It's no secret that what we eat is directly related to how our body functions. But do you know which foods to eat to keep your immune system at its optimal level?
Citrus fruits, spinach, capsicum, brussels sprouts, strawberries and potatoes
What do these foods have in common? They are all excellent sources of vitamin C! Vitamin C helps to prevent infections in the body, or at least shorten their stay. It’s probably the most known vitamin to help with our immune systems, but if you’re anything like me, you’ve usually just equated that to a morning orange juice. There are so many other foods rich in this vitamin. I mean…potatoes! I’m sure I mentioned at least a thousand times how much I adore potatoes, so knowing I can eat them with the confidence that I’m actually doing my body good — what better feeling?! Well, aside from the hot, crispy potato going straight down my gullet obviously, but you get what I’m saying…! ?
Vitamin C fact: Adults between the ages of 19-64 are advised to get 40mg of vitamin C per day. Our bodies don’t store vitamin C, so it’s important to get it on the daily.
Hot recipe tip: When thinking of dishes to make that are packed with vitamin C, remember, you don’t need to stick to a single source. For instance, try these Crispy Lemon Saffron Potatoes with Black Peppercorns alongside some charred brussels sprouts for your next plant-based roast, and get a hat trick in the one sitting.
Vegetable oils, sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, pumpkin, capsicum and spinach
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient packed with powerful antioxidants that help ward off infection. By getting a good source of high-fat plant foods, like the ones listed above, you’ll not only be giving your body the best chance at keeping healthy, you’ll also be looking after your skin!
Vitamin E fact: Vitamin E is beneficial for the skin in a number of ways, including reducing UV damage. The daily recommended intake for adults is between 7-10mg.
Hot recipe tip: This Easy Pad Thai contains four different sources of vitamin E, is all sorts of delicious, and…did you catch my favourite word there at the start…? Easy! My favourite kind of dinner 😉
Carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut squash, cantaloupe and green leafy veg
Vitamin A rich foods, like the ones listed above, are a great source of carotenoids, or antioxidants, which strengthen our immune system and reduce inflammation. When looking for heavy-hitting sources of Vitamin A, the key is to think colour! Brightly pigmented fruit and veg, from orange to yellow through to dark green are usually great sources of this antioxidant powerhouse.
Vitamin A fact: Our bodies cannot make vitamin A on their own, so this essential vitamin must be consumed through foods. Aside from its immunity-boosting properties, it also supports vision and reproductive health. The recommended daily intake for adults is between 700-900mcg.
Hot recipe tip: Mexican-Stuffed Sweet Potato is where it’s at! This will load you up with more than your daily dose of vitamin A, and probably hit all the marks on deliciousness and heartiness, too!
Plant milks, orange juice, cereals, yoghurts and sunshine
Yeah, yeah, so I know sunshine isn’t a food, but it is one of the best ways to get in the all-important vitamin D. By getting out in the sunshine for between 10-30 minutes, three times weekly, most people can absorb enough nutrients to keep their D in check. You can also get your intake from plant milks, juices, cereals and plant-based yoghurts too, if you choose ones that are fortified with this essential nutrient. Aside from bolstering your immune system, it’s also important for bone health.
Vitamin D fact: It’s recommended that most adults get around 15mcg, or 600 IU per day. Eating foods containing healthy fats alongside your chosen source — like a handful of nuts or some avocado — helps with the absorption. Like I needed another excuse to be shoving avocado in my face…?!
Beans, lentils, chickpeas, and other pulses
Aside from vitamins, a diet full of folate, iron and zinc is important to keep your immune system working like a well-oiled machine. Whether it’s smoky baked beans for breakfast, a warming veggie bowl or lentil dahl with rice, or scrambled chickpeas — there are 1001 ways to enjoy your pulses! (But honestly, actually more than that.) Plus, they have the added bonus of being high in fibre, protein, antioxidants and potassium.
Fun fact about pulses: They use one tenth of the water required to produce other protein sources and have one of the lowest carbon footprints of any of the food groups. Did someone say ‘Mexican chickpea burger‘? I’ll be there as soon as I finish soaking in my soothing hummus bath!
Now that you have immunity-boosting knowledge in your dietary toolkit, don’t forget the importance of staying active. Going for a walk three to four times a week is a great way to keep you fighting fit and healthy ! And please bear in mind, all recommended intakes of vitamins vary from person to person — be sure to check in with a health professional if you want to double check what’s right for you. Now go forth and enjoy that beautifully boosted immune system of yours!