9 Vitamins & Minerals Needed for a Healthy Immune System
Having a healthy immune system is vital to anyone’s lifestyle. It’s the body’s natural defense mechanism for fighting off viruses, fungus, bacteria, and even parasites.
Basically, anything that can make us sick is overcome and fought by our immune systems.
Therefore, it is always important to make sure you are getting the proper nutrients and vitamins to maintain a healthy immune system.
This is why below I have outlined nine vitamins and minerals that are needed for the healthy immune system.
#1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D can be found in a variety of healthy foods like fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines), egg yolks, cheese, and beef liver.
Some people can have a harder time absorbing this vitamin directly from foods, so this is one case where taking vitamin D in supplement form would work well.
Not only it raises metabolism and act as a fat burner but various other age related issues including nerve degeneration, bone weakness and joint pain are greatly assisted.
#2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is known as the cold-fighter. Whenever you get a cold, you’ll hear people giving you the motherly advice to go buy some Vitamin C supplements to help get over your cold.
But instead of waiting until you get a cold, be proactive and make sure you are getting enough vitamin C from the foods you eat. Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits are major sources of vitamin C. These are excellent in regulating the weight too.
You can also find vitamin C in kiwi fruit and green and red bell peppers. Other fruits and vegetables to get vitamin C can come from strawberries, potatoes, tomatoes, and broccoli.
Even leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach have loads of vitamin C. As a matter of fact, vitamin C shows up in so many foods that it is rare for someone to be deficient in this vitamin.
Zinc is an important mineral as it is shown to slow down the immune response and help control inflammation. There is a wide array of foods that are high in zinc and will help boost your immune system. Surprisingly, vegetables are not the first place you would go to get more zinc in your diet.
It is recommended that if you are a woman, you should have 8mg of zinc per day and for men, you should have 11 mg per day.
Even though zinc deficiency isn’t common in the United States, there are supplements available if you’re doctor diagnoses you with not having enough zinc in your diet.
There are many foods you can find zinc in including:
- Red meat
- Shellfish such as oysters and shrimp
- Legumes (chickpeas, lentils, and beans)
- Seeds (hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds)
- Nuts (pine nuts, peanuts, cashews, and almonds)
- Dairy Products (milk and cheese)
- Eggs (1 large egg contains 5% of a man’s total daily intake)
- Whole Grains (rice, quinoa, wheat, and oats)
- Dark Chocolate
Magnesium is a mineral that is vital for helping to main normal nerve and muscle functions as well as regulating glucose levels, keeping your heart beating, and keeps your bones.
The recommended daily allowance for magnesium is 400mg/day. You can get magnesium from a variety of different sources including the following:
- Dark Chocolate
- Nuts (almonds, cashews, brazil nuts)
- Legumes (lentils, beans, chickpeas, peas, and soybeans)
- Seeds (flax, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds)
- Whole Grains (quinoa and buckwheat)
- Some fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, and halibut
- Bananas (one large banana packs 37 mg, or 9% of the RDI)
- Leafy Greens (spinach, kale, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens)
Selenium is another vital nutrient that is best-known as an antioxidant and a catalyst for the production of active thyroid hormone according to NCBI. It is also very important for basic functions from reproduction to fighting infections.
It can be harder for some people who may be on dialysis, HIV positive, or have Crohn’s disease to absorb selenium, and in these cases, your doctor may recommend you take supplements to get your recommended daily intake.
With selenium, the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements has a wide range of daily recommended intakes depending on your age, gender, pregnancy, and lactation. Below you can see the chart that is presented on their website.
Let’s look at the top foods you can eat to get meet your daily selenium intake:
- Brazil Nuts (one of the highest sources of selenium. 1 large nut contains 140 micrograms or 254% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA))
- Fish – Yellowfin tuna is one of the best sources of selenium when it comes to fish. Packing in 92 mcg per 3oz., it beats the others such as oysters, clams, salmon, crab, and halibut which contain anywhere from 40-65 mcg
- Enriched Foods (bread, whole grain cereals, noodles)
- Meat such as beef, pork, turkey, ham, and chicken
- Eggs, milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese
- Brown Rice
- Sunflower seeds
- Baked beans and lentils
- Breakfast foods like oatmeal and bananas
- Vegetables such as spinach, mushrooms
According to Medline Plus, copper works with iron to help form red blood cells. It also helps to keep the blood vessels, nerves, immune system, and bones healthy.
Here are some quick facts about copper –
- Copper is necessary for a range of bodily functions.
- Copper deficiency is rare except in specific conditions, such as Menkes disease.
- Copper supplements are not usually necessary and may lead to an imbalance.
- A copper imbalance has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
- Anyone who is considering copper supplements should first speak to a doctor.
The recommended daily allowance for is around 900 mcg a day for adolescents and adults and include many other benefits such as cardiovascular health, bone health, collagen production, possible arthritis prevention, and may reduce the production of free radicals.
There are a variety of food sources to derive your copper from including the following:
- Oysters and other shellfish
- Whole grains
- Dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale
- Dried Fruits
- Organ meats such as kidney and liver
- Cashews and almonds
#7. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a fantastic antioxidant that helps fight off free radicals. It’s also important in the formation of red blood cells and helps the body use vitamin K.
In addition to this, there is a wide range of uses for vitamin E. Some people use vitamin E to help with treating and preventing diseases of the heart including hardening of the arteries.
Vitamin E is also used to help patients with diabetes complications, as well as helping to prevent cancers such as lung and oral cancers in smokers. It is also used for diseases of the brain and nervous system.
So as you can see, besides being vital for a healthy immune system, it is used in a variety of other ways.
The recommended daily allowance for vitamin E is found in the chart below published by the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.
You can find vitamin E in the following food sources:
- Wheat germ oil
- Sunflower seeds
- Sunflower Oil
- Peanut Butter
- Corn Oil
- Soybean Oil
For more details on the amounts of vitamin E in each food, see the below screenshot also from the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.
Iron is a major component in hemoglobin, and the major reason we need iron is that it transports oxygen throughout our bodies.
Many people that have experienced an iron deficiency complain of feeling lethargic and feeling completely exhausted.
When it comes to the immune system, iron is important when fighting off bacterial infections. Women need it more often. Iron and its sources are a part of pregnancy diet too. The recommended daily allowance is anywhere from 8mg – 11mg per day depending on age and gender.
Good sources of iron include the following:
- Beef, chicken, veal, or liver
- Clams, mussels, canned sardines, and oysters
- Halibut, salmon, tuna
- Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas, and soybeans)
- Pumpkin seeds (A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of pumpkin seeds contains 4.2 mg of iron, which is 23% of the RDI)
- Quinoa (One cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa provides 2.8 mg of iron, which is 15% of the RDI)
- Dark Chocolate
#9. Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 helps to improve immune response to the increase in production of antibodies.
Vitamin B6 often lacks in the average American diet but you can easily take supplements, or you can eat more of the following foods that contain vitamin B6:
- Ricotta Cheese
- Tuna (yellowfin and albacore)
- Chicken liver and beef, and salmon
- Carrots, sweet potatoes, and green peas
- Breakfast cereal
You will thank yourself for later for focusing on maintaining a healthy immune system. There are many fruits and vegetable in the store you can simply go out and purchase to boost your immune system.
Make sure you are always striving to get enough of the recommended daily allowances because if you do fall ill, your body will be prepared to stand and fight.
Jenny Travens –
Jenny is a creative writer who has many passions and interests. Health and wellness is one area where she likes to contribute as much as she can. She contributes to top blogs including OutreachCrayon & others.