Using nutrition to support the immune system

It is more important than ever given the outbreak of COVID-19 to ensure we do what we can to support our immune systems.

The most simple and effective way to do this is consuming three planned, nutrient rich meals a day, containing lots of fresh food filled with antioxidants.

A healthy balanced diet will include plenty of fruit and vegetables. Immune boosting vitamins include Vitamin C, E and A. Here are some examples of foods that are rich in each vitamin:

  • Vitamin C: fruit and vegetables that are often yellow and orange in colour.
  • Vitamin E: peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds, spinach, avocado and asparagus.
  • Vitamin A: liver, mackerel, salmon, butter and cheddar cheese.

We can all make simple swaps and changes, for example snacking on nuts instead of processed foods. Nuts are rich in Zinc and fibre; fibre helps to support the gut which is a major part of immune system health. You can add raisins or even chocolate chips to make nuts a more exciting snack.

Fruit and vegetables chopped up are also great in between mealtimes. Also, adding oils in cooked main meals helps to increase vitamin intake. Alternating between fish, meat and beans as a protein source will ensure your meals are healthy while optimising nutrient consumption.

If you are on any medication including immune suppressants, speak to a GP before taking any vitamin supplements. However, the best supplementation for immune support includes Vitamin D3, in combination with Vitamin A, C and E as well as Zinc. Some people may choose to take a probiotic and selenium as a short boost at intervals to support the immune system. Supplementation and probiotics are not essential but can help with supporting the immune response. Selenium can also be found in chicken, rice, beef, eggs, prawn, yogurt, baked beans and porridge oats.

Stress plays a critical role in compromising our immune systems.  Currently, many people are experiencing extremely high levels of stress and anxiety. We all manage stress differently, for some a walk will help, and for others yoga and relaxation techniques are more effective. Exercise will help to manage stress and keep you physically and mentally stimulated. Where possible, also try to get the recommended eight hours of sleep per night.

It is a very stressful time and taking care of our ourselves is more important than ever. These positive steps will help to boost the immune system but will also improve overall health and wellbeing.

Blog by Sophie Murray, Head of Nutrition and Hydration at Sunrise Senior Living UK.


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