Babble Health

Support your immune system to support your general health – some key nutrients

By Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)

Eat to support your immune system this winter. In this article we look at some of the key nutrients for supporting our first line of defence.

Effective immunity requires appropriate nutrition. Deficiencies of certain nutrients can result in the suppression of immune function. Environmental toxins, stress, lifestyle factors, pollution and genetic make-up can place further strain on our immune system. Humans have had a long relationship with micro-organisms (bacteria, fungi, viruses) and whilst many are normally present within our bodies, many are also potentially pathogenic and capable of causing serious disease if able to invade our mucosal barrier or the skin. Effective immune function needs adequate levels of specific nutrients to protect against invasion from unwanted micro-organisms and also to return our immune system to a ‘resting’ situation when protection is not required.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble steroid hormone precursor (often known as Calciferol) which is only found naturally in small amounts in a few foods. Vitamin D performs a number of important roles in the body including: contributing to the maintenance of normal absorption/utilisation of calcium and phosphorus levels in the body, for the maintenance of normal bones, teeth and muscle function and it contributes to the normal functioning of the immune system.

The general regulation of the immune system requires vitamin D3, which acts after binding to specific receptors on immune cells. People need varying degrees of vitamin D depending on where they live and their diets. In the winter months it is often a good idea to ‘top up’ your vitamin D levels by taking a good quality supplement. The only way to know your exact levels of vitamin D is to have a test done – chat to your G.P/Qualified Nutritional Therapist/dietician for more information should you require it.  Good sources of vitamin D include: wild salmon, sardines, eggs, tuna, mushrooms and some cereals. Try and squeeze in a walk each day in the fresh air.


Zinc is an important mineral which supports the immune system and is important in maintaining healthy skin and assists in wound healing. Many immune functions are dependant on zinc, which is important for a healthy Thymus gland (this is where many of the white blood cells are produced). Good sources of zinc include: eggs, poultry, crab, brazil nuts, lobster, soya beans, oysters to name a few.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin (meaning that it is lost in the urine, not stored in the body so needs to be replaced) and has a number of important functions including: Wound healing and formation of scar tissue, supporting a healthy immune system as well as maintaining connective tissue which supports major organs and systems. Vitamin C is found in high concentrations in white blood cells and reduced plasma levels containing vitamin C are associated with a reduced immune function. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and helps to counteract some of the free radicals that enter our bodies. As our bodies do not make or store vitamin C, plenty of foods rich in this vitamin need to be included in the diet. Good sources of vitamin c include: Citrus fruits and juices, such as orange and grapefruit, kiwi fruit, mango, papaya, berries, watermelon, melons, pineapple, squash, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, spinach, cabbage, turnip greens, and other leafy greens, potatoes, tomatoes and peppers (red and green).


Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an antioxidant that the body produces naturally. Our body cells use CoQ10 for growth and maintenance. Plasma levels of CoQ10 in the body decrease with age. This important antioxidant has been found to have immune enhancing activity by increasing antibody production aswell as other cells in the immune system. Good food sources include: oily fish (such as salmon and tuna), organ meats (such as liver), and whole grains. Supplementation can help restore age associated decline of immune function

Selenium is a trace mineral that functions as an antioxidant. Selenium is important in the immune system’s ability to protect against infection. Selenium is a mineral that is important for a group of proteins called selenoproteins, which have quite a few different functions in the body.

Some selenoproteins, called glutathione peroxidases, are important for the body’s antioxidant system, which protects DNA and cells from oxidative damage. This includes protecting the body’s immune cells from damage. Selenium plays an important role in activating immune cells and helping them function. Other selenoproteins have roles in thyroid function and metabolism. In areas of the world where the soil is low in selenium there is a higher incidence of immune related disorders to be found.

Good sources of selenium include: Meat, seafood, eggs, nuts, seeds and wholegrains.

In our next article we will look more closely at how some specific foods help support the immune system.


‘Zest for life’ immune boosting orange, carrot, ginger and turmeric juice?

Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)

Peel and chop 2 carrots and 2 oranges along with 1/2 inch of fresh ginger. Place into a juicer/ blender with a handful of ice cubes, a splash of sparkling water and 1 teaspoon of turmeric. Juice and enjoy! The oranges are full of the antioxidant vitamin c and also contain folate and other b vitamins (b vitamins are important for the nervous system and help reduce low mood too)- to name a few benefits!), the carrots are packed with beta carotene and also add some more vitamin c to zap those free radicals! the ginger and turmeric contain anti -inflammatory properties.


 Gorgeous Green immune support and skin glow juice (Makes 1 large juice)

Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)

Place 2 chopped celery sticks, 1 small cucumber (chopped), 2 handfuls of washed kale, 1 handful of washed spinach, 2 chopped apples, a piece of fresh ginger (amount according to taste) the juice of a small lemon and a handful of chopped parsley into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour over ice – Enjoy!


Immune support soup

Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)

Are you having roast chicken this week? Why not make this immune support chicken soup for the next few days and top up on some vital nutrients? Chicken soup has been known for centuries as an effective ‘feel better’ food. This is probably due to the vitamins and minerals  provided by the vegetables (onions and leeks are also prebiotic foods so feed the good bacteria in the gut) and a substance called carnosine is provided by chicken soup which enhances the power of the immune cells.


  • 1 large onion
  • 1 leek
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large carrots
  • 750ml homemade chicken stock (use bones with chicken on it)
  • 120g savoy cabbage
  • 300g leftover cooked chicken


Chop the carrots, onion and leek into slices and cook in olive oil for 6 minutes or so.

Add the chicken stock. Cover and simmer for 35 minutes.

Put the pieces of the left-over chicken into the soup along with the cabbage (shredded). Simmer for 5 minutes until the chicken is piping hot and then enjoy!


Stuffed Squash with a tasty Bean Stew

Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)

Makes 2 portions – double up as required


2 squash of your choice

1 onion – chopped

1 tsp of olive oil or rapeseed oil

1 clove of garlic crushed

200g of chopped tomatoes (can be fresh or canned)

200g of haricot beans

A handful of fresh basil and oregano

Seasoning to taste

Optional (100g of grated cheese of your choice to sprinkle over the top)


  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C
  • Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion until soft. Add the garlic and cook gently for a couple more minutes.
  • Add the beans and tomatoes along with the fresh herbs and a pinch of seasoning and allow to cook gently for 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cut the tops off the squash and scoop out the seeds.
  • Spoon the tomato, bean and herb mixture into the squash (sprinkle with grated cheese if you wish) and place into the preheated oven for around 40 minutes.
  • Enjoy!


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