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Don’t get sick: Our favourite immune boosters

There’s no denying anymore: It’s officially autumn. The mornings are cold, the evenings are dark, and London is playing up to its reputation on the weather front.

Top this with the daily stressors of City life, public transport and an inadequate diet, and you’ll soon experience the discomfort of a ‘cold’. The great news is that much of what our bodies need to fight off infection can be found in foods, so muscle up your immune system and add some of these great immune boosting nutrients to your diet.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C tops the list of immune boosters. There has been more research about the immune-boosting effects of Vitamin C than perhaps any other nutrient. Vitamin C is available naturally in many fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, kiwi fruits, mango, sweet peppers, asparagus, green vegetables and parsley. Eat your five portions a day and increase the production of infection-fighting, white blood cells and antibodies, as well as levels of interferon, the antibody that coats cell surfaces, which prevents the entry of viruses.

Vitamin E
This important antioxidant and immune booster doesn’t get as much press as vitamin C, but is important for a healthy immune system. Vitamin E stimulates the production of natural killer cells and enhances the production of B-cells, the immune cells that produce antibodies that destroy bacteria. To get your daily Vitamin E dose eat foods such as sardines, sunflower and sesame seeds, oats, brown rice and dark green leafy vegetables.

Beta carotene
Beta carotene is another powerful antioxidant that mops up excess free radicals and increases the number of infection-fighting cells. The body converts beta carotene to Vitamin A, which itself has anti-cancer properties and immune-boosting functions. Foods high in beta carotene include watercress, apricot, papaya, pumpkin and pumpkin seeds, sweet potatoes, carrots and green leafy vegetables.

Zinc
Zinc is an essential element and critical to the work of more than three hundred enzymes in the body which assist in cell reproduction, maintain vision, wound healing and enhancing immune function (just to mention some). Zinc, like vitamin C, also possesses direct antiviral activity. The food highest in zinc are oysters but if you (like me) can’t stomach them, have some pumpkin seeds, fish, egg yolks, nuts (like almonds or cashews), turkey, lean red meat or spinach. (If you’re curious if you’re zinc deficient,get in touch with me and we can meet up for a quick, easy and free test.)

Garlic
OK, this might not be the best option if you have a big client pitch ahead of you, but think about this: garlic is nature’s antibiotic. Over 1,000 studies have shown that garlic’s immune-boosting properties are due to the sulphur compounds found in allicin, an antioxidant that’s released when fresh garlic is crushed.

Now here are two more factors for all those sleep deprived and sociable City workers who want to make sure their immune system doesn’t get depressed: sleep and alcohol.

Research shows that not enough sleep leads to more colds and flus, and excessive alcohol intake can harm the body’s immune system in two ways. First, it produces an overall nutritional deficiency, depriving the body of valuable immune-boosting nutrients. Second, alcohol, like sugar, consumed in excess can reduce the ability of white cells to kill germs.

Now you’ve got the tools, so stay healthier this winter.

Lisa

If you are a busy City worker looking for nutrition and health tips on a weekly basis, please follow my new column on here’s the city.

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