Immune building nutrition Part two - how to fight off winter bugs

Blog Image for article Immune building nutrition Part two - how to fight off winter bugs

It’s hard to deviate from the basics of just keeping warm and getting through the days unscathed in the winter months sometimes. There is always some new challenge the weather or sickness wants to throw at you. 

Our first article focused on overall health, including the importance of hydration, sleep, exercise, sun exposure (when it comes out), Vitamin C, Polyphenols and how to prepare plant foods to avoid losing all the good stuff. 

This Part two, will round out the diet wins you can create at home to boost yours and your loved one’s immunities to support illness prevention and reduce the severity of illness if by chance it lands. 

Focus Nutrients for Immunity

Vitamin E* is a fat-soluble essential Vitamin whose key role is to protect polyunsaturated fats from free radical damage. It is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cholesterol lowering and neuroprotective. It is part of nearly 200 biochemical reactions in your body and needs to be on your radar for immune health. 

However, note that it is fat soluble, meaning your body can store it, unlike water soluble vitamins, so if you have small amounts in your diet through food each day, you should get enough. 

Foods high in Vitamin E

Foods high in Vitamin E, being a fat-soluble vitamin, are higher fat foods. Here are some food examples below:

  • Salmon, trout and seafood such as oysters, crayfish, abalone.
  • Nuts: almond, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts and their butters
  • Wheat germ or safflower oils as dressings (heating reduces vitamin content)
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin

Vitamin A** is another protective fat-soluble vitamin that comes in two main forms, 1: Preformed Vitamin A from animal products and 2: Pro-formed from plant sources. 

We know Vitamin A as being helpful for vision – being required to change light to neural signals, but its role in preventing serious illness or outcomes from infectious diseases, and reproduction, is also well established. 


Foods high in Vitamin A

It’s easy to achieve daily intake of these foods, as they are part of a balanced diet, when we think of eating the rainbow and having fresh foods close to nature each day and meal. 

  • Leafy green vegetables like kale, broccoli and spinach
  • Orange and yellow vegetables – carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin
  • Tomato
  • Capsicum – red and yellow
  • Cow’s milk
  • Cheese – cheddar, cream, soft cheeses like camembert.
  • Fish – salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna
  • Grapefruit, mango, cantaloupe, papaya

Minerals for Immune Health

We need all minerals for immune health, but two that can be tricky with children and even adults are Zinc and Iron. Growing bodies need these purely for growth, so having enough to grow and fight illness are essential focuses for us and our loved one’s diets. 

Minerals are easily stored, and most of us can easily get enough through a balanced diet. The issues are around being able to absorb the minerals if you are unwell or have gut related issues that impact absorption.

Food that are high in Zinc include:

  • Red meat
  • Seeds – like hemp, pumpkin, sesame seeds
  • Nuts – almonds, cashews, pine nuts
  • Shellfish
  • Legumes

Foods high in Iron include those that are also high in Zinc, which is easy and great, but some additional foods for iron are:

  • Quinoa
  • Spinach
  • Organ meats – but seek advise on giving these to children

Magnesium is another vital immune mineral, which is also available through the plant foods listed above, plus:

  • Avocado
  • Chia seeds
  • Oats
  • Peanuts

So, if you look at the food lists above, it’s easy to tick off all of these key minerals with a few selected foods each day. Adding seeds and nut butters, avocado, dairy, oats, spinach and legumes into your diet daily or every other day will really support you and your loved ones immunity, from a mineral perspective, through winter.

If you have concerns you or your child is not getting enough of their key nutrients, please see your primary GP or consider our online service for a diet review. 

*Vitamin E | Eat For Health

** Vitamin A | Eat For Health

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