Updated: Dec 22, 2022
It's flu season again, so most people get a flu shot and strive to stay healthy. But there are certain foods or supplements that boost the immune system and help with that "staying healthy" goal. So know the vitamins that boost your immune system.
Vitamins (vital amines) are organic compounds that are required in trace amounts in the diet because they cannot be synthesized in sufficient quantities by an organism. Vitamins and their metabolites are essential for a large number of physiological processes, fulfilling diverse functions as hormones and antioxidants, as regulators of tissue growth and differentiation, in embryonic development and in calcium metabolism, among others. The involvement of vitamins in the immune system includes both innate and adaptive immunological responses. Although certain vitamins, such as vitamins C and E and members of the B complex, might impact the immune response in a rather broad manner (for example, as antioxidants), others, such as vitamins A and D, can influence the immunological response in extremely specific ways.
“A vitamin is a substance that makes you ill if you don’t eat it.” (Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1937).
Vitamins are crucial dietary components that have been recognised to affect the immune system for a very long time. In recent years, vitamin A and vitamin D have garnered a great deal of interest due to the discovery that they have an unexpected and significant influence on the immune response.
1. Vitamin C
You may already be aware of the benefits of vitamin C or ascorbic acid for your immune system and for reducing the length of that annoying common cold, but this powerful nutrient has many other uses as well. Keeping your skin's protective barrier intact is a key component of a healthy immune system, and vitamin C plays an important role in this process.
In addition to being a potent antioxidant, it helps decrease inflammation in the body, making us healthier and less prone to illness.
The recommended daily dose of ascorbic acid in a day is 75-90mg. Citrus fruits have the highest concentration of ascorbic acid. A medium size orange contains nearly 70mg of vitamin C. One bell pepper, contains nearly 65mg, 100g of broccoli provides more than 89mg.
2. B Vitamins
B vitamins are necessary for the survival of every living thing on Earth, from microbes to people. There are eight distinct forms of B vitamins, and they all play important roles in metabolism and regulation. To put it plainly, humans really can not move, think, or grow and repair any tissues in the body if not for B vitamins.
These nutrients are critical for maintaining a healthy immune system. Deficits in folic acid (B9) and vitamin B12 can significantly alter immunological responses by influencing white blood cell formation and function. And they can cause hyperhomocysteinemia, which in turn can set off systemic inflammation and a host of other disorders. Lower levels of B6 are associated with impaired immunological function.
It's simple to obtain enough B vitamins from food alone because many common meals already contain them. The easiest way to ensure you're getting enough B vitamins is to eat a varied diet. This will help you make sure you're receiving enough of each kind.
You can find vitamin B in:
liver and kidney
meat, such as chicken and red meat
fish, such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon
shellfish, such as oysters and clams
dark green vegetables, such as spinach and kale
vegetables, such as beets, avocados, and potatoes
whole grains and cereals
beans, such as kidney beans, black beans, and chickpeas
nuts and seeds
fruits, such as citrus, banana, and watermelon
soy products, such as soy milk and tempeh
yeast and nutritional yeast
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D (also referred to as “calciferol”) is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in a few foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. It is also produced endogenously when ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis.
Vitamin D was used unknowingly in the treatment of tuberculosis before antibiotics were introduced, Cod liver oil and sunlight exposure were used to treat tuberculosis – both of these treatments are rich in vitamin D.
Lack of vitamin D has been associated with an uptick in the incidence of various autoimmune diseases. This vitamin aids in the activation and proliferation of white blood cells, which helps boost our immune system and protect us from a wide range of illnesses.
Vitamin D is most abundant in fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel, as well as in egg yolks, red meat, and liver. No need to worry if you're not a lover of meat or other animal products. It is common practise in many nations to fortify staples like morning cereals, plant-based milks, and mushrooms with vitamin D in order to combat widespread vitamin D deficiency.
Despite the fact that it is not a vitamin, zinc is one of the most vital minerals. It's needed for normal brain, nerve, and reproductive system development and function. Our immunity will also be compromised without zinc.
One-third to one-eighth of the global population may be zinc deficient, according to the World Health Organization, which might have serious consequences for health.
Zinc is a mineral that has a significant role in regulating the activity of innate and adaptive immune cells and cytokines. Supplemental zinc helps the body fight off viruses, prevents cell damage from free radicals, and has been found to reduce the length of a flu duration.
Zinc is found at high levels in oysters, beef and crab, and in lower amounts in legumes, tofu, pumpkin seeds, cashews and other nuts and seeds. It is recommend to add 15 to 30 milligrams of zinc daily in the diet, especially during the fall and winter months and at the first signs of cold or flu.
Vitamin supplements may seem like a quick cure, but a healthy, balanced diet is the best way to guarantee you're getting all the nutrients your body needs. Vitamins from food are often better absorbed and used by the body than those from supplements, which might vary in quality. However, it's not always easy to have a balanced diet, and even if you do, you can still be low in a nutrient. Vitamin supplements may help in this situation.
Vitamin effects on the immune system: vitamins A and D take centre stage, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2906676
Vitamin D-Fact Sheet for Health Professionals https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
Fight off the flu with immune-boosting nutrients- https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/
Understanding the Therapeutic Potential of Ascorbic Acid in the Battle to Overcome Cancer. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8392841/