Nutritionists have long since been aware of how diet plays an extremely important role in helping maintain good physical and mental health. Certain foods also contain high levels of vitamins and minerals that are essential for the immune system to function properly.
Best Immunity Boosting Minerals
While the importance of vitamin C for fighting colds and flu bugs has been much researched, less is known about the role of minerals in fighting off infection. In Boost Your Immune System, Holford & Meek (2010) identify the best immunity boosting minerals to include the following:
All of these minerals may be found in sufficient amounts through simply eating a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet. For those who struggle to eat healthily, a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement, such as Centrum will provide these essentials.
Calcium and Magnesium Strengthen Immune System
Calcium is particularly important for healthy bone growth and development, while magnesium helps to maintain healthy tissues. Both minerals are found in seeds, leafy green vegetables and nuts, with broccoli and milk offering the greatest sources of calcium. According to Brewer (2010), calcium supplements help to improve immune system functioning. Holford & Meek identify magnesium and calcium to have the following immunity boosting properties:
- calcium – helps phagocytic cells ingest foreign material, cytotoxic cells to make killer enzymes
- magnesium – vital for production of antibodies, preventing allergic reactions
Immunity Boosters – Iron, Selenium
Two other essential minerals that are known for strengthening the immune system include iron and selenium. The former is most commonly found in red meat, while both minerals are also sourced from whole grains, nuts and seeds. Snacking on Brazil nuts is a great way to ensure one has sufficient selenium in the diet. Holdford & Meek recommend eating iron-rich foods to boost the body’s overall resistance levels, as iron is necessary for the production of white blood cells, enzymes and antibodies.
According to Brewer, selenium also boosts the production of antibodies and has the following immune health benefits:
- helps detox cancer-causing chemicals
- reduces the severity of flu symptoms
- aids protection against cancer
- decreases rate of tumour progression
Zinc Boosts Immune System
Found in meat, eggs, shellfish and seeds, zinc is another best immunity booster mineral, which is essential for the body to fight off infection. Courteney et al. (2011) recommend taking zinc lozenges to kill off bacteria located in the throat. Indeed, many cough and cold remedies are identified to contain this antiviral mineral. Holford & Meek identify that zinc strengthens the immune system as follows:
- increase effectiveness of T cells
- involved in 200 of body’s enzymes
- helps eliminate routine cancer cells
- produces thymulin
As highlighted above, eating a diet rich in immunity boosting minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron, selenium and zinc will help strengthen the body’s immune system. If suffering from coughs, cold or flu, zinc and selenium supplements are well worth considering.