Antioxidants and Your Immune System: Super Foods for Optimal Health
Antioxidant Super Foods: How Much Do You Need?
For optimal health and immune functioning, you should eat the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of the antioxidant vitamins and minerals. That’s the amount of a vitamin or nutrient that you need to stay healthy and avoid a deficiency.
Here are the RDAs for some antioxidants:
Zinc: 11 milligrams for men, 8 milligrams for women; if you are a strict vegetarian, you may require as much as 50% more dietary zinc. That’s because your body absorbs less zinc when you have a diet rich in plant-based foods.
Selenium: 55 micrograms for men or women
Beta-carotene: There is no RDA for beta-carotene. But the Institute of Medicine says that if you get 3 to 6 milligrams of beta-carotene daily, your body will have the levels that may lower risk of chronic diseases.
Vitamin C: 90 milligrams for men, 75 milligrams for women; smokers should get extra vitamin C: 125 milligrams for men and 110 milligrams for women.
Vitamin E: 15 milligrams for men and women
How Foods Boost Immunity
Can’t you get antioxidants from taking a vitamin or a supplement? Yes, but you may be missing out on other nutrients that could strengthen the immune system. Foods contain many different nutrients that work together to promote health. For example, researchers delving into the mysteries of fruits and vegetables and the complex antioxidants they contain have discovered benefits of:
- Quercetin: a plant-based chemical (phytochemical) found in apples, onions, teas, red wines, and other foods; it fights inflammation and may help reduce allergies.
- Luteolin: a flavonoid found in abundance in celery and green peppers; it also fights inflammation, and one study showed it may help protect against inflammatory brain conditions like Alzheimer’s.
- Catechins: a type of flavonoid found in tea; catechins in tea may help reduce risk of heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
If you can’t get enough antioxidants in your diet by eating fresh produce, some experts recommend taking a multivitamin that contains minerals, too. But be cautious about taking individual immune system supplements to boost immunity. With antioxidants, as with most anything, moderation is key. Vitamins A and E, for example, are stored in the body and eliminated slowly. Getting too much can be toxic.