10 super foods to boost your immune system

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By cabincrew.com on Wednesday 20th Mar, 2013 at 09:35

Are you fed up with colds and bugs and in need of a springtime boost to your immune system? Doctors and nutritionists recommend eating foods that specifically increase the number of white cells in your immune system, and help you fight off infections. In fact getting into the habit of eating plenty of the right foods now could prepare you well for next winter and its inevitable cold and flu bugs that cabin crew are exposed to on flights.

So what should you eat? It’s best to include certain nutrients in your diet that will boost your body's defence system and hopefully allow you to carry out your cabin crew work feeling healthy and vibrant.

Consuming adequate amounts of Vitamin A helps maintain healthy skin, teeth, skeletal tissue and mucous membranes, while vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness, poor growth, increased infections and dry scaly skin. There are hundreds of carotenoids and some (such as beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, gamma-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin) can be converted into Vitamin A in our bodies. Foods that contain significant amounts of carotenoids include carrots, sweet potato, spinach, broccoli and apricots.

Generally it’s good to eat plenty of Vitamin C. It increases the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies and increases levels of interferon, the antibody that coats cell surfaces, preventing the entry of viruses. The good news is that you don't have to take in massive amounts of vitamin C to boost your immune system. Around 200 milligrams a day is the recommended amount and you can get this simply by eating at least six servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Zinc is also important. This valuable mineral increases the production of white blood cells that fight infection and helps them fight more aggressively. Foods rich in zinc include oysters, crab, beef, turkey, and beans.

Here are some surprising ‘super foods’ for you to focus on:

Button mushrooms
Button mushrooms cotain the mineral selenium and low levels of selenium have been linked to an increased risk of developing more severe flu. The B vitamins riboflavin and niacin, found in these mushrooms, may play a role in a healthy immune system.

Acai berry
The little acai berry's dark colour signals that it is high in antioxidants called anthocyanins. Some studies suggest antioxidants may help you maintain immune health as you age. You can find acai berries as a juice or smoothie, or dried and mixed with muesli.

Oysters
Often referred to as an aphrodisiac oysters could also help the immune system thanks to the mineral zinc. Some studies suggest zinc may have an antiviral effect.

Watermelon
Ripe watermelon also has plenty of a powerful antioxidant, called glutathione. Known to help strengthen the immune system so it can fight infection, glutathione is found in the red pulpy flesh near the rind.

Cabbage
Cabbage is inexpensive and easily available, and importantly is another source of glutathione – meaning it could help maintain the body’s immune system. You can add cabbage to soups and stews to provide extra antioxidants and possibly boost your meal's nutritional value.

Low fat yoghurt
Recent studies have found a link between low vitamin D levels and an increased risk of colds and flu. A daily pot of live, active or ‘probiotic’ yoghurt may reduce your chances of getting a cold.

Sweet potato
Like carrots, sweet potatoes have the antioxidant beta-carotene, which mops up damaging free radicals. Beta-carotene is converted in the body into vitamin A, which is linked to slowing the ageing process and may reduce the risk of some cancers.

Tea
Both green and black tea are loaded with polyphenols and flavonoids which can are powerful antioxidants. Apparently caffeinated and decaf work equally well.

Spinach
A classic ‘superfood’, spinach is nutrient-rich. It contains folate, which helps your body produce new cells and repair DNA. And it boasts fibre, antioxidants, such as vitamin C, and more.

Garlic
Garlic offers several antioxidants that may help battle against immune system invaders because it targets bacteria and viruses. Researchers suggest its best to peel, chop and leave for 15 to 20 minutes before cooking to activate immune boosting enzymes.

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