Olga Hamilton, VP of Nutrigenetic Science at Nutri-Genetix, shares her tips on how best to support our immune systems
With winter flu season on the horizon, it’s time to think about ways we can all support our immune system. The last thing you need is a seasonal illness cramping your running style, so we spoke to Olga Hamilton, VP of Nutrigenetic Science at Nutri-Genetix, to get some advice on how small lifestyle changes could have a positive effect on our general wellbeing.
Our bodies aren’t always able to create certain essential nutrients, so diet is critical for protecting your immune system. Nutrient-dense foods contain vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats and are a great alternative to foods that provide calories but no serious nutritional value such as processed foods, sweets, desserts, biscuits, cakes, sweetened drinks and sugar-laden cereals and dairy products with added sugar. You certainly don’t need to give up your favourite bar of chocolate, but it’s important to get some goodness in your body too.
7 ways to support your immune system with your diet:
- Up your vegetable intake: Aim to consume 500-600g of vegetables per day. It doesn’t matter whether they’re cooked from frozen, boiled, steamed, roasted, stewed, grilled or raw – everything counts. Vegetables provide a great source of vitamin C which assists in many functions of the immune system.
- Include oily fish or seeds: Aim for 4-5 portions per week. One portion is 120g, approximately the size of a small sardine tin. Oily fish famously provide us with Omega-3 essential fatty acid, which have important immune-regulatory functions especially our defence against bacterial and viral infections. Eat a variety such as anchovies, sardines, herring, mackerel, salmon, trout, kippers, fresh tuna or if vegan, options include chia seeds, flaxseeds, hempseeds, flaxseed oil, hempseed oil and walnuts.
- Make sure you’re getting enough protein: A simple calculation is 1g of protein per 1kg of your weight per day is a good place to start. For a 70kg person that would be 70g of protein per day. 120g of sardines provide 30g of protein, which is the same amount as 100g of chicken breast. One boiled medium egg has 13g of protein. For vegans, taking a vegan protein powder would help to provide you with your daily requirements. NGX BodyFuel provides the user 27g of protein per 35g serving.
- Get tested: There is evidence to suggest that nutritional deficiencies can weaken our immune system and make us more vulnerable to infections. DNA testing can reveal where you may require additional quantities of certain macro and micronutrients to help prevent any potential nutritional deficiencies. Get yourself tested to assess your genetic nutrient requirements – some genetic tests are very easy to do at home. Nutri-Genetix offers a comprehensive DNA test that generates a personalised nutrition report for the user to explore in detail their unique nutritional requirements. Following this users can subscribe to their bespoke NGX BodyFuel mix, tailored specifically to their needs.
- Pack in immune-supporting micronutrients: Selenium, zinc and vitamin A are all important micronutrients – just one Brazil nut a day offers your 55 microgram daily recommendation of selenium, while beans, red meats and seafood provide good amounts of zinc.
- Increase your vitamin D intake: While we are still allowed to go for a walk or exercise in a park, use this opportunity to top up your vitamin D levels, as a vitamin D deficiency can increase your susceptibility to infection.
- Supplement appropriately: Supplementation is a very good idea during this time and acts as an insurance policy just in case you are deficient in any of the essential nutrients. Research has shown that people who do not meet their individual body’s requirements for one or more essential nutrients are more likely to be at risk of picking up infections. Moreover, these infections can then last longer and be more severe. When the nutrient deficiencies are corrected with supplementation, the immune system function tends to improve, people become more resistant to infections and even deal with infection more efficiently.
If you’re interested in getting a personalised nutrition report based on your DNA, check out Nutri-Genix.