Protective vitamins, minerals and other components found in fruit, vegetables, seaweeds, herbs and spices are called phytonutrients. A steady and consistent intake of these phytonutrients helps to keep our Immune Systems working properly.
Prebiotics are fibres and resistant starches found in fruits and veg that are used as fuel by our good bacteria in the colon. We don’t digest them ourselves. Our gut bacteria ferment them. It’s a win-win situation. Bacteria ferment these fibres and in turn produce protective short chain fatty acids which help to regulate our immune system and its responses, such as inflammation. Foods that contain these prebiotic fibres include:
- Legumes: All types of beans, chickpeas, lentils
- Nuts: All types of nuts and nut butters
- Vegetables: Many vegetables especially endive, leek, asparagus, garlic, onion, artichokes
- Fruit: Apples, pears, peaches, plums, nectarines, dried fruit (e.g. dates, figs)
- Wholegrains: – Barley, rye, wheat, oats, farro.
Fruit and vegetables also contain many antioxidants. These protect against free radicals, chemicals which are formed in the body as we break down food. Other factors, such as excessive exposure to environmental pollution or ultraviolet light, illness and cigarette smoke, can cause the body to increase its production of free radicals. Left unchecked, these unstable and potentially harmful chemicals create conditions that may cause damage to our tissues and disease over time. To cope with these free radicals, the body needs more antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables, particularly during times of illness or when exposed to pollutants. Antioxidants including vitamins A, C and E can help limit inflammation and tissue damage associated with our immune responses.
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are good sources of vitamins in general. Broccoli also contains glucosinolates which help to stimulate the body's immune system.
Did you know? Mushrooms help in the production of white blood cells, a type of immune cell in the body. Research suggests that they phytonutrients found in mushrooms can help white blood cells to act more aggressively against foreign bacteria. The best kinds of mushrooms are shiitake and maitake, which are available now in most supermarkets.
*Recipe Tip: Make a home-made fresh mushroom soup. Use a little celery, onion, carrot, ginger and garlic as a base, then add half shiitake and half portobello mushrooms.
Nutrition plays an important role in the fight against infections. A pattern of eating that contains lots of plant foods (vegetables, & fruits, legumes, wholegrains, seeds and nuts), with a moderate intake of seafood especially oily fish, dairy foods, and poultry and a limited intake of red and processed meat, refined carbohydrates and sugar will help support the immune system and the fight against infections.
Here is a helpful Shopping List 🛒:
Fruit & Vegetables Provide phyto-nutrients, Vitamins, Minerals & Fibre.
Your goal: At least 5 servings a day: Eat a rainbow of colour 🌈 Each day, aim to have:
- At least one dark green vegetable (e.g. broccoli, cabbage, rocket, spinach) for potassium, iron, folic acid
- At least one red fruit or vegetable (e.g. tomatoes, watermelon, peppers) for lycopene
- At least one type of berry or citrus fruit (e.g. raspberries, blueberries, oranges) for immune-boosting flavonoids and vitamin C
- At least one orange/yellow fruit or vegetable (e.g. carrots, orange peppers, mango) for antioxidants and beta-carotene
- A serving is any medium sized fruit or two small fruits (satsumas) or 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetable.
*Image is for illustration purpose only