By: Tammy-Lynn McNabb, RHNP – Registered Holistic Nutritionist
With the outbreak of Covid-19 along with cold and flu season, the importance of having a robust immune system is a must. When you have a cold, flu, allergies or illness, your immune system is compromised. It’s important to understand that when you’re sick and your immune system is low, you are open to other illnesses – Covid-19 included. Your immune system is critical to your overall health, and an improperly functioning one can have a significantly negative impact on your health and open you up to the risks and complications of the illness.
What dictates a healthy immune system starts with the food that you eat. To keep your immune system working efficiently, consuming foods high in antioxidants and fibre is essential. Flax is a fantastic source of essential nutrients, antioxidants, and fatty acids and is a natural immune system booster. A rich source of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, flaxseeds protect your body from bacteria and viruses and improves your body’s immunity. Flaxseed is an excellent iron source, which helps transport oxygen throughout the body to organs and cells that need it. The Omega 3 fatty acids in flaxseed work with lignans to help your white blood cells and immune system fight off disease.
According to a study published in the Frontiers In Immunology journal, the nutrients most commonly associated with a healthy immune system include:
Omega-3 fatty acids. Known for its powerful anti-inflammatory effects, omega-3 fatty acids are most frequently found in fish, seafood, and specific types of nuts and seeds such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts.
Vitamin D. This “sunshine vitamin” is less available in the winter months but can be found in salmon, sardines, and trout. It’s also found in lesser quantities in fortified milk, milk alternatives, and eggs.
Vitamin E. Another potent antioxidant, Vitamin E is plentifully in almonds, avocados, and peanut-based products. Fish, vegetable oils, and leafy greens are secondary sources of Vitamin E.
Zinc. Low zinc intake is commonly associated with compromised immune function, even though most Canadians tend to get enough. Omnivores will find their zinc needs easily met by consuming various types of meat and dairy, while vegans and vegetarians will need to rely more heavily on lentils and other legumes. The single most significant source of zinc can be found in oysters.
Another crucial aspect of a strong immune system begins in a healthy gut. Considering the number of pathogens that we ingest daily, our gastrointestinal tracts must be skilled in protecting the body. Our GI tracts are populated with healthy bacteria, better known as probiotics. A high probiotic population in the gut will keep you healthy and this is achieved by feeding those beneficial gut bacteria with prebiotic fibre.
Prebiotic fibres are found in many foods, including chickpeas, bananas, oats, nectarines, barley, onions, garlic, lentils, rye, cashews, almonds, seaweed and flaxseeds.
So stay on top of your health this winter by paying close attention to your immune system and consume foods that feed your gut bacteria. Your odds of staying healthy and protected will increase and help get you through these trying times.