Looking to boost your immunity this winter? Taking supplements dubbed antioxidants would be a wise decision. Think of antioxidants as the good guys—they work to rid your body of free radicals, the bad guys.
Bad guys vs. good guys
Free radicals are destructive molecules with unpaired electrons. This is an unusual arrangement because electrons come in pairs. Free radicals are the result of cell reactions, as well as exposure to tobacco smoke, pollution, radiation, and other harmful environmental factors. These bad guys can attack cellular components and cause diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and macular degeneration.
Antioxidants can come to your rescue by protecting cells and boosting and sustaining immune cell performance. They also render free radicals harmless by providing an extra electron to make a pair or break them down.
Why does this matter?
When cells thrive, your body’s immune system will function at its peak, making you less prone to get sick or succumb to degenerative diseases.
Colorful fruits and vegetables are great sources of antioxidants. But if you’re not getting enough of them for one reason or another, supplementation is a good idea.
Here’s the skinny on some antioxidants that are tops for immune health. As with any supplement or vitamin, be sure to consult a physician before adding any of these to your daily routine.
- Vitamin C. This potent antioxidant protects against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, and eye disease. It works by increasing the production of white blood cells and antibodies. It also increases interferon, which coats cell surfaces, preventing viruses from penetrating.
- Vitamin E. This vitamin improves your immune system by boosting the production of cells that specifically destroy germs and cancer cells. It also increases B cells, which create antibodies to fight germs.
- Carotenes. These potent antioxidants are fat-soluble pigments that occur naturally in plants. There are three main carotenes: alpha- and beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein. Carotenes slowly enter the circulatory system and accumulate in body tissue, supporting optimum cellular health.
- Zinc. This element, which has antioxidant properties, plays a key role in maintaining a healthy immune system. Deficient individuals are more prone to illnesses, and taking zinc at the first signs of a cold or flu may prove to be beneficial.
Karen Appold is a writer in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.