Your immune system functions to protect your body against various infections and diseases. What you eat affects your immune system. An inadequate intake of essential micronutrients can lead to compromised immunity. An excellent way to build your immune system is to understand the need for essential vitamins and minerals that play a vital role to build up your immunity and eat accordingly.
Vitamins and Minerals are trace compounds required by your body in extremely minute quantities and used by almost every cell of your body to perform many vital functions.
The best way to increase your vitamin intake is to eat a good, well-balanced diet, but our bodies occasionally need a boost. The immune system does a good job of keeping us healthy most of the time. However, if the mechanism fails to protect us at times, it can lead to sickness, infection, or disease. The body requires reinforcements in the form of vitamins and other immune-boosting nutrients at this stage.
Now, let us take a look at some of the essential vitamins & minerals needed to boost our immune system:
Vitamin A helps in the production of white blood cells in the bone marrow & helps the body to fight infections from various types of bacteria, viruses & other pathogens. White blood cells present in our body fights off the virus & even eradicates it quickly in case of an infection. If your body has a low count of white blood cells, then chances of different kind of infections escalate & weaken your immune system.
Food Sources - Carrots, Spinach, Broccoli, Cabbage, Dairy products, Melons, Apricots and Mangoes.
Vitamin B Complex
Vitamin B is not a single vitamin but a complex of eight vitamins: Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine), Vitamin B7, Vitamin B9 (Folate) & Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin). These vitamins strengthen our immune system & play various roles in our body. For example - Folate promotes the production & production of white blood cells. Vitamin B6 plays an essential role in energy production & immunity. Vitamin B is key to the body's overall functioning because it regulates the absorption of other components & helps in circulating the antibodies, which protect us from infections & strengthens our immune system.
Food Sources - Avacados, Strawberry, Banana, Yoghurt, Milk, Fish
Vitamin C has been used for ages to strengthen our immunity & reduce the duration of cold & flu. Vitamin C, also called Ascorbic acid, is an essential micronutrient & also the most widely consumed supplements globally. Vitamin C increases interferons' production, a protein that helps the immune cells fight viral infections.
Food Sources - Citrus fruits like Oranges & Lemons, Other fruits like Blackberry, Kiwi, Guava, Strawberry.
Vitamin E helps our immune system as it contains antioxidants properties. It helps to fight the free radicals present in our body & helps us to regenerate & work seamlessly. It also helps in reducing oxidative stress in our body.
Food Sources - Walnuts, Almonds, Peanuts, Sunflower Seeds
Vitamin K is an essential fat-soluble vitamin present involved in heart & bone health. It is one of the best vitamins that help to strengthen our immune system. Vitamin K acts as a cofactor for many plasma proteins & boosts our innate immunity. Vitamin K that we ingest is related to intestinal bacteria; therefore, the blood Vitamin K levels dramatically depends upon our digestive health.
Food Sources - Spinach, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower
Zinc is an essential micronutrient that our body needs in small amounts to function properly. Zinc is involved in a few biological processes like protein & DNA production, cell division & wound healing. However, zinc is best known for playing a crucial role in the functioning of the immune system. Zinc protects our body from many viral infections & is responsible for the optimal functioning of white blood.
Food Sources - Lean meat, Poultry, Chickpeas, Nuts
Although its most well known for its role in red blood cell production & oxygen transport, iron is also considered one of the best immune-boosting supplements. Studies show that iron deficiency anaemia can impair the body's immune response, potentially ramping the risk of illness and infection.
Food Sources - Spinach, Raisins, Apricots, Bread, Pasta
Selenium is an essential micronutrient that functions as an antioxidant, neutralising harmful free radicals and reducing cell damage. Selenium can control excessive immune responses to prevent widespread inflammation, in addition to initiating immunity.
Food Sources - Eggs, Nuts, Seeds, Chicken, Fish
The Bottom Line
It's easy to see why healthy strategies for immune system strengthening are so common these days. As the world prepares for the unknown, one thing is certain: consciously trying to preserve a healthy immune system is a trend we'd all be wise to follow. Getting the right amount of vitamins & minerals from natural food sources should be your priority. By eating an overall balanced diet, you can fulfil the majority of your micronutrient needs. But, you don't live in a perfect world & it's very easy to get deviated from your diet. So to make sure that you fulfil the daily intake of your vitamins & minerals, supplementing it with a good multivitamin becomes important.
Nutrition and Immunity. (2021, January 27). The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/nutrition-and-immunity/#:%7E:text=Examples%20of%20nutrients%20that%20have,including%20the%20amino%20acid%20glutamine
Mora, J. R., Iwata, M., & von Andrian, U. H. (2008). Vitamin effects on the immune system: vitamins A and D take centre stage. Nature Reviews Immunology, 8(9), 685–698. https://doi.org/10.1038/nri2378
Cassa Macedo, A., Oliveira Vilela de Faria, A., & Ghezzi, P. (2019). Boosting the Immune System, From Science to Myth: Analysis the Infosphere With Google. Frontiers in Medicine, 6, 1. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmed.2019.00165