Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects against infection and enhances immunity. Vitamin C works by increasing the production of white blood cells, which fight off infection. It also works by increasing the production of antibodies and in particular, raises levels of interferon, the antibody that coats cell surfaces, preventing the entry of viruses. Vitamin C sources include citrus fruits, potatoes, green peppers, strawberries and pineapple.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is important to a healthy immune system. One function of vitamin E is that it enhances the production of B-cells, the immune cells that produce antibodies that destroy bacteria. In fact, research shows that people who eat vitamin E rich foods tend to have a higher immunity. Vitamin E rich foods are seeds, vegetable oils and grains.
Beta-carotene: Beta Carotene enhances the functioning of your immune system. Beta Carotene works by increasing the number of infection fighting cells, natural killer cells and helper T cells. Foods rich in beta-carotene include sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, turnip greens, winter squash, collard greens, cilantro and fresh thyme. To enhance the availability of the beta-carotene in these foods, they should be eaten raw or lightly steamed. Getting the recommended 5-10 a day of fruits and vegetables will approximately provide you with 3-6 milligrams of beta-carotene.
Zinc: Zinc helps to prevent a weakened immune system. Studies have shown that a zinc deficiency can impair a number of white blood cells and platelets (blood cells involved in clotting), and can increase susceptibility to infection. Excessive zinc intake, however, may impair immunity and increase infections. Get an adequate amount of zinc in your diet by eating zinc rich foods such as oysters, liver, lean beef, pork, turkey, lamb, lentils, pumpkin and sesame seeds, garbanzo beans and yogurt.
Garlic: Garlic is known for its cold-fighting abilities. It increases the potency of two important cells of the immune system: T-lymphocytes and macrophages. The immune-boosting properties of garlic appear to be due to its sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin and sulfides. You can eat it raw or cooked—so start adding it to your favorite foods today!
Omega-3 fats: The all important omega-3 fats are essential immune boosters, as they work by increasing the activity of phagocytes, the white blood cells that eat up bacteria. These fats also help strengthen cell membranes, thereby speeding up healing and strengthening resistance to infection in the body. Omega-3 fats can be found in foods such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna), flax oil and flaxseeds, omega-3 eggs, nuts and seeds. To boost omega-3 in your diet, try adding ground flaxseed to yogurt, baked goods, cereals or smoothies or use unrefined, cold-pressed flax seed oil as a salad dressing.
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