Getting a flu vaccine isn’t enough, these 7 foods help bolster your immune system too
With winter fast approaching, you may be considering (or even already have had) the flu vaccination for this year’s flu strain. But just because you’ve had the flu jab doesn’t automatically mean you won’t get sick. Staying in optimal health is about taking a holistic view – from the food you eat, to how much sleep you’re getting, to whether you exercise regularly and how you manage stress in your everyday life. All these factors can negatively or positively impact your immune system, which is your body’s primary defence system against viruses and harmful bacteria.
When it comes to nutrition, you probably already know that things such as garlic and citrus fruits (with high concentrations of vitamin C) can help boost your immune system. But plenty of other foods can also help you prevent colds and flu this winter. Here are our top seven:
When it comes to a healthy immune system, vitamin E is almost as important as vitamin C. The key thing about vitamin E, though, is that it’s fat-soluble, so it needs fat to be present in order for your body to absorb it properly. Because nuts contain healthy fats as well as vitamin E, they’re an ideal food source for it. Almonds, in particular, are especially packed with vitamin E, and a handful of them a day will give you more than enough of your daily recommended amount.
Not all bacteria is bad: your body actually hosts many different types of good bacteria that help your internal organs (such as your intestines) function optimally. Besides being rich in calcium, yoghurt is packed full of these good bacteria – known as probiotics – that help your immune system fight infection.
While almost all berries are healthy to eat (though in moderation, since they are also high in fruit sugars), blueberries in particular contain high concentrations of antioxidants that help reduce inflammation in the body. Blueberries are also easy to find and delicious to eat, not to mention versatile – whether you put them in a fruit salad, in a smoothie, or sprinkled over cereal or oats.
Research shows that vitamin D can help reduce your risk of respiratory infections such as colds, flu and bronchitis. The best way to get vitamin D is via sun exposure, but the harmful effects of the sun’s rays mean that too much time in the sun can be risky. An alternative is to get it through foods such as egg yolks, which are extremely vitamin D rich.
Eating chocolate isn’t all bad. Studies have found that the cocoa powder contained within it is rich in polyphenols, an antioxidant that benefits your heart, brain, digestive and immune system. If possible, opt for dark chocolate that has a higher concentration of cocoa and less refined sugar, making it healthier for you overall.
Honey contains antioxidants as well as excellent antibacterial properties that make it an effective immune booster, as well as helping to soothe symptoms like sore throats. Best of all, it’s deliciously sweet while being completely natural and free of artificial additives or preservatives. To boost its health benefits, try drizzling honey over plain yoghurt to give you an intake of probiotics as well.
Shellfish such as crayfish, oysters and mussels, as well as fish like salmon, are rich in zinc. This is a crucial mineral in a healthy immune system, because it ensures that your white blood cells stay healthy, which is key when fighting infections.
The flu vaccine can help you avoid the flu this winter, so if you are interested in getting the vaccine, be sure to look into if your medical aid covers it (Fedhealth is one example where members can get the flu vaccine for free). And remember, eating healthy foods can help increase your natural immunity at the same time. A balanced diet full of immune-boosting foods will set your body up to be better able to fight any bugs it encounters – and to fight illness more effectively if you do end up getting sick.
Main Image by Zissy Lewin
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