Expert tips for boosting your immune system
Expert tips for boosting your body's immune system, plus what doesn't work.
As we head into winter’s cold and flu season alongside the menace of coronavirus, it’s never been more important to ensure you have a healthy immune system.
The immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that fight off infections from cold and flu viruses to more serious conditions like pneumonia or cancer. Here are some healthy essentials to follow.
You'll be as snug as this pug in a blanket with our expert tips for boosting your immunity.
Expert guide to boosting your immunity
Choose healthy foods
Use food to supercharge your immune system, says Dr Zerina Tomkins of the University of Melbourne. As a cell biologist and registered nurse who has worked in infectious disease wards, Zerina knows the benefits of fresh food, especially fruit and vegetables, over processed foods.
Don’t go overboard, she says, there’s no need for extravagant and expensive foods, but rather use foods rich in vitamins and antioxidants, like citrus fruits full of vitamin C or blueberries with antioxidants.
Eat the rainbow
Ensure you eat a variety of colourful vegetables, with each colour bringing its own suite of antioxidants to your body.
“Small steps will make a difference; nothing has to be complicated,” Zerina says.
The Australian government’s dietary guidelines say you should enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from these five food groups every day:
- Plenty of vegetables of different types and colours
- Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high-fibre varieties such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, couscous, oats, quinoa and barley
- Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans
- Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives, mostly reduced fat.
What about meat substitutes?
There are many meat substitutes, and ways to bulk up meat in dishes you prepare. Legumes absorb the flavour of meat and bulk out dishes, says Dr Nicole Kellow, an accredited dietitian who works at Monash University’s Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food. Chickpeas, red kidney beans and other legumes can be soaked and added to a meal, while tofu, nuts and seeds are another source of flavour.
Do I need to take supplements?
If your body doesn’t need it, it will pee it out, says health specialist Zerina. The best source of vitamins is real food, she says. A few hours in the sunshine doing physical activities will boost your immune system and give you adequate vitamin D.