10 foods to build immunity

The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa advises what foods should be eaten to build immunity during this viral era.

While many people are stocking up on immune boosters, vitamin C tablets and green juices, we’ve put together a few ideas on the type of nourishment our bodies need as we fall into winter. More importantly, as we find ourselves caught up in this viral era, here are 10 top foods to build immunity, without compromising your diabetes.

  1. Citrus fruits

All citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruits and lemons are high in vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant. Antioxidants help fight free radicals; a type of unstable molecule known to damage the immune system. Vitamin C also increases the production of white blood cells which are key to fighting infections.

Keep seedless oranges in a fruit bowl (up to four days with peels intact) for easy grab-and-go snacks.

When it comes to fruits, try to limit your intake to two fruits per day and where possible a fruit should be consumed with the skin on for that extra fibre.

  1. Spinach

Spinach is rich in vitamin C. It’s also packed with numerous antioxidants and beta carotene, which increases the infection-fighting ability of your immune system. Spinach is healthiest when it’s cooked as little as possible so that it retains its nutrients.

  1. Yoghurt

Yoghurt is a fermented food that naturally contains lots of probiotic cultures. These cultures help to increase the good bacteria in your gut – the place where more than 70% of your immune cells live.

  1. Oily fish

Salmon, tuna, sardines and other oily fish are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids suppress inflammation and keep immunity in check.

Fatty fish also contain vitamin D which helps regulate the immune system and is thought to boost the body’s natural defences against diseases.

Vitamin B6 found in fatty fish is vital to supporting biochemical reactions in the immune system.

Make sardines in tomato sauce on toasted low-GI bread with a few slices of avo – creamy and delicious, or if you prefer add anchovies for a salty kick.

  1. Mushrooms

Mushrooms contain antioxidants that provide anti-inflammatory and immunity protection. Cooking mushrooms lowers their anti-inflammatory compounds so it is best to eat them raw or lightly cooked.

  1. Almonds

Almonds are packed with vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant. Maintaining ample levels of vitamin E is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system.

Almonds are also a source of zinc; zinc is an essential mineral involved in the production of certain immune cells.

For a dose of protein and healthy fats, add a spoonful of almond butter to oatmeal.

  1. Green tea

Green tea has high levels of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which is a powerful antioxidant that enhances your immune function.

  1. Ginger

Ginger is another ingredient many turn to after getting sick. It helps to decrease inflammation, which can reduce a sore throat and other inflammatory illnesses.

  1. Garlic

Early civilisations recognised garlic’s value in fighting infections. It’s immune-boosting properties come from a heavy concentration of sulphur-containing compounds, such as allicin.

  1. Turmeric

Research shows that high concentrations of curcumin, which gives turmeric its distinctive colour, help to prevent inflammation.

Use a pinch of turmeric in scrambled egg. If you or your family are new to turmeric, this is a great place to start because the colour is familiar and the flavour subtle.

Make tea by simmering turmeric with coconut milk to make an earthy and comforting beverage aka the popular Golden Milk.

This winter, plan your meals and snacks to include these top 10 powerful immune boosters.

For more information go to www.heartfoundation.co.za or find us on Facebook @HeartStrokeSA or on Twitter @SAHeartStroke

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