Caroline Haigh (Thomas's Clapham)
Key Nutrients to Keep Your Immune System in Tip Top Shape

You probably have hundreds of immune supporting articles popping into your inbox at the moment and with good reason, as the coronavirus isn’t fussy, it can infect all of us no matter how healthy we are. Now more than ever it is vital to keep your immune system in optimum condition so it is ready to fight off any illness or infection.  

Many of us are now based at home and without the daily commute have gained a bit of extra time - use it to look after yourself. Remember that every time you eat, you have the power to nourish your body and keep that powerful army of immune cells strong. 

How do you do this?

  1. Enjoy a varied, nutrient-dense diet based around ‘real’ whole foods that are as close to nature as possible. These 'real' foods will provide your bodies with all the key nutrients required to keep every cell in the body in peak condition. If you were fighting a war, you would cherish your soldiers, keeping them fit and healthy and it's no different for the immune system - our white blood cells are our inner army so nourish them.  

  3. Reduce or avoid foods that cause damage to the immune system such as over-processed foods and simple sugars such as fizzy drinks, sweets, sweetened cereals and white goods (pasta, rice, flour). Try to swap white for wholegrain - rice, pasta and flours. These complex carbohydrates are slow to digest and will offer a drip feed of energy rather than surge of sugars than is inevitably followed by a dip.  Continued high blood sugars or fluctuations in blood sugars can suppress the immune system so it won’t be in peak condition to protect you. 


Certain foods are tricky to find in the shops at the moment but try to focus your basket on a variety of fruits and vegetables, oily fish, organic meat and whole grains. Maybe use this time as an opportunity to try out new ingredients.


Nutrients all work together to ensure our bodies work optimally but below are a few key ones that are particularly beneficial for a robust immune system, some will be very familiar, others less so.  

We all reach for vitamin C when a cold looms but do you know why? Vitamin C is a powerful anti-viral nutrient used by the white blood cells to help destroy pathogens and infected cells. Scientific studies show that it can decrease the duration of a cold or infection. Vitamin C is water soluble so does not store in the body - you need to top it up daily to keep levels high.
Foods: sounds like a cliché but ‘eat the rainbow’ and it’s not just oranges that contain vitamin C. Include red peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, leafy greens, kiwi. 

Vital for supporting the immune system. It is antimicrobial and used by our white blood cells to strengthen the way in which our immune system fights pathogens. Zinc has performed well in clinical trials showing that it reduces the severity as well as duration of colds and upper respiratory tract infections. Foods: shellfish, eggs, pumpkins seeds, cheese, nuts  

VITAMIN D - the sunshine vitamin 
Vitamin D receptors have been found on the surfaces of immune cells, showing that it is vital for the functioning of the immune system. It can reduce inflammation and increases the production of antimicrobial proteins. Deficiency is linked to a compromised immune system.   Foods: as well as enjoying the spring sunshine (when it returns) include full fat dairy products, mushrooms, eggs and oily fish.

A fat soluble nutrient that is a powerful antioxidant The body uses vitamin E to regulate immune function.  Foods include nuts and seeds, salmon, leafy green vegetables. 

These are specialised sugars that exist in certain foods and can have wondrous effects upon immunity. They have been shown to increase the production of white blood cells and the level of response to pathogens or damaged cells.  Just a small amount of these compounds daily can give the immune system a bit of a kick.   Foods include mushrooms especially shiitake and maitake, as well goji berries. 

Gut health is vital for immunity as 70% of our immune cells are found in the lining of our gut wall.  The trillions of gut bacteria that live in our colon have hundreds of functions, one of which is regulating the immune system to keep it strong and balanced. Supporting your gut bacteria by eating probiotic and prebiotic foods will ensure the immune cells of the gut wall are protected and primed to fight off invaders. 

  • Probiotics are the foods that contain beneficial bacteria such as plain yoghurt, kefir and other fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi.
  • Prebiotics the non-digestible fibres on which the bacteria feed. Foods such as artichokes, asparagus, leeks, onions, garlic and bananas are good prebiotics.  


This is the precursor to one of our bodies most powerful antioxidants called glutathione. Clinical trials have proved that selenium can be a powerful support to the immune system. Foods include Brazil nuts (just 2 day is enough!), brown rice, chicken and mixed seeds. 

March 2020

Caroline runs Everyday Healthy Cookery Classes and if you need some recipe inspiration or have an ingredient that you have no idea how to cook do get in touch. For more information click HERE and follow Everyday Healthy on Instagram @everydayhealthycooking