YOUR immune system's sole responsibility is to protect your body from harmful organisms that can give you diseases. But it needs help to do this as some bacteria and viruses can get past it and make you sick. There are foods that you can include in your diet to help boost your immune system. Nutritionist Donovan Grant recommends that you eat foods that are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants to assist with this.
Below he lists some examples of foods that help produce white blood cells needed to fight viruses.
Fruits and vegetables
When choosing your favourite fruits and vegetables, remember to choose colour, the Mayo Clinic recommends. Deeper colours usually mean that fruits and vegetables are richer in phytonutrients including vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Phytonutrients have been shown to help fight chronic illness, prevent cancer and strengthen the immune system. Dark purple eggplant, for example, is full of antioxidants, vitamins and fibre. Also consider kale and lettuce, which are rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre. Bright red tomatoes are full of lycopene and antioxidants. Also look out for pumpkin, squash and citrus fruits which are rich in vitamins and fibre.
Garlic cloves are said to help treat the common cold and also have immunity-boosting powers. One clove contains calcium, potassium and sulphuric compounds that are powerful enough to wipe out bacteria and infection. Raw garlic is most beneficial for health, and in clinical trials it seems to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and kill parasites in the body.
Onions are excellent sources of vitamin C, sulphuric compounds, flavonoids and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals, or phytonutrients, are naturally occurring compounds in fruits and vegetables that are able to react with the human body to trigger healthy reactions.
The deep orange-yellow colour of sweet potatoes tells you that they're high in the antioxidant, beta carotene. Food sources of beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in your body, may help slow the ageing process and reduce the risk of some cancers. In addition to being an excellent source of vitamins A and C, sweet potatoes are a good source of fibre, vitamin B-6 and potassium, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Yoghurt contains probiotics, which are good bacteria that are similar to the bacteria that already exist in our bodies. Specifically, in its natural form it has lactobacillus, which may be the most common probiotic. Different strains can help with diarrhoea and may help with people who can't digest lactose, the sugar in milk.
Many scientists have described turmeric as the queen of spices, the most effective nutritional supplement in existence, outranking a combination of several medications to provide superlative medical benefits for the brain, body, and skin. Turmeric has been in use for thousands of years, mostly as an Asian spice. The powder is made from the turmeric plant and is the main spice in curry. It is also used as a food colouring. The research on turmeric has been extensive; its effectiveness in curing everything, from the common cold to cancer, has been hotly debated. Turmeric has proven effective in the treatment of or soothing a plethora of medical conditions including arthritis, dyspepsia, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, bypass surgery, intestinal gas, stomach bloating, loss of appetite, jaundice, liver problems, H pylori infection, stomach ulcers, gallbladder disorders, high cholesterol, a skin condition called lichen planus, skin inflammation and fatigue.
The moringa plant is of African origin and has been touted as the miracle plant. It has been in Jamaica since 1817 and is now found growing islandwide. Moringa has seven times more vitamin C than oranges, four times more vitamin A than carrots, four times more calcium than milk, and twice as much protein as milk. It has three times more iron than almond and three times more vitamin E than spinach. It is considered in many circles to be the number one treatment for high blood pressure and diabetes, which are common to many Jamaicans.
The moringa plant increases the natural defence of the body to beautify the skin, promote energy, give a feeling of wellness, improve the body's immunity, stabilise sugar, provide nutrients to eyes and brain, act as an antioxidant, and promote good cholesterol and normal functioning of the kidney and the liver.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and are especially high in fatty fish. Some good choices are salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel and tuna. Omega-3 fatty acids help maintain a healthy heart by lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of sudden death, heart attack, abnormal heart rhythm and strokes. In addition, in the case of pregnant women, mothers who are breastfeeding, and women of childbearing age, fish intake is important because it supplies DHA, which is beneficial for the brain development of infants.
Red peas and beans
Red beans — including small red beans and dark red kidney beans — are a good source of iron, phosphorus and potassium, according to the Mayo Clinic. They're also an excellent low-fat source of protein and dietary fibre. Red beans also contain phytonutrients, which are naturally occurring compounds in fruits and vegetables that are able to react with the human body to trigger healthy reactions.