Nutrients to guard our immune system
Our immune system is complex and regulated by multiple factors, including nutrient intake, sleeping quality and physical activities.
A T-cell, a type of leukocyte, plays an essential role in regulating our adaptive immune response.
As we age there is a decrease in T-cells, leading to an increased risk of having infectious diseases. Having a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle are always crucial for maintaining our immunity.
Micronutrient deficiencies could be caused by reduced intake, increased needs, or losses.
Lifestyle is also one of the main factors of inadequate nutrients due to changes in body mechanisms. For example, in chronic alcohol abuse, people tend to have a weakened immune system, and vitamins B and A deficiencies further suppress the immune system's normal response.
Deficiencies of nutrients such as folate, zinc, selenium, iron, copper, vitamins A, B6, C and E have been shown to alter animals' immune responses. These nutrients enhance our immune system in different ways.
It is a water-soluble vitamin, which our body cannot store. Vitamin C is well known as an immune booster, and it helps to stimulate antibodies formation on the immune system. Foods rich in vitamin C are citrus fruits, bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli and brussels sprouts.
It is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it can be stored in the body. Vitamin A regulates the immune system and helps the body's natural defense against illness and infection by keeping skin and tissues healthy. Vitamin A tends to exist in orange-yellow food, such as sweet potato, carrots, apricots, red bell peppers.
Vitamin B complex
Vitamin B complex consists of multiple water-soluble vitamins, including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B12 and folic acid, each of which has specific and integrated functions in our bodies. It mainly helps convert nutrients (carbohydrate, protein, and fat) into energy or storage and maintain a healthy nervous system. Good sources of Vitamin B complex are meat, whole grain, eggs, and beans.
This essential mineral helps make new cells and enzymes, processing macronutrients in food and wound healing. It also supports the immune system against bacteria and viruses. The best source of zinc is oysters. Red meat, poultry and crabs are also good sources. Beans, nuts, and whole grains provide some zinc for plant-based choices.
In addition to micronutrients, macronutrients, such as protein, are essential to the immune system. Protein contributes to many vital functions in the body, including tissue repair, optimal growth, production of antibodies, and other essential substances.
The amount and quality of protein intake might affect immune function. Although arginine is considered a non-essential amino acid, it plays a significant role in enhancing cellular immune mechanisms, especially T-cell function. Substitute fat with lean meat and plant-based sources (such as legumes, beans, nuts, and seeds) to have a balanced diet.
Lastly, lifestyle factors, including lack of quality sleep, chronic stress, and being overweight, can lower immune response. Aim to sleep seven to nine hours a day on a regular schedule. Our circadian rhythm, or body clock, can memorize our routine and release hormones, leading to better rest.
Some people find that having good-quality sleep, regular exercise and meditation help to manage mental stress effectively. It is recommended to have at least 30 minutes of moderate level aerobic physical activities to maintain body strength and boost immunity.
Overall, nutrients and a healthy lifestyle are probably some of the main factors to improve our immune system.
Registered dietitian Annie Wong is a nutritionist with Jeunesse Global Group
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