Your immune system is crucial to keep you healthy. It acts as a detective, patrolling your body for invaders and responding to threats by neutralising dangerous substances and repairing any damage.
When your immune system fails to recognise hazards, invaders such as bacteria and viruses can reproduce, and you’ll fall ill. If it doesn’t properly distinguish between potentially dangerous substances and harmless ones, there’s a risk it will attack innocuous substances or even your own tissues. The results are allergies or autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
In this blog, you’ll find out how foods can support your immune system, and we bring you some delicious immune-boosting juices to enjoy this summer.
When your cells produce energy, they naturally also make unstable substances called free radicals. These can damage DNA by a process known as oxidation.
Antioxidants found in plant foods neutralise free radicals, protecting against the damage caused by oxidation.
Immune cells need protection like any other body cell.
There are thousands of different types of antioxidants, and although they’re grouped together under one overall name, they all work slightly differently and protect particular types of body cells. Certain antioxidants like vitamins C and E, zinc, beta carotene, selenium and flavonoids are important for immune system function.
Some antioxidants protect special types of immune cells called natural killer cells which eliminate infectious agents. Others support antibodies, which recognise invaders in the first place, and neutrophils, designed to combat bacteria.
The role of antioxidants in protecting your immune system is supported by scientific research. Eating foods such as berries, rich in flavonoids, has been found to reduce respiratory tract infections, and increase the number of natural killer cells produced. Giving pineapple to school children meant they suffered fewer bacterial and viral infections.
Antioxidants give fruit and vegetables their vibrant pigments, and looking at the colour of a plant gives a great indication of its antioxidant content. The richer and deeper the pigment, the more antioxidants it contains.
If you consume a range of different coloured fruit and vegetables, you’ll maximise the variety of antioxidants you’re obtaining.
Juices are a concentrated source of plant nutrients including antioxidants.
Here are eight delicious juices to help keep your immune system in tip-top condition this summer:
#1. Beetroot, Carrot and Apple Zinger
Beetroot looks fantastic in any juice. It contains a good level of antioxidants, including alpha-lipoic acid, which may help your immune system distinguish between friend and foe. Carrots contain beta carotene, while apples are rich in quercetin, found in research to reduce allergic reactions.
Juice one peeled beetroot, two carrots, one apple, half a lemon and half an inch of fresh ginger root.
#2. Citrus Explosion
Packed with Vitamin C, this juice tastes as good as it looks. Juice 2 oranges and 1 lemon, pith and peel removed, 2 carrots and 1 inch of fresh ginger root.
#3. Berry and Lime
Not strictly speaking a juice, this is a smoothie. Nutrient-rich berries are packed with anthocyanins, helping your immune system produce important signalling molecules. Avocado is a wonderful source of vitamin E.
Blend one cup of berries like raspberries, strawberries and blueberries with one avocado, one tablespoon lime juice and a cup of coconut milk.
#4. Blueberry and Cherry Bliss
Cherries contain flavonoids and anthocyanins, while pomegranate’s rich colour hints at its antioxidant content – and it’s brimming with vitamin C.
Juice a handful each of blueberries, pitted cherries and pomegranate pearls, one pear, half a cucumber and one apple.
#5. Green Goodness Juice
Green pepper, although an unusual ingredient in a juice, is a great source of immune-supporting vitamin C. Broccoli and spinach also deliver Vitamin E, while red grapes contain resveratrol, which may regulate immune reaction.
Juice two heads of broccoli, four handfuls of spinach, one green pepper, one apple, 100g red grapes and half a peeled lime. This is a sour juice so feel free to add some honey or pineapple.
#6. Tomato and Celery
Rich red tomatoes contain lycopene, studied in connection with the immune system and cancer.
Juice two celery stalks, 2 apples, 2-4 tomatoes and a squeeze of lemon.
#7. Strawberry and Kiwi
Both these delicious fruits are rich in vitamin C. Juice two cups of strawberries, 3 peeled kiwi fruits, one cucumber and half a cup of watermelon, another rich source of lycopene.
If you find you struggle to fight off viruses or bacterial infections, or you suffer from an auto-immune disease, your immune system could benefit from a helping hand. Functional Medicine thoroughly investigates your current and past health issues, lifestyle and nutrition to discover the causes of your health concerns. The incredible healing power of food is used alongside lifestyle interventions to naturally restore health.
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