No one supplement or food can prevent illness, however it’s important to maintain a nutritious, balanced diet to maintain mental and physical health and support the body’s natural immunity functions.
A healthy immune system can help the body to defend against infection and therefore prevent illness.
Kate Save, an accredited practicing dietitian and CEO and co-founder of Be Fit Food, shares some of the best foods you can include in your diet to help build your body’s immunity.
Eat these foods to strengthen your immune system and fight off disease:
“Fruits like oranges, mandarins, lemons and limes are packed with vitamin C, which plays a role in controlling infections and wound healing,” said Save.
“Research suggests that while vitamin C may not stop you from getting a cold, it may help decrease the severity of a cold and how long it lasts.”
Save’s fruit smoothie recipe below is packed with vitamin C can be made in large batches and frozen for later consumption.
Immunity-boosting smoothie (serves 4)
- 2 cups of frozen mango chunks
- 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 raw red beetroot (chopped)
- 2 cups frozen raspberries
- 2 grapefruits (peeled and chopped)
- 1 juiced pomegranate
- Optional for some kick: 1 teaspoon ground ginger and ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper.
Throw all ingredients into a blender and blend to desired consistency. Freeze leftovers in individual portions and defrost when you feel like a fruity vitamin C boost.
“Legumes are a good source of folate, potassium, iron and magnesium,” said Save.
“Folate helps the body create immune cells while iron helps maintain immune cells.”
Legumes such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas are also a great source of fibre, which supports a healthy gut and digest slowly to help maintain stable energy levels throughout the day.
Legumes are affordable and have a long shelf life, especially if you opt for dried over canned. Cooking beans from dry takes a bit longer than opening a can, however stocking up on dried legumes and cooking them in large batches can be a great way to save time, money, and trips to the store.
“Use legumes by adding them to stews, salads or even roasting chickpeas with some chili powder for a convenient snack,” said Save.
Grains, especially wholegrains, contain essential nutrients including phosphorus, thiamine, and magnesium, which supports energy production and a healthy immune system.
“Wholegrains consist of the whole form of the grain. They include the endosperm, germ, and bran, in contrast to refined grains, which retain only the endosperm,” said Save.
“Examples of wholegrains are rolled oats or steel cut oats, barley, quinoa and brown rice. When reading food labels, look for the word ‘wholegrain’ and choose products that are high in fibre.”
“Iron enables proper functioning of the immune system by supporting the maturation of immune cells,” said Save.
Dietary iron is divided into two types: non-haem iron which is found in plant sources such as legumes and green leafy vegetables, and haem-iron which comes from animal sources such as beef, fish and organ meats.
Dietary iron requirements depend on a multitude of personal factors and differs among population groups.
Eating iron-rich foods in combination with vitamin C-rich foods can enhance absorption in the body, while drinking tea or coffee with iron-rich foods can inhibit absorption, so try to be mindful of your food combinations to get the most nutritional bang for your buck.
An amino acid called allicin is released when garlic is chopped or crushed, providing anti-inflammatory benefits and a large dose of antioxidants.
Garlic is also believed to have anti-bacterial properties, making it a great staple ingredient for boosting your immunity.
“Some studies have found people who have garlic daily get fewer colds,” said Save.
“Chop some fresh garlic and use it in your cooking as often as you can. Toss it in a stir-fry, roast bulbs to serve with roast meat or add it to stews and soups,” said Save.