body and does not accumulate within the tissues as fat-soluble vitamins do. This was the first lesson of nutrition for me when I was studying vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C is all about tissue repair, wound healing and relevant to the general health of the immune system. It is also an antioxidant that plays a major role in the absorption of iron and production of antibodies and collagen.
Zinc is vital for healthy healing and an important co-factor – a facilitator of sorts for dozens of the body’s metabolic reactions. As a trace mineral Zinc is needed for the function of over 300 enzymes in the human body, including carbohydrate metabolism, protein and DNA production, protein digestion, bone metabolism and antioxidant protection. How could we underestimate Zinc? How could we forget the value of this antioxidant?
Zinc protects vitamin E, controls Vitamin A, restricts internal free radical production and is needed for superoxide dismutase (SOD) production. Around 12 milligrams of zinc a day, keeps the bugs and disease at bay! If you are wondering where you get a reliable source of zinc, seeds like ‘hemp seeds’, pepitas, sunflower seeds and nuts like cashews, almonds, pecans are certainly a welcome addition to your daily menu.
Different types of Vitamin C, Plus –
Calcium Ascorbate is a non-acidic form of vitamin C, making it gentle to the stomach, Vitamin C is one of the most important antioxidants in the body. It also increases the antioxidant activity of Vitamin E. It is essential for collagen formation, iron absorption, thyroid hormone production, fat metabolism and healthy immune function. Studies show that is may be beneficial for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, eye problems, osteoporosis and even some cancers.
Citrus Bioflavonoids, obtained from citrus fruits, include hesperidin, quercetin and rutin all of which usually possess anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, citrus bioflavonoids have significant antioxidant activity and facilitate the absorption of Vitamin C. Bioflavonoids have also been shown to strengthen capillaries which thereby may improve poor circulation. Which makes sense to me when I think about using Citrus Bioflavonoids to help people with Diabetes. Circulation is a very big issue for diabetics therefore any time a diabetic can increase their Bioflavonoids, this is a good thing.
Mixed Tocopherols consists of a number of forms of vitamin E, not just eh most common alpha-tocopherol form. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that is necessary for cellular membrane health, immunity, fertility and controlling blood clotting. Vitamin E has also been shown to have potential use in cancer treatment. Although the majority of studies have focused on the benefits of d-alpha-tocopherol, new research is showing that consuming mixed tocopherols has an even greater health benefit.
Elderberry Extract is rich in vitamin C and bioflavonoids. A standardised extract of elderberries has been shown to inhibit the replication of a number of strains of the influenza virus (type A, type B and animal strains) in vitro. This research study was done to compare a standardised extract to a placebo on 40 flu patients and the health changes were recorded over six days. The extract has been shown to speed the recovery from influenza infection with the infections lasting 2-3 days for 90% of the patients taking elderberry extract, compared to 6 days for the patients taking placebo.
Rosehips are the fruit of a rose after the petals have fallen. They are a rich source of vitamin C and also contain the carotenoid lycopene. Other rich sources of Lycopene are olives, tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, pink guava, papaya, wolfberry (goji, a berry relative of tomato). When you see Rosehips as an ingredient in a nutrient or antioxidant blend, you know that it’s going to be especially successful in your body for assisting the immune system, but the bioavailability of the nutrient is dependent on absorption.
Grapeseed Extract is a rich source of oligomeric pro-anthocyanidins (OPC’s), which are potent antioxidants thereby inhibiting free radical tissue damage. Grapeseed OPC’s have also demonstrated anti-cancer effects on human breast, lung and gastric adenocarcinoma cells; and also promote normal human gastric mucosal cells. This is very good news!
Beta-carotene is the most popular member of the carotenoid family. Carotenoids are colourful antioxidant plant pigments, that are found mostly in carrots, tomatoes, spinach and blueberries. They can be converted to Vitamin A in the body when needed, ensuring that an optimum level of Vitamin A is maintained. Beta-carotene is important for immune function, as it can increase and activate our white blood cells and also improve immune cell communication. Beta-carotene is also essential for eyesight, bone development and wound healing. It may also reduce damage by cholesterol and protect UV light and some cancers.
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) is essential for the production of energy from foods, as well as for normal growth, development and repair of almost all body tissues. It is also needed for immune function, nerve development, as well as hormone production and regulation.
Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) are naturally occurring carbohydrate molecules (fibres) that are not able to be digested by humans, and instead are fermented in the colon. They are considered prebiotics, which means they promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. They are considered prebiotics, which means they promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. They also reduce the growth of harmful species and stimulate healthy immune function. Furthermore, FOS has been shown to dramatically reduce the incidence of colon tumours and support gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT).
To ensure the functions of the above nutrients it is ideal to incorporate rich fruits and vegetables into your diet that can and do provide synergistic benefits.
Oranges contain abundant levels of Vitamin C, beta-carotene and potassium. They also contain pectin (a soluble fibre) which helps to control blood cholesterol levels.
Mandarins are high in Vitamin C, beta-carotene and potassium. They also contain pectin ( a soluble fibre) which helps to control blood cholesterol levels.
Carrots are a rich source of carotenoids, especially beta-carotene, which can be converted into Vitamin A in the body. Other carotenoids include alpha-carotene, lycopene and lutein.
Mangoes are high in beta-carotene, Vitamin C and Vitamin E, whilst also being high in pectin (soluble fibre).
Pineapple contains significant levels of Vitamin C, A and the enzyme bromelain, which is a protein splitting enzyme that may benefit digestion.
Lemons have a high Vitamin C content, whilst also containing Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3 and bioflavonoids. Lemons have antiseptic and cleansing actions making them beneficial for those prone to infections and fevers.
Limes are a very good source of Vitamin C and other antioxidants including ellagic acid, quercetin and kaempferol (a type of polyphenol).
Eating a wide range of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole foods will ensure you are receiving adequate nutrition to maintain your wellness through strong immunity. However, when you are unsure if you have eaten enough Vitamin C rich nutrient-dense foods plus additional antioxidants to fulfil your daily requirements, it may be beneficial to supplement with a functional food supplement containing a unique combination of vitamins, minerals, fruits and herbal extracts to ensure that you are getting the immune boost and protection you may benefit from.
A Note on Polyphenols:
Polyphenols, are powerful antioxidant chemicals found naturally in many plants, they are instrumental in protecting our cells from free radical damage, which are often attributed to chronic illnesses like cancer, heart disease and dementia.
Polyphenols are a large class of chemical compounds found in plants. They are characterised by the presence of more than one phenol unit or building block per molecule. A phenol unit consists of a six-membered aromatic hydrocarbon ring, bonded directly to a hydroxyl group (-OH). The simplest of the class is phenol (C6H5OH) which has long been used as an antiseptic.
They are also called phenolics. Poly means many, which refers to the large number of groupings of the basic phenol rings. There are over 4,000 polyphenol compounds. Many are powerful antioxidants and can neutralise free radicals, reduce inflammation and slow the growth of tumours.
So in the words of stars wars, if you want to ‘live long and prosper’ eat a plant-rich diet, which ups your polyphenols intake significantly. If you can aim for five to ten servings of fruits and vegetables a day, distributing your plant consumption evenly across every meal, rather than having a green juice for breakfast and thinking that’s enough, keep in mind that some polyphenols don’t survive all that long in the body. They get used up, just like essential oils when ingested or applied topically, it’s the same deal. Eating polyphenol-rich foods at every meal and snack provides the biggest hit of nutrients by delivering a steady stream to your body all throughout the day.
- Spices. Cloves, star anise, capers, curry powder, ginger, cumin, cinnamon.
- Dried herbs. Peppermint, oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, lemon verbena, parsley, marjoram.
- Beverages. Cocoa, green tea, black tea, red wine.
- Dark berries. …
- Seeds. …
- Nuts. …
- Olives. …
- Most coloured fresh fruits!
Here’s a very typical and most effective day for getting nutrients in balance and high in Vitamin C, Antioxidants and Polyphenols.
Breakfast - Green smoothie / Fresh juice / Paw Paw with Passion fruit and coconut yoghurt. Alternatively Dark berries in banana smoothie with coconut milk.
Mid Morning Snack - Banana with handful of seeds, or apple or both. Cacao Nut bar or Seed bar (see Annie’s IN THE RAW book for recipes).
Lunch – Open Fresh and Raw salad with plenty of greens, cherry tomatoes, a few olives, capsicum, sprouts, shallots, roasted sweet potato, couscous, avocado, sunflower seeds.
Afternoon Snack - Lime and Fennel tonic, handful of raw nuts or fresh fruit. Carrot juice with celery, beetroot, ginger and apple.
Dinner - Hearty Vegetable soup with lentils served with handful of fresh sprouts or raw grated vegetable of choice. Alternatively Pumpkin Curry with Panir and coconut flakes. Served with rice.