Which foods contain vitamins and minerals that support your immune system?
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When it comes to looking after your health, your diet is one of the first things you need to consider. Most of the nutrients we need come from our diet, which means it’s important to eat heathy, balanced meals that contain all food groups.
But your diet doesn’t just support your everyday health; it also supports your immune system. There’s a number of vitamins and minerals found in the food we eat that ensure the normal function of your immune system.
Read on to see which vitamins and minerals support your immune system, and what foods you can find them in.
When it comes to supporting your immunity, vitamin C is one of the more well-known vitamins. It’s found in citrus fruits as well as strawberries and blackcurrants. You can also find vitamin C in bell peppers.
Looking for a way to include more vitamin C in your diet? Why not try adding a glass (150 ml) of orange juice to your breakfast routine. This will also count towards one of your five a day and is a great way to stay hydrated.
Vitamin B12 is mostly found naturally in meat and fish. Beef and sardines are both good sources of B12, and it’s also found in animal products like cheese, milk and eggs. However, this means if you’re vegetarian or vegan you might find it harder to get all the B12 you need from your diet.
Thankfully, vitamin B12 is often added to other foods such as certain fortified breakfast cereals or nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is often recommended as a cheese substitute in vegan recipes and is great for adding to soups or sprinkling over popcorn!
Vitamin A, also known as retinol, can be found in eggs, oily fish, and dairy products like cheese, whole milk and yoghurt. Your body also converts beta-carotene into retinol, which can be found in leafy vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes and red peppers as well as yellow fruits like apricots and mango.
Most of the vitamin D we need is created within the body when direct sunlight hits our skin. This means that in the spring and summer we can get all of the vitamin D we need, but we may struggle during autumn and winter.
Vitamin D is only naturally found in a few foods such as oily fish (like herring or mackerel), red meat and egg yolks. It’s also found in some fortified foods, like certain breakfast cereals.
Selenium is a common mineral that supports the normal function of the immune system. It’s found in a number of foods, like brazil nuts, and meat like beef and poultry. It’s also found in several kinds of fish, such as tuna, sardines or salmon.
If you can’t eat nuts or follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, you can also find selenium in brown rice, sunflower seeds and even baked beans! Several kinds of food (like certain breads and cereals) are also fortified with selenium.
Meat, especially red meat, is a very good source of zinc. It’s also found in shellfish like oysters. You can also get zinc from legumes like lentils, beans and chickpeas, which make a great alternative to meat in many meals so are a good source for people following vegan or vegetarian diets.
It’s also found in dairy like cheese and milk, as well as eggs.
Iron is an essential mineral that helps many of your body’s functions. It supports the normal formation of red blood cells, helps your body to release energy stored in your food and supports your immune system.
Iron is commonly found in red meat and liver, as well as beans, nuts and some dried fruits. In the UK, all bread (other than wholemeal) is fortified with iron.