Your immune system does a great job defending you against disease, but sometimes you need to boost the strength of your immunity with the supplements you take and the foods you eat. Much research indicates that zinc, antioxidant vitamins and Echinacea rank among the top dietary nutrients that can positively affect the human immune response. Here’s why:
Zinc is an element with antioxidant properties and is found in oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, seafood and dairy products. Even people without a zinc deficiency seem to benefit from supplementation at the beginning of a cold or flu. Zinc also helps the skin stay healthy: Those with skin ulcers may benefit from zinc supplements, according to some studies.
Antioxidant vitamins – beta-carotene, C, E
The three major antioxidant vitamins are beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E. Antioxidant vitamins are plentiful in colorful fruits and vegetables, especially those that are purple, blue, red, orange and yellow.
Beta-carotene. The human body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A. Beta-carotene is not an essential nutrient, but vitamin A is. The advantage of ingesting beta-carotene as a dietary supplement is that the body converts only as much as it needs.
Beta-carotene is in apricots, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, corn, green peppers, kale, mangoes, collard greens, nectarines, pink grapefruit, tomatoes and more.
Vitamin C. Long known for its health benefits, vitamin C is one of the most popular nutrients people take as a dietary supplement. This antioxidant has been shown to protect against many immune deficiencies.
Vitamin C is found in berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, honeydew, kale, kiwi, nectarines, papaya, snow peas, sweet potatoes, strawberries and tomatoes.
Vitamin E. Many studies show that Vitamin E plays a key role in the maintenance of the immune system. Even a slight Vitamin E deficiency can negatively affect the body’s immune function. Vitamin E is found in broccoli, carrots, chard, mangoes, nuts, papaya, pumpkin, red peppers, spinach and sunflower seeds.
Many people believe that Echinacea can prevent or limit the severity of colds. It has also been used to treat wounds and allergies. Researchers tend to recommend taking Echinacea via a standardized extract instead of in power bars or teas.
There’s much more to nutritional supplementation than we can cover in this brief story. Visit the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements website for more information and suggestions on proper dosing: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/list-all/.