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7 Essential Nutrients To Support Your Immune Defenses

Written by: Jo Kelly, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Maintaining a healthy immune system is important for overall health and well-being, especially during high virus and infection activity periods. While many factors can affect the immune system, including genetics, age, and environmental exposures, research shows that certain nutrients play a key role in supporting immune function and improving overall health. Here are seven top nutrients to support your immune system.

1. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for immune function. It helps the body produce white blood cells that fight infections and reduce inflammation. Vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant, which means it helps to protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. Foods that are high in vitamin C include:

  • citrus fruits

  • berries

  • kiwi

  • broccoli

  • bell peppers

2. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is another crucial nutrient for immune function. It helps to activate immune cells and reduces inflammation, making it easier for the immune system to fight infections. Vitamin D also plays a role in bone health, and a deficiency in this nutrient can result in weakened bones and an increased risk of fractures. Foods that are high in vitamin D include:

  • fatty fish

  • egg yolks

  • fortified dairy products

  • Sunlight exposure is also an excellent source of vitamin D.

3. Zinc

Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in immune function. It helps the body produce immune cells and antibodies and reduces inflammation and oxidative stress, which can damage the immune system. Zinc also plays a role in wound healing and DNA synthesis. Foods that are high in zinc include:

  • oysters

  • beef

  • chicken

  • beans

  • pumpkin seeds

4. Probiotics

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that reside in the gut and help support immune function. They reduce inflammation, improve gut health, and increase the production of antibodies. Probiotics are especially beneficial in improving the immune function of individuals with compromised immune systems. Foods that are high in probiotics include:

  • yogurt

  • kefir

  • sauerkraut

  • kimchi.

5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that can help reduce inflammation and improve immune function. They play a role in brain and heart health and may also help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • fatty fish

  • flaxseed

  • chia seeds

  • walnuts

6. Selenium

Selenium is an essential mineral that plays a critical role in immune function. It helps to reduce inflammation, supports antioxidant function, and improves immune cell activity. Foods that are high in selenium include:

  • brazil nuts

  • seafood

  • eggs

  • sunflower seeds

7. Iron

Iron is an essential mineral that helps the body produce red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. It also supports immune function by helping to produce immune cells. Foods that are high in iron include:

  • red meat

  • poultry

  • fish

  • beans

  • spinach

In conclusion, a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of foods rich in these seven nutrients can help support immune function and improve overall health. All of these nutrients can be found in supplement form, however, it is recommended that a food-first approach is taken. Care should be taken with supplements, as overdosing on some nutrients is possible, and can be dangerous. Always consult with your healthcare provider before reaching for nutritional supplements.

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Jo Kelly, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Jo Kelly is a registered Nutritional Therapist, who specialises in supporting people with auto-immune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus to name just a few. She uses nutrition and lifestyle recommendations to help her clients with their condition and feel the best version of themselves. Jo studied at the world renowned Institute for Optimum Nutrition, and is pleased to have helped hundreds of people since launching Flourish with Nutrition. As a huge foodie herself, Jo appreciates all too well that food must be enjoyable. Therefore, Jo endeavours to ensure clients have fun with their food, and works closely with them to make personalised recommendations that work, and are sustainable.



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  2. Aranow, C. (2011). Vitamin D and the immune system. Journal of investigative medicine, 59(6), 881-886. doi: 10.2310/JIM.0b013e31821b8755

  3. Wessels, I., Maywald, M., & Rink, L. (2017). Zinc as a gatekeeper of immune function. Nutrients, 9(12), 1286. doi: 10.3390/nu9121286

  4. Gill, H. S., & Rutherfurd, K. J. (2001). Probiotic supplementation to enhance natural immunity in the elderly: effects of a newly characterized immunostimulatory strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 (DR20™) on leucocyte phagocytosis. Nutritional research, 21(1-2), 183-189. doi: 10.1016/s0271-5317(00)00222-8

  5. Calder, P. C. (2013). Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes. Nutrients, 5(7), 2502-2521. doi: 10.3390/nu5072502

  6. Rayman, M. P. (2000). The importance of selenium to human health. The Lancet, 356(9225), 233-241. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(00)02490-9

  7. Siva, S. (2013). Iron and the immune system. Journal of clinical and translational hepatology, 1(4), 235-238. doi: 10.14218/JCTH.2013.00031


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