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Why is it important to maintain a well-balanced immune system?

A well-balanced immune system can finetune its response to infections and environmental factors, which is vital for good health and an overall sense of wellbeing. So it’s not surprising that immunity continues to be a trendy topic in boththe media and scientific research. The following paragraphs are breaking down the most important information you should know about the immune system and how to support it naturally through your diet.

A sophisticated and complex system

Our immune system is a very sophisticated and complex physiological mechanism. A healthy immune system works round the clock to protect us against harmful substances, germs and undesired cell changes, while we’re busy going about our day. Yet, we’re most likely to pay attention to our immune system only when it goes off balance and we get sick.

Why does our immune system weaken? Age, poor diet, lack of sleep, stress, disease and decreased mobility can send your immune system out of balance, decreasing its natural ability to ward off germs and harmful substances That’s why getting immunity supporting nutrients from your daily diet is both a convenient and essential solution.

Food for a well-balanced immune system

The modern western diet is highly processed. Much of what we eat is stripped of vital micro-nutrients through processing, which means that we often eat a lot of empty calories. When it comes to improving immunity, foods rich in vitamin C such as citrus fruit, kale and broccoli are a popular choice. However, foods rich in other nutrients such as vitamins A, B6, B12 and D, and minerals like copper, iron, selenium and zinc are also known to help maintain a healthy immune system.

As we age and are exposed to environmental factors such as air pollution and UV rays, our body is also more likely to develop oxidative stress. This hinders our immune system’s ability to work at full capacity. For this reason, it’s important for us to eat foods that are rich in antioxidants such as a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Good to know:

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recognises that any food that provides at least 15% reference intake (RI) per serving of vitamins such as A, B6, B12, C and D, and minerals such as copper, iron, selenium and zinc will help you maintain a normal immune system. So, next time you’re buying products to support your immunity, read the labels and look for these nutrients.

What are functional foods and how can they support your immune system?

Adding functional foods to your meals can support your overall health, not only your fitness goals. With various claims on supporting immunity, functional foods are gaining popularity within the food and drink sectors. While most foods are fortified with vitamins and minerals (for example, fortified wheat flour in your bread and cereal), functional foods like spirulina, chlorella, mushroom, Camu Camu, turmeric, ginger and berries are naturally rich in vitamins and minerals and offer a holistic health benefit. Having a complex nutrient profile, these whole foods release bioactive molecules slowly and facilitate their absorption. So, it’s always a good idea to reach for foods that naturally contain vitamins and minerals, before you even consider taking supplements.

How does the health of your gut relate to your immunity?

Seventy per cent of the immune cells are housed in the gut, where they interact with trillions of microorganisms – either good or bad depending on the health of our gut – which is why we can’t ignore the importance of a gut-friendly diet.

There is a growing amount of scientific data to suggest that the diversity of the microbial flora in the gut relates to your ability to maintain a healthy immune system. That’s why you should include foods rich in fibre, resistant starch and other phytonutrients in your diet. These will support, enhance, and diversify your gut flora, hence ultimately support  the immune system. 

Try to start your day with oats or a superfood smoothie, snack on coloured fruits between meals, top your plates with whole grains and green leafy vegetables for lunch and dinner. Your immunity will be nurtured, and you’ll experience better energy levels and digestion.

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