Antioxidants and Your Immune System: Great Products for Optimal Health
One of the best ways to keep your immune system strong and prevent cold and flu may surprise you: take a stroll in your local food market and shop there.
Nutrition experts say that diets rich in fruits and vegetables can prevent such infections as cold and flu, because these products contain antioxidants that stimulate the immune system.
What are antioxidants? They are vitamins, minerals and other nutritious substances that protect and restore cells damaged by free radicals. A number of experts believe that such damage occurs in many chronic diseases, including compaction of the artery walls (atherosclerosis), cancer, and arthritis. Free radicals can also prevent the immune system from working properly. Fighting this damage using antioxidants helps to preserve a strong immune system, and helps to beat flu, common cold and other infections.
Antioxidants for immunity: Where can I find them?
Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet will improve your overall health. However, certain foods contain more antioxidants than others. Three main vitamin-antioxidants are beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E. You’ll find them in bright-colored fruits and vegetables — especially in purple, blue, red, yellow and orange fruits. To benefit from more antioxidants, eat them in their raw state or at most just slightly steamed — don’t over-stew or boil them.
Beta-carotene and other carotenoids are contained in apricots, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, corn, green pepper, cabbage, mango, turnip, nectarines, peaches, pink grapefruit, pumpkin, zucchini, spinach, sweet potatoes, mandarins, tomatoes and watermelon.
Vitamin C is contained in all berries, broccoli, sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, nutmeg white melon, cabbage, kiwi, mango, nectarines, orange, papaya, red, green and yellow peppers, peas, sweet potatoes, strawberries and tomatoes.
Vitamin E is contained in broccoli, carrot, chard, mustard, turnip, greens, mango, nuts, papaya, pumpkin, red pepper, spinach and sunflower seeds.
Other foods rich in antioxidants are:
- Red grapes
- Alfalfa sprouts
In fact, vitamins are not the only antioxidants in foods.
The other antioxidants helpful for your immune system are:
- Zinc, which is contained in oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, seafood, whole grains, enriched cereals and dairy products.
- Selenium, which is contained in Brazil nuts, tuna, beef, poultry, enriched bread and other grain products.
Foods rich in antioxidants: How much should you consume?
You should consume the recommended daily dose of vitamin antioxidants and minerals in order to maintain normal functioning of your immune system. A number of vitamins and other nutrients are required to avoid deficiency and stay healthy.
These are the recommended daily doses for antioxidants:
- Zinc: 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women. If you’re a vegan, you may require 50 percent more zinc, because the body absorbs less zinc when it only has a vegetative diet.
- Selenium: 55 mcg for men and women.
- Beta-Carotene: the daily dose is not clearly defined, but some experts say that if you consume from 3 to 6 mg of beta-carotene per day. This will supply your body with a sufficient amount to lower your risk of chronic disease.
- Vitamin C: 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women. Smokers need an increased dose of Vitamin C: 125 mg for men and 110 mg for women.
- Vitamin E: 15 mg for both men and women.
How foods strengthen your immunity:
Can you absorb antioxidants if you receive vitamins or other biologically active substances? Yes, but you may lack other nutrients that can strengthen your immune system. Different foods contain various nutrients that work together to improve your physical health. For instance, delving deep into the secrets of fruits and vegetables — as well as complex antioxidants, which they contain — researchers have identified the following:
- Quercetin, which is a chemical (photochemical) substance originating from plants, contained in apples, onions, tea, red wine and several other foods. It fights inflammation and can help to reduce allergies.
- Luteolin, which is a flavonoid that is abundant in celery and green peppers. It also helps the body fight inflammation. One study showed that luteolin can protect against inflammatory brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
- Catechin, which is a type of flavonoid contained in tea. Tea catechin decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
If you’re unable to enrich your diet with a sufficient number of antioxidants, you can also take polyvitamins with minerals. But be careful: only accept the recommended dose of biologically active substances to improve your immunity. You have to know your limit in consumption of antioxidants and other food additives. Vitamins A & E are stored in the body for a long time and excreted very slowly.
Taking too much of any vitamin-antioxidant can be toxic for your body.