Mythbuster: Only fruits high in Vitamin C can help boost the immunity
People often concentrate on seeking special foods or vitamin supplements during the flu season or during an illness as they are believed to boost immunity. Foods such as Vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables and foods like chicken soup, and tea with honey are popular examples of food provided to those who are ill. Although our immune system is a complex design which is influenced by an ideal balance of many factors, a balanced diet may provide the extra support necessary. A Diet consisting of a variety of essential vitamins and minerals, combined with healthy lifestyle choices like adequate sleep, exercise and low stress, can effectively boost the body’s ability to fight infection and disease.
Vitamin C and Immunity:
Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin which can be easily delivered to a different part of our body through the bloodstream. As it dissolves completely in water, the body does not have any stored vitamin C, so it must be supplemented daily through our diet.
The idea that something citrus can help ward off seasonal flu originated due to the presence of Vitamin C in citrus foods which plays a role in managing infections and healing wounds. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can neutralise harmful free radicals.
Vitamin C is essential for making collagen, a fibrous protein present in our connective tissue that can be found throughout various systems such as the nervous, immune, bone, cartilage, blood, and others.
The vitamin is involved in many metabolic reactions such as in producing certain hormones and chemical messengers used in the brain and nerves.
Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of this vitamin, including citrus (oranges, kiwi, lemon, grapefruit), Bell peppers, Strawberries, Tomatoes, Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower), White potatoes etc.
Other nutrients essential for immunity:
Although Vitamin C might play one of the most important roles in boosting immunity, it is not solely responsible for the same. Some other food nutrients required for maintaining good immunity are:
- Prebiotics: there are fibre-packed nutrients that help protect probiotics or “good” bacteria in our gut in fighting against infections. They keep those bacteria healthy and help them flourish. Jerusalem artichokes, green bananas or plantains, Jicama root and asparagus are some excellent sources of prebiotics.
- Probiotics: Essentially include foods like kefir, yogurt with live active cultures, fermented vegetables, etc are required to maintain a healthy immune system as they air in filtering out toxins and preventing the growth of microorganisms that may cause infections.
- Antioxidants: Stress or infections can lower our immunity making us more prone to acquire illness. Foods containing antioxidants protect us against oxidative stress caused as a result of an accumulation of toxins due to external stress or physical illnesses. Hence, helping us build a stronger immune system. Colourful fruits and vegetables including berries, carrots and spinach have antioxidants that should also be incorporated into your diet.
- Herbal supplements: Research has suggested that herbal supplements may help to boost immune function. These include foods such as:
- Echinacea: Cell studies have demonstrated that echinacea can effectively fight against influenza viruses, but research done on humans has been inconclusive in finding the active components that trigger the antiviral pathways. Taking echinacea as a medication after catching a cold does not shorten its duration, but taking it for a while may provide a small chance of shielding your body from catching a cold over the years.
- Garlic: The active ingredient in garlic, allicin sativum, is proven to exhibit antiviral and antimicrobial effects on the common cold. But after contracting the cold virus, this too does not do much in curing the disease as the duration of illness is still unchanged.
- Tea catechins: Studies done on cellular levels show that tea catechins such as those found in green tea can prevent flu and some cold viruses. They inhibit the replication of these viruses and can improve immune activity. protect you against oxidative stress, which translates to a stronger immune system.
Vitamin C is the most used home-based medication for colds and flu we have been given for years. It is no doubt a very effective immune booster but cannot be held solely responsible for curing illnesses. It is rather smarter to add other foods beneficial for our immune activities along with daily consumption of vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables to get the best results.