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Immunity-Boosting Nutrients

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Here are five essential vitamins and minerals to keep bacteria and viruses at bay.

A healthy immune system is founded on a balanced diet that includes a potpourri of vitamins and minerals, regular exercise, and sufficient quality sleep. When it comes to nutrients, vitamins C, D and B complex, as well as zinc and selenium, have been touted as being particularly helpful in combating the effects of cold and flu viruses, and by extension some of the symptoms presented by COVID-19.

With a few exceptions, it’s best to get these vitamins and minerals from food rather than in the form of a pill. Below are some tips on how to do so. Do notify your doctor before starting a vitamin regimen, in case these new supplements interact with other prescription or over-the-counter medications you are already taking.Vitamin C
Vitamin C is the first line of defence for many people when it comes to keeping coughs and colds at bay. Indeed, it has an important role to play in combating viruses and bacteria, and preventing them from causing disease. This vitamin supports the function of various immune cells, and is also vital for cellular death, which helps keep the immune system healthy by clearing out old cells and replacing them with new ones. Being an antioxidant, it reduces inflammation as well. Studies show that vitamin C can ease cold symptoms and promote faster recovery if you were taking it prior to becoming ill. Abundant in citrus fruits, vitamin C is also available in a variety of vegetables, including broccoli and bok choy.

Vitamin D
Widely hailed as the nutrient responsible for bone health, Vitamin D also has a crucial role to play in maintaining a balanced immune system. Studies show that adequate amounts of vitamin D help to reduce respiratory infections, while deficiencies can make you prone to frequent colds and influenza. You can get vitamin D through exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, or through foods such as sardines, tuna, egg yolk, and beef liver. If you are deficient in this vitamin, do consider supplementation.

B Vitamins
Several B vitamins, such as vitamin B6, B12 and B9, play an important part in immune function. Being deficient in these vitamins can inhibit the body’s ability to make antibodies, white blood cells, and other immune factors it needs to fight off infection. Be sure to get adequate amounts of the B vitamins, whether as a supplement, as part of your diet, or in a multivitamin. Good sources of B vitamins are green vegetables, whole grains, seafood and legumes.

Zinc is needed for immune cell development and communication. A deficiency in this nutrient significantly affects the immune system’s ability to function properly, resulting in an increased risk of infection and disease, including pneumonia. Studies suggest that taking a zinc supplement within 24 hours of the occurrence of a cold can reduce its severity and duration. Do note, however, that overdosing on zinc can cause toxicity and also have a negative impact on your immune system. Zinc is readily available in a variety of food sources, including pulses, beans, seafood and meat.

Selenium appears to have a powerful effect on the immune system, particularly on its ability to fight viruses, tumours and allergens. An American study showed that daily supplementation of 200mcg of selenium increased the activity of T killer cells (a type of white blood cell) and natural killer cells, providing the body improved protection against infections. Selenium is found in a range of foods such as barley, tuna, sardines and Brazil nuts.

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