boost-your-immune-system-part-1

How to boost your immune system naturally – Part 1

We’re all thinking about ways to stay healthy at the moment. We’re fast entering flu season, so even without the whole pandemic thing, we’d be thinking about stocking up on tissues and lemsip.

But these days keeping ourselves as healthy as we possibly can seem to have taken on a new significance. Social distancing (cue awkward head bobs instead of awkward one/two cheek kisses), wearing a mask and washing our hands remain our best everyday weapons against the dreaded Coronavirus.

However, there are plenty of ways we can use our lunch to quickly boost your immune system naturally because no-one wants to deal with a mask and a cold!

On the menu today – antioxidants!


The science bit: What is an antioxidant?

No doubt you’ve seen the word on the back of food packaging or in a magazine advert and assumed it must be good for you if everyone is shouting about it. But what does it actually mean?

It all starts with free radicals. Free radicals (who sound like some kind of friendly 60s hippy if you ask me) are made when your body is exposed to things like tobacco or radiation, or when it breaks down food. They are unstable atoms missing the electrons which would attach to them and calm them down. And they are bad things to have wandering around as they tend to steal electrons from the nearest molecule, which turns that molecule into a free radical and enough of these can start to attack healthy cells. This is what causes the ageing process, and is thought to be responsible for things like cancer, heart disease and even arthritis.

Antioxidant molecules are stable enough to give free radicals the spare electron they need, stabilising them and stopping them from wandering around causing trouble. While your body produces some antioxidants all by itself, some you can only get through your food.

Here are the main antioxidant vitamins that you can easily fit into tasty lunches to boost your immune system naturally at the same time!


Vitamin A

Vitamin A has antiviral properties. It supports the development of healthy mucus membranes which help keep out pathogens that cause diseases from our nose, throat, mouth and lungs.

Where to find it: Look out for the colour orange: papaya, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, carrots and also tomatoes and broccoli.

What’s for lunch? Our roasted tomato soup will provide a healthy dose of vitamin A, as well as give you something to dip your sourdough bread in!

boost-your-immune-system

Vitamin C

We all know that if we think we might be getting a cold then we should eat lots of Vitamin C. It helps protect cells and keep them healthy. But our body doesn’t store it, so it’s something that you need to keep topping up. Most people reach for an orange, believing that this is where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. But actually, a bell pepper has 3 times the amount of vitamin C in it than an average-sized orange!

Where to find it: bell peppers, citrus fruits, chilli peppers, kale, strawberries, broccoli, kiwis

What’s for lunch? You can boost your immune system naturally with our smoky roasted chicken and roasted vegetables has protein to fill you up as well as the hit of Vitamin C from the roasted peppers.


Vitamin E

This wonderful little vitamin works with vitamin c and selenium to combat free radical damage. Without it you’re more prone to infections and can experience muscles weakness or problems with your eyesight.

Where to find it: sunflower seeds, almonds, salmon, mango, avocado

What’s for lunch? You can sprinkle sunflower seeds on any of our salads, but our baked potato with mozzarella, avocado and rocket is perfect for a vitamin E dose.

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Manganese

Manganese is an effective anti-oxidant, that you’ve probably never heard of. It also supports bone health and helps regulate blood sugar – all fabulous reasons to include it in your diet.

Where to find it: Whole grains, oysters (if you’re feeling posh), sweet potatoes, leafy vegetables, brown rice, spinach and chickpeas

What’s for lunch? Our miso rice with pan-fried chilli prawns will not only keep you full until dinner, it’ll make sure you get a good chunk of manganese in your diet and a quick boost your immune system naturally to boot!


Selenium

Selenium helps protect the body from harmful substances such as poisonous metals, and speeds up your immune response.

Where to find it: eggs, sardines, yellowfin tuna, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, chicken breast

What’s for lunch? Boiled eggs are great to add to any basic salad, or our marinated chicken and couscous will make sure your immune system feels boosted.

eat-to-boost-your-immune-system

Zinc

You need zinc to make T cells: a type of white blood cell, which is critical for a functioning and effective immune system.

Where to find it: red meat, chickpeas, lentils and beans, pine nuts, cashews, milk and cheese, quinoa, eggs, seeds

What’s for lunch? A big dollop of hummus can work on pretty much anything! Or red lentil bowl is a great option here. Add boiled eggs for an extra boost.


Sometimes the idea of a big long list of nutrients that you should be including in your diet can be daunting. And your brain can decide it’s easier just to open the bread bin and make a sandwich…don’t do it!

Colourful vegetables, lean protein and oily fish are a really good basis for a healthy diet that keeps your body functioning properly. And all our recipes are full of the things your body needs, so you don’t need to worry.

If you enjoyed this article please click here to read part 2 of this guide which introduces probiotics as a way to boost your immune system naturally.