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Which nutrients help to support my immune system?

FAQ

There is strong evidence that optimising your nutritional intake can support your immune system - but what should you be eating?

Which nutrients help to support my immune system?

Evidence has shown that micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are essential to fight infections. Vitamins A, B, C, D, and E, and the minerals selenium, iron and zinc have been found to be particularly beneficial to optimising immune function.

Micronutrient

Function

Food Sources

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is an essential building block for the cells in our skin, respiratory tract, and digestive tract. The cells in these parts of the body acts as the first line of defence against infections from bacteria and viruses.

Vitamin A is also important for the production of antibodies that target specific pathogens.

Egg yolks, salmon, tuna, cheese, nuts, tofu, seeds, whole grain carbohydrates, lentils.

Beta-carotene found in vegetables, can be converted to Vitamin A in the body. Good sources include yellow/orange vegetables like carrots, pumpkin and sweet potato, and green leafy vegetables like spinach. Egg yolks, cheese, tofu, nuts, seeds, wholegrain and legumes.

Vitamin B

Vitamin B actually refers to a group of vitamins. B vitamins, particularly B6, B9 and B12 are important for immune function as they increase the production of ‘natural killer’ cells during an infection, and trigger infected cells to die.

B6: cereals, chicken, fish, meat, fruits, nuts, green leafy vegetables

B9: added to flour for commercial baked goods such as bread, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds.

B12: Animal products such as meat, chicken, fish, dairy and eggs. Plant based options include nutritional yeast and fortified products such as plant milks.

Vitamin C & E

Vitamins C and E are phytonutrients that have an antioxidant function. This means they can 'mop up' damaging compounds called ‘free radicals’ which cause oxidative stress during periods of infection and damage the cells. Vitamin C is also important for skin integrity, and the production of highly specialised immune cells called neutrophils, lymphocytes, and phagocytes to further fight infection.

Vitamin C: citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit. Kiwi fruits, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes, capsicum.

Vitamin E: nuts, green leafy vegetables, vegetable oils

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for immune cells, with studies showing that it can protect against acute respiratory infections and help destroy disease causing pathogens.

Sunlight exposure. Take care to follow regional recommendations to stay sun safe.

Eggs, tuna, salmon, mushrooms, fortified foods such as some milks and margarine.

Iron

Iron helps to destroy pathogens by increasing the amounts of free radicals. This helps the immune process in killing pathogens. Iron also has a role in enzyme reactions which help immune cells recognise and target pathogens.

Haem (animal) iron sources: red meat, chicken, fish

Non-haem (plant) iron sources: legumes, wholegrains, and fortified cereals. Uptake is improved with Vitamin C

Zinc

Zinc is essential to maintain the strength of the skin and mucus membranes. This is important as part of the first line of defence against pathogens. It also contributes to antioxidant processes.

Oysters and seafood, meat, chicken, nuts, dried beans.

Selenium

Selenium is an important component of proteins and acts as an antioxidant.

Brazil nuts, mushrooms, meat, cereals.

Information obtained from '5 ways nutrition could help your immune system fight off coronavirus'. Available from: https://theconversation.com/5-...

So, its great to know which nutrients help to support a healthy immune system, but how should you incorporate this into a day of eating? Click here for a sample day meal plan to increase your intake of these foods - or take the Healthy Eating Quiz to see how you can improve your diet.

Your Personal Healthy Eating Quiz

What you eat or don’t eat affects how you look, feel and perform. Take our short quiz to find out what foods you could introduce to help you be your best.

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What is healthy eating?

Eating healthy is making sure you enjoy a wide variety of foods from each of the five major food groups daily, in the amounts recommended. The five major food groups as recommended by the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating are:

  1. vegetables and legumes/bean
  2. fruit
  3. lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, legumes/beans
  4. grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties
  5. milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives, mostly reduced fat.

Foods are grouped together because they provide similar amounts of key nutrients and eating a variety of foods from the list above helps to promote good health and reduce the risk of disease.

How do I improve my diet?

If you want to improve your diet you have come to the right place. By completing the Healthy Eating Quiz you’ll receive instant personalised feedback and a report on your diet quality to highlight any areas where you can improve your overall eating habits. Your score is based on the frequency and variety of the foods consumed from the five major food groups mentioned above. No Money No Time can help you improve your score by providing tips, goals and suggestions. On top of this we will provide quick, cheap and healthy recipes as well as credible answers to diet hacks, myths and FAQ’s.

Is my diet healthy?

Dietary habits are different between people. Some people choose to follow a particular diet (i.e., Keto diet or vegan diet) while some have to make changes due to certain food restrictions or health conditions. If you want to know if what you usually eat is healthy, then do the Healthy Eating Quiz today to give you the answers in less than 10 minutes.

Why is healthy eating important?

Your HEQ score and personalised feedback report is based on the frequency and variety of healthy core foods you usually eat. This is important because no single food contains all the nutrients we need to stay healthy. Some foods are higher in nutrients than others and people who have a lot of variety in the foods they eat are more likely to be healthy and to stay healthy. In other words, if you can eat a large variety of vegetables as opposed to only 2-3 types of vegetables, the benefits are much greater. This type of diet also helps you to feel better, think better and perform better during your usual daily activities.

Take the Healthy Eating Quiz