Living in the shadow of Covid-19 for the past few years has brought our immune systems into sharper focus than ever. With inflammation, a key driver of sluggish immune health.
Here are my top tips for maintaining a healthy immune system:
1. Drink a daily glass of 100 per cent fruit juice, for example a glass of pure orange juice. The two stand-out flavonoids in orange juice are hesperidin and naringenin which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities. One benefit of juice over whole fruits is that the flavonoids are absorbed more efficiently by the body which is why a glass of juice complements whole fruits and vegetables in your diet. This is because the slightly higher fibre content of whole fruits (less than 1g) slows down and inhibits polyphenol absorption – so you end up with less in the blood proportionally
2. Don’t just aim for five-a-day but boost this to eight-a-day and include all the colours of the rainbow to maximise the range of anti-inflammatory plant polyphenols, like hesperidin, narirutin, anthocyanins and kaempferol. Both juices and whole fruits and vegetables, as well as frozen, tinned, and dried options can contribute to your eight daily portions.
3. Keep stress to a minimum by taking time out from work, family, and screens to relax, and grab some thinking space. Studies show that bouts of stress release the inflammatory marker, cortisol, which can even be detected within minutes in saliva after a stressful experience.
4. Avoid pro-inflammatory habits like smoking, drinking excess alcohol and diets high in saturated fats and ultra-processed carbs. Choosing natural foods, such as fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meats, and whole grains is a great start.
5. Stick to a healthy body weight, particularly weight around the middle, by taking regular exercise and choosing a balanced diet and calorie intake. Excess body fat is pro-inflammatory and seriously affects your ability to fight off infections.
Dr Carrie Ruxton is a dietician for The Fruit Juice Science Centre and is the author of the report Inflammunity: How Hidden Inflammation Is Harming Our Immune Response - commissioned on behalf of the Fruit Juice Science Centre: