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Nutrition and Immune Function

As we’re in the thick of cough and cold season, now is more important than ever to learn about how nutrition can help the normal functioning of the immune system. It’s important to note that we can’t ‘optimise’ our immune system or prevent illness, but you can take simple steps with what you eat to help it function the best it can.


Activity

 

While long term activity helps strengthen our immune system, there is evidence that high intensity and prolonged exercise may increase the risk of certain types of infection In the short term, such as upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) in the post-exercise period. During this ‘open window’ of altered immunity, viruses and bacteria may gain a foothold, increasing the risk of illness. Prolonged bouts of strenuous exercise have been shown to result in transient depression of white blood cell (leukocyte) functions which may be the cause of impaired immune function, increasing the risk of infection.

 

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise! To help combat this, try and have a carbohydrate snack like a granola bar or Blue Fuel Energy Gummies 1 hour before you head out for exercise. If the activity is prolonged (over 1 hour), take a banana or Energy Gummies for during. This will help prevent exercise induced drops in our immune function.. The same goes for post-exercise, try not to wait longer than 30-60 mins to refuel!


“While long term activity helps strengthen our immune system, there is evidence that high intensity and prolonged exercise may increase the risk of certain types of infection In the short term ”


Cupboard Essentials

 

Fresh fruit and vegetables are key parts of our diet, but there are plenty of healthy foods that we can keep in our cupboards and save for a rainy day to create a meal when we may not have fresh food available:

 

  1. Tinned tuna – Protein is key to help our immune system function and we should include this in every meal. Tuna is also high in Omega 3 fatty acids which help enhance the function of immune cells

 

  1. Tinned beans – Without protein, your white blood cells can’t function. Beans are also high in fibre to aid our digestion

 

  1. Nuts – Nuts are full of antioxidants, vitamins and healthy fats that aid immune function. Good choice are almonds, brazil nuts and pistachios

Fresh or Frozen?

 

It’s a common myth that frozen fruit and vegetables don’t pack as much vitamins as their fresh counterparts. This is not true and it’s well worth chopping up your favourite fruits, freezing them and adding them straight to your blender for your favourite smoothie. You can even buy frozen spinach and add straight to your favourite curry, 5 minutes before serving.


Eat the Rainbow!

 

By practicing good hygiene and consuming an array of colourful fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, we provide an environment for our immune system to work well. The consumption of the right sorts of foods provide us with the vitamins and minerals we need. Different coloured fruits and vegetables provide different benefits for our body. For example, red coloured fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants including lycopene (in tomatoes) and anthocyanins (red berries and strawberries). Yellow and orange fruit and vegetables often contain carotenoids including beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin which aid the conversion to vitamin A. Aim to consume your ‘5-a-day’ with a mixture of different colours!

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