At the start of winter, we become conscious about how robust our immune system may be and look to how best to support it. This winter it’s even more critical. We need more than ever to ensure we keep as healthy and strong as possible in order to prevent unnecessary colds and flus which can be mistaken for the dreaded coronavirus. So what approach can we take ourselves in our day-to-day lives to best support our health?
Our immune system is complex. In order to function well we need to approach looking after it in a balanced way. Healthy nutrition is really important, and the best approach for this is to eat a whole foods diet with plenty of lean protein. We also need to manage our stress levels as this can impact our immunity. Plenty of exercise, some or all of which could be done outside, along with getting our required amount of sleep, will help keep our immune system functioning at its best.
While there are numerous vitmains and minerals that help support the immune system, we focus on vitamin C here, as it is a well known supplement that is taken with a view to prevent colds and flus. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient, meaning our body cannot produce it so we must consume it. It has multiple functions, including the formation and maintenance of collagen. So it’s also needed to give support and shape to the body (ligaments, skin, bloods vessels). It is used up in about 2 hours by the body and takes 3-4 hours to be gone from the blood. So consuming foods high in vitamin C regularly will ensure ongoing support.
It is generally recommended that we consume about 600 – 1,200mg of vitamin C daily. This can be managed through a balanced diet and can be boosted by focusing on foods known to be high in vitamin C.
The best sources are fruit and vegetables. Vitamin C is quite unstable though and can easily be lost during cooking, especially when using sources high in water and then cooking in water. This is why steaming is often recommended as a way to prepare your vegetables. There is definitely less loss of nutrients this way.
Eating local and in-season fruit and veg means you are getting these foods at their best in terms of nutrient values. It also means they are more abundant, and usually best value. In addition to this you are supporting local producers so you are helping to ensure a steady flow of the food production over time.
While Vitamin C has been shown to stimulate the immune system, it is not stand alone and we need a range of essential nutrients to ensure good health. We need to focus on a healthy balanced diet, high in variety of fruit and veg, fibre, lean protein, healthy fats and generally take a whole foods approach to ensure we are optimizing the function of our body’s systems. By taking this approach we can avoid getting bogged down by the minutiae and get back to living a healthy and well life.
So there are many things we can do to support our immune system, many of which are small changes to our daily routine but can have a massively positive impact on our health and wellbeing. Consider taking on 1-3 small changes this week, and every week, to improve your health now.
If you’re looking to improve your meal planning to incorporate positive change, or you would like to manage your stress better, check out our online programmes and see which one is right for you. Or get in touch if you are interested in one-to-one health coaching.