“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is certainly more than just a saying. Our immune system plays an essential role in protecting us against common everyday bacteria and also help us in our recovery from injuries. Our dietary habits and what we feed our body may help to heighten our body defences and fight off harmful organisms.

We have learnt in the first part of the article, Vitamins and Minerals that Keeps Your Immunity Going (I), the types of vitamins that help to build up our immune system. However, there are also other nutrient that help to bolster your immune system.

Here are 3 types of minerals and nutriments that keep your immune system going strong. 

Zinc is responsible for a number of processes in our body as it helps to stimulate the activity of at least 100 different enzymes. Zinc is considered as an “essential trace nutrient” as your body is able to reap a lot of benefit with just a small intake of it. Some of the processes where Zinc plays a key role are gene expression, immune function, protein production, DNA synthesis as well as growth and development. Zinc is also often use to accelerate wound healing such as treatment for ulcers, burns and other skin injuries. 

The recommended dosage of Zinc for adults male is 11mg and female, 8mg daily. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding will need at least 11mg to 12mg of Zinc daily.

Food that are rich in Zinc: 

  • Shellfish (i.e. Oysters , Crab and Lobsters)
  • Red Meat (i.e. Beef, Lamb and Pork)
  • Legumes (i.e. Lentils, Beans and Chickpeas) 
  • Mushrooms
  • Potatoes
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Whole Grains (i.e. Rice, Wheat, Oats and Quinoa) 
  • Eggs
  • Milk and Cheese
  • Dark Chocolates 

Tips: Zinc can be beneficial for inflammatory acne and related scarring due to its anti-inflammatory effects. Topical zinc can be used to treat mild acne. 

Fun fact: Do you know that Zinc is essential for your taste and smell? One of the enzymes crucial for the proper function of these two senses is dependent on zinc. A zinc deficiency can reduce your ability to taste and smell. 

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Carotenoids are the pigments in plants, algae and photosynthetic bacteria which contributes to their bright red, orange and yellow colours. There are many types of Carotenoids and some of them can be converted into vitamin A when it is released in the body. Vitamin A is one of the essential nutrients that help to train and maintain, ensuring a normal function of your immune system as a whole. Carotenoids is best absorbed through a source of fats as they are fat-soluble compounds. Carotenoid are best consumed naturally in food sources for the best antioxidant effects. Supplements are not necessary as they contains high amount of Vitamin A, which are usually only meant for people suffering from vitamin A deficiency. 

The recommended dosage of Carotenoids for adults, both male and female is between 6mg - 15mg, and 3mg - 6mg for children daily.

Do also note that the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A (Retinol) by Singapore’s HPB for adults is 750mcg per day and lactating women is 1200mcg per day

Food that are rich in Carotenoids: 

  • Pumpkins
  • Carrots
  • Bell Peppers
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Yam
  • Tomatoes
  • Papaya
  • Tangerines
  • Kale
  • Mangoes
  • Winter Squash

Tips: Cooking and chopping carotenoid-rich foods in oil generally increases its bioavailability. Hence, it is best to eat carotenoid-rich vegetables cooked instead of raw. 

Fun fact:  In this new age of technology, we often find ourselves staring at our phone screens and computers for a long period of time daily. Long-term blue light exposure results in macular degeneration; degeneration of the centre of our eye retina. Carotenoids found in the retina will help to absorb blue light and protect the healthy cells in your eyes. Having carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin may decrease your risk of macular degeneration by 40% and slow or halt any current eye damage!

Omega 3-Fatty Acids is no stranger and has been commonly tied to improving heart health. So much so that its other health benefits are often overlooked. Omega 3-Fatty Acids also helps to fight inflammation and in recent research, have shown to contribute much more to the immune system and not just being immunosuppressive. New findings have shown that Omega 3-Fatty Acids enhances the activity of white blood cells, which are cells of the immune system that fights off infectious diseases and foreign invaders. 

To breakdown the recommended dosage of this superfood, it is important to first understand that there are different types of Omega 3-Fatty Acids. The common known ones are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). In total, both male and female should take in between 250mg – 500mg of EPA and DHA Omega 3-Fatty Acids.  Higher doses of EPA and DHA combined up to 5g a day seems to be safe but it is recommended to seek your doctors advice for doses higher than 3,000mg a day.

It is recommended for ladies who are pregnant or breastfeeding to have an average intake of 300mg Omega 3 Fatty-Acids but out of the 300mg, 200mg should be DHA concentrated. When taking Omega 3 Fatty-Acids supplements, it is important to look out for one with higher DHA than EPA. Do also take note that while cod liver oil is high in Omega 3 Fatty-Acids, it also contains high dosage of vitamin A. A high dosage of Vitamin A may impair fetal development. Therefore, it is not recommended for pregnant ladies to take more than 1 teaspoon (4ml) of cod liver oil per day.

Food that are rich in Omega 3-Fatty Acids: 

  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Cod liver oil
  • Sardines
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Soybeans

Tips:  Omega 3-Fatty Acids are best taken alongside a meal to maximise its absorption into your body. Taking fish oil together with a good source of fat would enhance its effectiveness. If you are prone to skip breakfast or consume low-fat breakfast, it is best to take your Omega 3 supplement at the later part of the day with a fat-containing meal. Taking the supplement at the start of your meal can help to reduce the risk of acid reflux and indigestion from the oil.  

Fun fact:  Omega 3-Fatty Acids is also a major brain food. The Omega 3 can help to fight depression and anxiety and studies have suggest that this supplement can reduce the frequency of mood swings and decrease violent behaviour. In addition, it can also reduce symptoms of ADHD in children by decreasing hyperactivity, restlessness and aggression while improving inattention and task completion. And wait, there is still more! There have been research that shows links to how the supplement can decrease age-related mental decline and reduce the risk of Alzheimer disease. Let’s not underestimate this immune booster!

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Do you know that the key to building your immune defence also lies in your gut health? 

The gut is where your immune system and bacteria meets. Your gut houses a vast and complex ecosystem of microorganism, which contains both the good and bad bacteria. Approximately 70% of cells that are contributing to your immune system is found in your gut. Now it is getting clearer how your gut health and immunity are interlinked.

The essential task of our gut and immune system is to maintain a balance between reaction and tolerance. Your gut effectively teaches your immune system how to respond to different toxins and pathogens. Therefore, your gut health will affect how your immune system respond to foreign microorganisms and viruses entering your body. 

Protecting your gut and keeping it healthy in tip-top form will allow your immune system to be better at fighting and resisting infections. 

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Having good eating habits and diet ensures your body get the nutrients that you need. However, most of us often fail to meet the dietary recommendations due to various external reasons. Supplements may help us to meet that nutritional gaps and enhance the nutrients density in our body. Understanding what is good for your body can help you be better at maintaining it. Aside from having a balanced diet and supplements, our lifestyle is also another essential factor that contributes to our immunity. Elements such as getting enough rest, monitoring your stress levels and exercising also play a part. Check out what other habitual changes you can make to keep your immune system strong as well.

*Please note that some supplements may not be appropriate for people who are taking certain medication or experiencing certain health conditions. Do always check with your healthcare provider before embarking on any supplement plans if you are in doubt. 

Other recommended immune support supplements: 

Article reviewed by Ms Bibi Chia, Principal Dietitian, Raffles Medical.

Images are for illustration purposes only