There’s no specific nutrient, supplement or remedy which boosts immunity. So, is that license to eat whatever foods you want?

Boosting immunity is quite a controversial statement, “supporting immunity” may be more accurate and if we choose that term then yes there are some things you can do to “support” immunity.

As a Registered Nutritionist clearly yes I will advise about 5-a-day…..perhaps a boring message by now….perhaps you switch off because you’re heard it all before about fibre being important for regular bathroom visits, but if you’re on trend with nutrition you’ll know fibre recently got fashionable and it’s not about bathroom visits!

Let’s get the message straight. 5-a-day is an absolute MINIMUM. It’s to avoid serious conditions like bowel cancer NOT more minor conditions like the common cold. Right now, I’m imagining like most people you’re thinking it’s probably a good idea to do as much as you can to help your immunity.

I posted an infographic on social media last week of the 30 plant-based foods I ate in one week. Shocking as it might sound, it’s totally doable. I’m not vegetarian or vegan so no get out of jail card there. I apply some simple rules which I want to share with you.

30 plant-sources is a reasonable amount to provide the VARIETY of fibre which your good bacteria (microbiota) feed on. Check out our Bitesize Nutrition podcast (iTunes & Spotify) with Tim Spector to hear his take on why it’s important and how he achieves it.

VARIETY means:

  • Improved immunity
  • Greater resilience to infections
  • Stronger gut walls
  • Happier brain

Raise your game – make the jump from 5 to 30!!! Can you do it, yes and here’s what counts:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Herbs
  • Spices

And here’s how to fit them in without even thinking about it:

  • Breakfast – cereal / seeded or granary toast with nut butter + 1 x fruit (different each day)
  • Lunch – soup (variety vegetables), baked beans on seeded/granary toast
  • Dinner – which includes 3 vegetables (changeable most day) + herbs + spices
  • Snacks – fruit (different type each day) + nuts & seeds (mixed and each type counts)

Supplements

I found the BBC programme The truth about….boosting your immune system really useful to answer the question about supplements – should you take a supplement to “boost” immunity? The answer was pretty clear, there’s limited evidence that supplements will help. Here’s what I understood:

  • Garlic + elderberry – beneficial foods but not much benefit for immune health
  • Echinacea – reasonable evidence for effectiveness in supporting immunity. Common cold symptoms were reduced and duration was reduced by 1.5 days. Has to have THR mark on the label.
  • Vitamin C – helps with immune cell function, and ½ raw red pepper each day provides all the recommended vitamin C we need
  • Zinc – helps to produce new immune cells, can be found in seeds, dairy products
  • Vitamin B – provides energy for immune cells, found in meat, grains, cereals, yogurt
  • Vitamin D – helps immune cells to kill bacteria and viruses, recommend 10mcg day and from Apr-Oct best source is the sun but varying amounts needed depending on many factors. More info in our Vitamin D article here and also in our Bitesize Nutrition podcast (iTunes, Spotify and our website) episode with Prof Susan Lanham-New.

Can you do more?

During our Supporting immunity webinar we talk about what immunity it is and how practically we can look after it. The webinar is an efficient way for employers to inform staff about the latest science without the media hype. Helping staff to be healthier and more productive – no one works efficiently when they’re ill.

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