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Ask the Tonic Health Nutritionist Karen Newby: Can you eat your way to better immune health?
There’s a lot of discussion about immune food at the moment. I whole heartedly disagree with the British Dietetics Association which states “Simply put, you cannot “boost” your immune system through diet.” Well boost is the wrong word, as it suggests it might cause an over reactive immune system which we certainly don’t want (we basically want the immune system to ideally not really have anything to do!). But we can certainly give the immune system everything it needs to help it do its job in a balanced fashion. Even though nutrient dense foods might not stop you catching a cold or the flu, they can help lessen the symptoms (like the much researched vitamin C and the common cold).
The immune system is a huge and complex system that relies on certain nutrients to work well. We are one big chemical reaction after all and if we don’t have the right nutrients to hand the body starts to become out of balance. There’s a wealth of clinical data that shows that vitamins including vitamin A, B6, B12, C, D, E and folate along with trace elements including zinc, iron, selenium, magnesium and copper and the omega 3 fatty acids play an important and complementary role in supporting the immune system (1). The problem is that these nutrients are often low in our diets or depleted by our 24/7 lifestyle such as stress, sugar or alcohol. Zinc for example is a crucial nutrient for the immune system and is often low in our diets and depleted further with alcohol consumption.
Where can we find these all important nutrients and what is their role in the immune system?
Smoothie making is a great way of giving your body a hit of many of the above immune supporting micronutrients that you wouldn’t usually eat for example at breakfast. Here’s my go to immune support recipe:
1 carrot (beta carotene and vit C), 1 orange (vit C), squeeze of lemon (more vit C!) 1tsp grated ginger and ¼ teaspoon of turmeric (anti-inflammatory), ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 cup of almond or oat milk.
Soups are always my go to immune support foods, great for if you’re ill too as they’re so easy to digest and create heat in the body which helps burn off pathogens. This wonderfully warming soup from Amelia Freer combines vit c and beta carotene rich carrots with anti-bacterial garlic and warming turmeric: https://ameliafreer.com/portfolio/carrot-turmeric-soup/
At Tonic Health we love talking natural immunity. We want to put the knowledge and...