Doctors and wellbeing experts swear by certain key nutrients to help support the immune system, particularly in the autumn and winter months, when viruses like colds and flu are doing the rounds. In theory, we should be able to get the majority of our nutrients from a healthy, balanced diet. But it isn’t always easy to do that and there are lots of reasons you may be missing out. Research suggests even fairly mild deficiency in essential immune nutrients may be enough to knock your defences. Use this checklist to work out whether you’re getting enough of each nutrient – and find out what to do if you’re not.
What is it? A mineral that plays an important role in a number of functions in the body. Zinc contributes to the activity of over 300 enzymes involved in digestion, cell growth and division, and metabolism. It’s known to support fertility, skin health and wound healing and it can help defend you against the effects of ageing, such as age-related macular degeneration, a common condition that affects the eyes. Zinc is also essential for a strong immune system.
Where is it found? Meat supplies about one-third of our zinc in the UK. It’s also found in dairy food, eggs, shellfish, wholegrain cereals, nuts and pulses.
Could I be missing out? Women should get 7mg of zinc daily and men 9.5mg. As you may have guessed from the list of sources above, you’re at risk of being low in zinc if you eat a mainly plant-based diet. It’s definitely possible to get the zinc you need but you do need to focus on eating plenty of foods such as beans, chickpeas, tofu, walnuts, chia seeds and linseeds.
How can I top up? Try The Bee’s Sneeze, which packs in zinc alongside other key immune nutrients.
What is it? The hero immunity vitamin we all know about, vitamin C is actually needed for a range of other functions as well, including tissue healing, the function and structure of blood vessels, and healthy skin.
Where is it found? In a range of plant foods, chiefly citrus fruit, peppers, kiwi fruit, berries and potatoes.
Could I be missing out? If you’re eating a balanced diet, it’s actually quite hard to miss out on vitamin C as it’s present in such a wide variety of fruit and veg. It isn’t stored in the body so anything you don’t use will pass out in urine. But you may have a higher requirement for vitamin C at certain times – for example, when you’re fighting off an infection – and some people like the insurance of taking a supplement.
How can I top up? Manuka Doctor High Strength Vitamin C packs a powerful C punch and also contains zinc to support your immune system.
What is it? Really a pro-hormone rather than a vitamin, vitamin D is manufactured in the skin from sunlight. It’s needed for healthy bones, teeth and muscles, and for a number of other functions in the body, including immunity.
Where is it found? We only get around 10 per cent of our vitamin D from food sources – which include oily fish and eggs – and rely on sun to make the rest. That’s a problem in cool, cloudy climates in the winter, as the sun isn’t strong enough for our bodies to manufacture the vitamin D we need.
Could I be missing out? In autumn and winter in the UK, that’s very likely, so it’s recommended we all take a supplement throughout the darker months. If you tend to cover up with clothing or you rarely go outside you may need a supplement throughout the year.
How can I top up? Government guidelines state we should supplement with 400iu of vitamin D from October to March. In other countries, the recommended intake is higher and some people choose to take bigger doses. It’s considered safe to take up to 4000iu of vitamin D. Try Manuka Doctor High Strength Vitamin D.
What is it? It contributes to the activity of enzymes involved in nervous system function. B12 is also needed for energy production and the development of healthy red blood cells, and is important for bringing down levels of homocysteine, a by-product of protein metabolism that can, at high levels, be linked to cardiovascular disease.  It also plays a role in immunity.
Where is it found? B12 is mainly found in meat, fish, dairy products and eggs. For those eating plant-based diets, yeast extract and fortified cereals are good sources.
Could I be missing out? Potentially, if your diet isn’t balanced. And you’re more likely to be low if you follow a plant-based diet.
How can I top up? B12 is one of the nutrients in Forget-Bee-Not, designed for optimal brain and nervous system health.
 Chandra RK. Nutrition and the immune system. Am J Clin Nutr. 1997 Aug;66(2):460S-463S