As we go all too quickly into winter the amount of time we spend indoors inevitably goes up – and so does our risk of catching those pesky colds that hang around inside. Our immune systems are wonderful things when they are working correctly and there are things we can do with our diet to boost them. We don’t need to head in the direction of the supplements; instead to our supermarkets and kitchens.
Vitamins are essential for our bodies to work efficiently and resist illness. They come in two forms: water-soluble, these are needed by the body on a regular basis as they dissolve in water and are quickly lost from the body; fat-soluble, these dissolve in fat and can thus remain in the body’s fat stores for months.
Water-soluble vitamins – C, D
Fat-soluble vitamins – A, D, E, K
Vitamin A (retinol) plays a role in the body’s immune response, helping to fight infections. Because this vitamin is fat-soluble, it is best absorbed with a little fat or oil. Chances are you are already getting enough in your diet as vitamin A is present in egg yolk, butter and whole milk. It is also found in herring, mackerel and anchovies. If you follow a particularly low-fat diet, have a think about getting enough oily fish in your diet for your vitamin A intake.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is well known for its role in the immune system – it helps white blood cells fight infection. Some of the best sources are blackcurrants, green pepper, broccoli and strawberries. Bioflavonoids, also found in fruit and veg, enhance the absorption of vitamin C so keep this vitamin in the context of the whole fruit/veg.
Ensuring adequate intakes of these vitamins will help to keep your immune system functioning efficiently. In most cases there is no need to supplement, just think about adding a few extras to your diet.