There are a number of immune system vitamins that give your immunity a little kick. The immune system is what enables your body to fight off colds, cancer and infections. Below are some of the little known immunity-enhancing vitamins and what foods contain the most of them.
1. Beta Carotene
Beta carotene and other carotenoids have antioxidant activity. Beta carotene stimulates the immune system and increases the number of cells that fight infection. Beta carotene is a precursor to vitamin A, another antioxidant which is also good for the immune system. Foods high in beta carotene include carrots, pumpkins and sweet potatoes.
Bioflavonoids are sometimes called vitamin P, though they are not true vitamins because they must be obtained through diet or supplementation. This is because the body does not manufacture or store them. Bioflavonoids help prevent viruses from getting through the capillary walls. Bioflavonoids are usually combined with the better-known immune enhancer, vitamin C, since they greatly enhance vitamin C's effects. Bioflavonoids are found in fruits such as cantaloupes, cherries, grapefruits, grapes, oranges and lemons.
3. Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin and an important antioxidant. It enhances white blood cell function, resistance to infection, and helps the skin and mucus membranes in their defense against infection. Foods especially high in vitamin A are carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, peaches and broccoli.
Zinc is a mineral that increases the amount of white blood cells and releases antibodies to help fight infection. Zinc is sometimes found in cold remedies at the drugstore. It can also be taken by itself as a supplement, or in a nasal spray. Consult with a doctor before using zinc nasal sprays, since some consumers reported a loss of smell after using the sprays. Zinc is found in meats, seafood and fortified cereals.
Selenium is another mineral with power to support the immune system. Selenium is sometimes combined with vitamin E or glutathione to promote a healthy heart, immune system and to prevent infections. Selenium may also keep viruses in the body from doing more damage than they normally do. Foods high in selenium are nuts, liver, fish, lentils and sunflower seeds.
6. B Vitamins
B vitamins are another important agent in helping the immune system. The B vitamins are usually taken together and are often referred to as "B complex". One of the more notable of the B vitamins, B12, helps white blood cells in their division, growth and multiplication. Folic acid is another B vitamin that helps maintain and develop the immune system. Foods high in B vitamins are liver, turkey, fish, lentils, bananas and potatoes.
7. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is an important but lesser-known immune system vitamin. It is a good antioxidant that's often combined with selenium for more protection. Vitamin E stimulates immune cells. The best food sources of vitamin E are seeds, oils and grains.
Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables can help you get the vitamins you need to help the immune system. Talk to your doctor about supplementing with vitamins if you feel you can't get enough through diet alone.