If you think of your immune system as an army that battles infections, then two vitamins are its main generals. Vitamin A helps strengthen your body’s defenses, while vitamin C helps immune system go on the attack. These two vitamins provide powerful protection against incoming germs.
The body uses vitamin A, which you get in a form of beta-carotene from foods such as carrots, spinach, mustard greens, kale, yellow and orange squash, to keep mucous membranes soft and moist. This is important, because these membranes, which line the nose, mouth, throat and other parts of the body, are your first line of defense against infections. As long as they moist, they are able to trap viruses and other germs before they get into your system.
As a form of double protection, the body also uses vitamin A to manufacture special enzymes that seek and destroy bacteria that manage to get inside the body and vitamin A is critical for preventing infections.
While vitamin A’s role is mainly defensive, vitamin C helps body take the offensive. Eating oranges, broccoli, and other foods high in vitamin C strengthens the power of body’s germ-killing cells.
Of all the minerals, zinc is probably the most important for keeping immunity strong. Too little zinc can lead to a drop in infection-fighting white blood cells, which can increase of risk of getting sick.
Despite the proven powers of zinc, many people don’t get enough of it. This is unfortunate because zinc is very easy to get in your diet. One king crab leg, for example, has 10 milligrams of zinc, 3 oz serving of lean top sirloin has 6 milligrams, and 1 cup of lentils has 3 milligrams.
There is no way to avoid germs entirely, what you can do however, is eat your way to better health. Eating the right foods not only helps prevent infections, but can also help fight them.
A number of plant foods, such as apples, tea, onions contain substances called flavonoids, which can prevent germs from taking hold. One of the most powerful flavonoids is a compound called quercetin. Found in large amounts in onions and kale, quercetin has been shown to damage genetic material inside viruses, preventing them from multiplying. Having several servings a day of flavonoid-rich foods will help keep germs in check, giving your immune system a fighting chance.