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Maximum Immunity: 7 Essential Nutrients

Maximum Immunity: 7 Essential Nutrients

With wealth pretty much out the door for now, we would all do well to keep an extra watchful eye on our health. I know I’m going to keep this list of seven essential nutrients for immunity in my mind when I shop for my groceries. The list comes from 4 Weeks to Maximum Immunity: Disease-Proof Your Body, by the editors of Prevention Magazine.

1. Selenium: A potent antioxidant, selenium plays an essential role in immune function by protecting immune cells against free radical damage. It also helps regulate T-cells’ production of proteins called cytokines, a process that’s essential for launching a quick and vigorous immune response to an acute infection. Studies have show that selenium deficiency contributes to impaired immune function, and supplementation improves the immune system’s production of antibodies in response to foreign invaders. Top food sources: Whole grains, nuts, seeds, broccoli, and fish.

2. Vitamin A: Sometimes it’s called the anti-infective vitamin, because a deficiency of vitamin A has a strong correlation with an increased risk of infection. Researchers long have known that vitamin A is necessary to maintain healthy levels of circulating T cells. Even a modest deficiency can weaken the immune defenses of a child’s respiratory tract by damaging mucous membranes that form a naturally protective barrier against viruses and bacteria. Vitamin A also enhances the activity of white blood against viruses and bacteria. Top food sources: Dark-green leafy vegetables, bell peppers, butternut squash, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, and sweet potatoes. All of these contain large amounts of beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A on an as-needed basis.

3. Vitamin B6: This B vitamin supports the activity of white blood cells. When researchers from Tufts School of Nutrition temporarily removed vitamin B6 from the diets of healthy older adults, immune function plummeted. Top food sources: Fish, poultry, lean meats, whole grains, leafy greens, bananas, prunes, peanuts, walnuts, and chickpeas.

4. Vitamin C: A potent antioxidant that protects immune cells from free radical damage, it’s also vital to the production of white blood cells. Although large amounts of vitamin C do not significantly lower your risk of catching a cold, supplemental doses may reduce the duration and severity of symptoms by inhibiting the release of histamine, an inflammatory chemical that causes a runny nose and respiratory congestion. Top food sources: Oranges and grapefruit, bell peppers, broccoli, cantaloupe, kiwifruit, rutabagas, strawberries, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.

5. Vitamin D: Long known as essential for maintaining strong bones and preventing osteoporosis, it also helps the thymus gland generate a sufficient number of immune cells. Vitamin D is present in most multivitamins and calcium supplements. A few minutes of sunlight per day also can help restore your supply. Top food sources include: Eggs, butter, and fortified milk.

6. Vitamin E: This potent antioxidant sacrifices its own electrons to cell-damaging free radicals, effectively neutralizing them. Vitamin E also raises levels of interferon and interleukin, chemicals produced by the immune system to fight infection. Top food sources include: Wheat germ, molasses, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.

7. Zinc: A mineral known for its ability to lessen the severity and duration of colds, zinc plays a critical role in maintaining a strong immune system. Specifically, it helps stabilize and protect your primary barriers against infectious organisms-your skin and mucous membranes-and promotes the normal development of immune cells. Zinc also has antioxidant properties. Top food sources: Fish, shellfish, skinless poultry, and lean cuts of pork. Whole grains also contain some zinc.

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Jana Ballinger

Jana Ballinger has more than 15 years of experience as a writer and copy editor for daily newspapers. She lives in a vintage house in Northern California with her husband and an orange cat.


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12:42PM PDT on May 10, 2013

Berries have long been hailed as “superfoods” due to the amazing spectrum of nutrients and phytochemlcals they contain. As well as containing potent antioxidant compounds, berries have been proven to boast anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Some of the most researched berries for immune health include elderberries, blueberries and acai berries.

1:41PM PDT on Mar 11, 2013

That's useful, tks.

8:57AM PST on Feb 1, 2013

Thank you Jane, for Sharing this!

6:42AM PDT on Jul 7, 2009

I'm sorry for my late response!Thx so much to all you guys! These comments are really helpfull! Sharon, Mary, Cindy, Beth, I think you are right! My the biggest problem is that I never listened my body, and that's also really important. I always did more than I should. Raw food is amazing! Ginger and garlic are great! It's just so hard to switch nutrition after 20 years and more. That's big body shock! I'm still fighting with that!

1:03AM PDT on Jun 15, 2009


1:54PM PST on Feb 4, 2009

*Correction- the degox queen video is mentioned below* :-p

1:53PM PST on Feb 4, 2009

The detoxqueen video mentioned above is awesome! I absolutely agree about eating raw, organic and vegan. I'm now making the switch into buying only organic. I never did because I thought it was too expensive, but it's extremely comparable!! And how happy my body is! I've lost 20lb's this year (since I made the switch to vegan) and I eat ALL I want. Check out the video listed above and if you want a lot of really great information on veganism, read 'Skinny Bitch' --I know, the title!-- but it's such a great resource. Healthy happy living yo!!! :)

7:19PM PST on Jan 28, 2009

Perhaps it's a Freudian slip so we won't eat meat because it's fearful. Sorry, the animal lover in me wouldn't let me be quiet.

7:18PM PST on Jan 28, 2009

Do realize, too, that it's actually a good thing to get sick about once a year. It exercises our immune system, so to speak, and without that "flexing", anything that comes our way can affect us like the Bid Flu's taunted to us about. We all have our time of year when we're most vulnerable, and it's good to learn that so we can boost up our immunity with extra power then. 2 of our most powerful weapons, are garlic, & ginger. Put it in plenty of food, and even make it into tea. Grind up fresh (or dried) ginger & boil. Vit. B suppliments give me serious heartburn, plant sources often work better in those cases, and I get mine by eating Redstar Nutritional Yeast. I also believe that the only reason Vit. D is in milk, is because it's added. In that case, there's plenty of things it's added to, like soy milk. Basically what I'm trying to say is that it's actually a good thing to get sick, as long as it doesn't happen often. So be glad when it does (HAH!), but in the sense that your body's getting what it needs to serve you well.

7:14PM PST on Jan 28, 2009

Pretty sure she means "lean cuts of pork and meat". Amazing how are brains can focus on so many things at once, and yet still be able to write, do tasks, or carry on conversations... Amazing creatures we spiritual humanoids are.

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LIFE is full of choices...certainly in one`s diet....thanks for offering some ideas..... BIG on the…

That is why we need to get rid of it.


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