Don't forget your vitamins

Don't forget your vitamins

Nutritional shield against viruses

November is just around the corner and it means that winter (at least on the calendar) is approaching, so it is necessary to protect and shield our body from the various viruses and colds. One way to protect ourselves from winter viruses is a proper and healthy diet.

First, the well-known antioxidants can strengthen our immune system. Beta-carotene and vitamins C and E are amongst the most important sources of antioxidants and their mode of action is to target “free radicals”, which are molecules that can damage cells. Antioxidants have a dual effect, both prevention and treatment. The best way to get them is through fruits and vegetables, which if cooked, should use as little water as possible since these vitamins are water-soluble, meaning they dissolve in water. Daily consumption of 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables is recommended. Foods rich in β-carotene are apricots, broccoli, asparagus, liver, corn, nectarines, grapefruit, peaches, watermelon, mango. Rich source of vitamin C are broccoli, melon, cauliflower, cabbage, kiwi, orange, papaya, pepper, strawberries and tomatoes. Foods that are a source of vitamin E are almonds, salmon, sunflower seeds, liver, peanut butter, hazelnuts.

Bioflavonoids can also contribute to maintaining our health, as research has shown that they contribute to the strengthening and activation of the immune system. Bioflavonoids are also known as flavones or bioflavonoid complex or vitamin P and are plant substances that are largely responsible for the colour that fruits and vegetables get. Combined with vitamin C, they have very beneficial properties for the body. Food sources of bioflavonoids are citrus fruits (peel and inner flesh), apricots, cherries, grapes, green peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cantaloupes and hulled wheat.

Glutathione is another nutrient that helps our immune system work well to fight infection. Foods that have glutathione are broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and spinach.

Phytochemicals contribute to well-being and health and are found in all plants, so a diet that includes a variety of grains, fruits and vegetables will give you these healthy substances. Apples, apricots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, garlic, legumes, onions, red peppers, soybeans, sweet potatoes and tomatoes are some of the foods that are sources of phytochemicals.

Protein is essential for the body not only for building body tissues but also for fighting viral and bacterial infections. Good sources of vegetable protein are legumes, mainly beans and soy. As for animal sources, lean sources such as lean beef, chicken or turkey should be preferred. Chicken soup seems to help fight colds as many studies have shown. It also helps with nasal decongestion as well as liquefaction of mucus and appears to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Eating natural antimicrobial foods like garlic and ginger seems to have a positive effect on the body. More specifically, garlic not only fights bacteria, but also kills fungi and viruses. Fresh garlic cloves have the most powerful antimicrobial effect. Ginger contains chemicals that specifically target viruses that affect the head and neck. Ginger can be consumed either grated in a cup of tea or hot water.

Pomegranate juice was believed by the ancient Egyptians to be able to cure various infections which is confirmed by research done on pomegranate extract as it has been shown that pomegranate juice can help fight bacteria and various viruses including the flu.

The inclusion of mushrooms in the diet strengthens the immune system as it is a food rich in inorganic selenium, vitamin B riboflavin and niacin. People with low levels of selenium are more likely to get the flu.

It is known that a cup of tea can soothe a cough and a sore throat, but the benefits ultimately prove to be more and greater. All types of tea - black, green or white - contain a group of antioxidants, catechins, which fight the flu. Japanese research showed that those who consumed catechin capsules were 75% less likely to experience flu symptoms than those who took "placebo" drugs.

In general, some nutritional rules for a strong immune system are:

•    the consumption of at least 2-3 fruits per day
•    salad at every meal
•    twice fish/seafood a week
•    consumption οf dried fruit salts
•    use of olive oil in cooking

•    consumption of yogurt and generally probiotics that contribute to maintaining a balance of intestinal flora and "good" bacteria
•    enough water and general fluids such as fruit juices or vegetable juices
•    consumption of green/black tea
•    avoiding of deprived diets
•    reducing alcohol consumption
•    avoiding the consumption of a lot of sugar, cereals and generally starchy foods because they negatively affect the immune system.