Boosting your immune system before Autumn

As we course towards September and children look to head back to school, we all expect coughs and colds to start circulating like wildfire. Now is a good time to start boosting your immune system by eating the right foods, and educating yourself in how vitamins and mineral influence your immunity.

A healthy immune system is dependent on a balanced healthy diet over a period of time, as well as exercising regularly and getting good quality sleep. With some exceptions, it is best to get your vitamins and minerals from your food rather than in tablet form. Below is a list of vitamins and minerals, as well as food sources, that are considered important in building a healthy immune system.

# Vitamin C, which helps prevent infections, and lessen the time you are infected. Sources include spinach, kale, peppers and strawberries.

# Vitamin E, is crucial in the healthy functioning of your immune system. Health levels are found in almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds and sunflower oil.

# Vitamin A, which fights infection, is present in fish, meats and diary, and also in plants such as carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and dark leafy vegetables.

# Vitamin D always has a lot of press, and quite rightly so. Known as the sunshine vitamin, it is one of the most powerful in supporting the immune system. Food sources include salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines and vitamin fortified drinks and foods.

# Folate, important for promoting immune responses and cell metabolism, is found in lentils, beans, leafy green vegetables and avocados.

# Iron is involved in the healthy development of the immune system, and deficiencies can lead to increases in infection. Iron also helps carry oxygen around the body to all organs and muscles. Iron-rich sources include red meat, chicken, turkey, oysters, clams and muscles. If you are vegetarian, then other sources include broccoli, kale and beans.

# Selenium, another powerful mineral that reduces inflammation and facilitates an enhanced immune response. Brazil nuts are the superfood here, where one nut contains your entire daily intake!

# Zinc is needed for the production of new immune system cells. Food-rich sources include oysters, crab, lean meats and poultry, baked beans, yoghurt and chickpeas.

Couple this with regular exercise, a healthy water intake and good quality sleep, you'll be much better prepared for the winter ahead.