What do you really need to put on your shopping list during these strange times? Well, if you want to boost your immune system you could start off with foods that contain some of the 10 minerals and vitamins that are on the EU health claims register with links to supporting the immune system.
1 – Copper
Good sources include nuts, seeds, shitake mushrooms, lobster, liver, leafy greens and dark chocolate.
For a high copper recipe, try this hearty Afghan Red Lentil soup:
2 – Folate
Folate is the stage name for vitamin B9. Often taken as a supplement in the form of folic acid, it is best known for its career defining role in pregnancy and prenatal development. It also plays a key role in our maintaining our immune system.
Good food sources of folate include vegetables (especially dark green leafy vegetables), fruits, nuts, beans, peas, seafood, eggs, dairy products, meat, poultry, and grains.
Check out Jamie Oliver’s roasted brassica salad with lentils and haloumi recipe for a folate rich salad (best eaten warm!)
3 – Iron
Iron is the most macho of all the micro-nutrients and is proud to be widely associated with red meat, blood and girders. It also plays an essential role in the development of our immune system.
Although it’s conspicuous by its absence in Irn Bru, iron can be found aplenty in liver, meat, beans, nuts, dried fruit, wholegrains, soy and most dark-green leafy vegetables.
The following five veg lasagne recipe is vegetarian, but you can always add some beef mince if you fancy. Having a glass of unsweetened orange juice with this meal may be a good idea as vitamin C helps the body absorb iron more efficiently.
4 – Selenium
Selenium may come across as quiet and mild-mannered trace mineral but it punches way above its weight when it comes to supporting health.
Only required in tiny amounts, selenium plays critical roles in reproduction, hormone metabolism, DNA synthesis, cognitive function, and protection from oxidative damage and infection.
Good sources of selenium include brazil nuts, fish, meat, eggs, mushrooms, beans and oats.
With the schools closing today, I’ve chosen a simple selenium rich recipe that the kids can have fun with. These tasty energy balls make a great post training snack too.
5 – Vitamin A
Vitamin A became famous in the second world war when it was rumoured that RAF pilots ate carrots to help them see enemy planes in the dark. Carrots actually contain a substance called beta-carotene that the body turns into vitamin A and which does indeed support vision in dim light.
After spending a few quiet years after the war, vitamin A has now reinvented itself as a major supporter of the immune system and a promoter of healthy skin.
Vitamin A can be found in dairy products, oily fish (e.g. salmon and mackerel) and liver. Beta-carotene is found in yellow or orange fruits and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and mangoes. Be cautious of taking Vitamin A supplements if you also have a diet rich in vitamin A as it is possible to get too much!
Our vitamin A rich recipe, spiced carrot fritters is actually a beta-carotene rich recipe, but it’ll do the job nicely…
6 – Vitamin B6
Often overlooked, Vitamin B6 sits uncomfortably as the awkward middle child of the B vitamin family. Even the scientists who gave pet names to the other B vitamins (e.g. Niacin, Biotin, Folate etc.), never really bothered with B6.☹
Nonetheless, just known as “pyridoxal 5′-phosphate”, B6 is plays a key role in maintaining energy levels and supporting the immune system.
Vitamin B6 is generally found sitting on its own in a wide variety of foods including pork, poultry, fish, wholegrains, eggs and vegetables.
This slow cooker chicken recipe could hardly be simpler! Put it on in the morning and it will be ready just in time for dinner after a hard day of self-isolation.
7 – Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 has really been hogging the micro-nutrient headlines for several years now. Initially following an interest in its role in releasing energy from food, and now due the increased adoption of vegan diets. As this essential nutrient is not found naturally in vegetables, fruits or grains, vegans may not get enough of it. In fact, according to the Vegan Society, fortified foods and supplements are the only proven reliable sources for vegans.
Good food sources of vitamin B12 include meats, fish, seafood, eggs and dairy products. Also look out for cereals and milk alternatives that may be fortified with B12.
This smoked mackerel kedgeree is a cracking recipe that’s rich in B12 and all kinds of good stuff…
8 – Vitamin C
Vitamin C is the most celebrated of all the vitamins and minerals. Once the hero of the high seas, it is now promoted as an antioxidant and all round “good egg” for promoting good health (which is ironic as eggs don’t contain any vitamin C).
Fun fact: Most animals can make their own vitamin C. Exceptions include people, guinea pigs, bats and monkeys, all of whom must get it from their food.
Citrus fruits are famously full of vitamin C, but other good sources include berries, broccoli, sprouts and potatoes.
Try this lemon coriander soup for a flavourful vitamin C boost…
9 – Vitamin D
As we come into springtime, and the sun starts shining, most people will be able to get some lovely vitamin D just by going outside. Amazingly, our body can create its own vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin.
Vitamin D is best known for keeping our bones teeth and muscles healthy, but it also plays a key role in the immune system. The Department of Health recommends vitamin D supplements for certain groups of the population, including young children, so you may want to check this out with you GP.
The best dietary sources of vitamin D are oily fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel and sardines), red meat, liver and eggs. Some spreads and breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin D.
This mackerel marinated with beetroot and horseradish recipe is dead simple and creates a visually stunning and delicious dish…
10 – Zinc
Zinc has always been popular for its role in supporting the immune system and for helping wounds heal. It is rumoured that Zinc was the inspiration for Arthur Fonzarelli in the 70’s TV show “Happy Days”.
The best sources of zinc in the diet include red meat, shellfish, nuts and seeds. This easy beef stir fry recipe does it’s best to include them all.
And so ends my list of nutrients approved for health claims for supporting the immune system. Stay well!
Senpai Dave Titman