5 Top Nutrients to Help your Immunity Thrive

5 Top Nutrients to Help your Immunity Thrive

During these challenging times, it only makes sense to do everything we can to protect our health and the health of our loved ones. Nutrition plays a pivotal role in bolstering your immune system.

One of the most important things you can do right now is Tend to Your Gut to improve your microbiome. This will have a direct effect on your immune system.

Additionally, there are several nutrients that can be helpful.

Thrive with Five

    1. Boost your vitamin A intake. Vitamin A and its metabolites play a critical role in immunity. This nutrient maintains the structural and functional integrity of mucosal cells. Mucosal cells provide strong barriers for the eyes, respiratory, and gastrointestinal, and genitourinary tracts. This keeps infection out.

      Vitamin A is also important to the normal function of several types of immune cells And necessary for the generation of antibody responses to specific antigens.

      Two forms of vitamin A are available in the human diet: preformed vitamin A (retinol and its esterified form, retinyl ester) and provitamin A carotenoids.

      Preformed vitamin A is found in foods from animal sources including dairy products, fish, and meat (especially liver—make sure it is organic).

      Provitamin A carotenoids come from plant-based foods. Good sources include food from the orange pigment family such carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, pumpkin, cantaloupe, apricots, green leafy veggies like spinach, kale and collard greens. The greens actually do contain the orange pigment it’s just that the green pigment is more dominant.

    2. Vitamin C is important to the function of your immune system. Several cells of the immune system accumulate vitamin C and to perform their task, especially phagocytes and T-cells.

      Good sources include citrus fruits (the whole fruit not juice), strawberries, peppers, greens, kiwi, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, papaya, and mango

      If you don’t make it a point to eat at least 5 to 9 servings of fruit and vegetable every day you might be deficient. To bolster your immunity, it would be smart to take 1000 mg per day of vitamin C in a supplemental form.
    3. Make sure you are getting adequate vitamin D. Vitamin D is critical for several core immune system functions. Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D levels tend to drop in the winter, particularly in the northern latitudes as the days grow shorter. Not only does this wreak havoc with your immune system but it can affect nearly every cell in your body, putting you at risk for colds, flu (meaning viruses) and even depression.

      Direct exposure to the sun is the best way to get your vitamin D but that is, of course, a challenge in northern latitudes (i.e., north of NYC) in the winter.

      There are not a lot of great sources of vitamin D in food. Some good sources include fatty fish like salmon, herring, sardines; cod liver oil; egg yolks, fortified foods like some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals; and mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light.

      This is another vitamin that you may consider taking to supplement your diet. It is challenging to know at what level to supplement if you don’t know your blood levels of vitamin D. However, if you have been told in the past that your vitamin D level is low it would be smart to supplement with 5000 IU per day. And get tested by your MD as soon as it makes sense. If you never have been advised that your vitamin D is low 1000 to 2000 IU may be enough.

      Knowing your number on this specific vitamin by getting tested, especially if you live in the northern latitudes, is vitally important to your health.

    4. Zinc is essential for a healthy immune system. The immune system relies on zinc for normal development and function of immune cells. Zinc is also required for certain antioxidant enzymes and protects cells from susceptibility to oxidative damage.

      Zinc sources include shellfish such as oysters and crab, beef, lamb, pork and turkey. Vegans beware that zinc can be a challenging nutrient to consume in adequate amounts. Good sources include wheat germ, spinach, seeds, nuts (particularly cashews), cocoa and chocolate. Sprouting nuts, seeds, grains and legumes during these challenging times may be a good choice.
    5. Selenium has strong antiviral properties and helps to fight seasonal illness.
      As a potent antioxidant, this powerful mineral also helps to counteract the effect of aging on the immune system.

      Good sources of selenium include salmon, oysters, beef, lamb, chicken, turkey and eggs. Brazil nuts are also one of the richest sources. Other plant sources include brown rice, mushrooms and spinach.

For most of us right now we are under stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders. This is a great time to learn more about how to cook highly nutritious and delicious foods for yourself and your families. Please join me in my private Facebook group “Eating for Balance” and join in the conversation.