Colds and flu

Updated 09 October 2017

5 immune boosters in your kitchen

You don’t need a handful of vitamins and supplements to keep your body healthy, check out these five immune boosting foods you probably already have in your kitchen.

The immune system is an amazing thing and constantly defends you against a myriad of diseases. By eating a healthy diet and living a healthy lifestyle, you can keep this delicate system functioning as effectively as possible. And it’s easier than you think.

Research has shown that if you are deficient in certain micronutrients, such as zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E. Your immune system’s response to an intrusion could be altered.  

These five foods have been shown to have a positive effect on the immune system in supporting it to keep you healthy. Best part is, you probably already have them in your kitchen:

1.    Garlic
Raw or cooked, depending on how you prefer it, garlic is the golden-child of a healthy immune system. Many experts hail garlic as the most powerful natural antioxidant available due to allicin, a compound in the garlic. It works like a natural antibiotic and has been shown to prevent chronic, long term illnesses. Add it to any vegetable dish or to spice up a warm winter stew.

2.    Cinnamon
Perfect for sprinkling over butternut, bananas or in smoothies, cinnamon has been shown to contain antimicrobial compounds which inhibit bacteria and viruses. Cinnamon also has a positive effect on how the body uses insulin and may also counter free radicals that can cause chronic inflammation.

3.    Avocados
Avocados are filled with essential fatty acids as well as vitamins A and E. Although they’re seasonal, you can generally get them all year around. Some research showed that absorption of two key antioxidants—lycopene and beta-carotene – increased substabtially when fresh avocado (or evenavocado oil) was added to salad. Mash one up with some lemon juice for guacamole or blend it with a banana and some cacao for a delicious, healthy chocolate mousse.

4.    Nuts
Nuts and seeds are high in fibre and magnesium as well as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and vitamin E, all of which help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and a healthy digestive system. Almonds and walnuts are believed to be the most beneficial.

5.    Berries
Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are packed full of antioxidants, more so than any other fruit. Blueberries contain impressive amounts of vitamin C and folate which have been shown to support a healthy urinary tract, improve memory and vision and even lower cholesterol. Add them to your morning smoothie, your lunchtime salad or snack on them with some coconut milk as a delicious dessert. 

Health Harvard publications; Huffington Post; The Guardian; The World’s Healthiest Foods; Medical News Today

Read more:
Treatment of immunodeficiency
Boost your child's immunity
5 immune boosting tips


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Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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