The immune system is incredibly complex and is influenced by a variety of factors, including stress, age, sleep quality and any health conditions or illnesses. A varied, healthy diet can strengthen our defences and prevent us from catching colds and flu due to nutrient deficiencies. Below is a list of the substances and foods that can help protect us from seasonal ailments:
Vitamin A is a key micronutrient for promoting growth and is a known anti-inflammatory which can help protect the body against infections. It is found in foods such as fish, meat and dairy products. Beta carotene is a red/orange pigment and is converted into vitamin A in the body. It is a powerful antioxidant that can reduce inflammation; sweet potatoes, carrots and green leafy vegetables are among the best sources.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It helps to strengthen the cells of our immune system and destroy free radicals. It is commonly found in citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons and grapefruits, as well is in many vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kale.
It is known as the sunshine vitamin because it is produced by the body through exposure to sunlight, and is one of the most important and powerful nutrients in supporting our body’s natural defences. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased susceptibility to infections and flu, and some of the best food sources – although these are limited – include salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines.
Vitamin E contributes to the prevention of diseases by promoting the growth of T lymphocytes, the role of which is to fight infections. It is found in vegetable oils such as soy, sunflower and maize, as well as in seeds and in almonds, hazelnuts and peanut butter.
The intestine also plays a major role in our health! Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in our digestive tract and help the process of digestion, as well as synthesising micronutrients and supporting the immune system. Eating more probiotic-rich foods during the cold season can reduce the impact of common colds and flu. Yogurt, kefir, tempeh (fermented soybeans) and some cheeses contain probiotics.
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