Your immune system protects your body from foreign invaders and potentially harmful substances to help you fight off infections and diseases. This process involves a variety of organs, cells and tissues that need different vitamins and minerals to function properly and stay healthy.
Vitamin C helps your body create white blood cells, which are produced in your bone marrow. When you are exposed to a potentially harmful substance, your bone marrow releases white blood cells into your bloodstream, where they attach to the invaders and attempt to destroy them. To ensure that your body can successfully create white blood cells, women should consume 75 milligrams of vitamin C and men should consume 90 milligrams of vitamin C daily. The best sources of vitamin C include orange juice, grapefruit juice, whole oranges, whole grapefruit, peppers, broccoli, potatoes and tomatoes.
Zinc contributes to the formation of white blood cells and helps enzymes repair your skin and allow your wounds to heal. Open wounds increase your susceptibility to infection because they give foreign invaders an additional avenue into your body. Increased healing time can help you fight off the possibility of developing an infection. Adult men should consume 11 milligrams of zinc and adult women should consume 8 milligrams of zinc daily. The best sources of zinc include red meat, seafood and whole grains.
Vitamin A aids in the synthesis of a specific white blood cell called a lymphocyte. Lymphocytes directly attack harmful substances and help your immune system produce antibodies, which attack potentially harmful substances and protect your body from infection. Vitamin A also ensures that your skin stays healthy and allows your body to form mucus membranes. Your skin protects your organs from infection, while mucus membranes trap any invaders that gain access to your body and prevent them from causing an infection.
To ensure that vitamin A can successfully contribute to the synthesis of lymphocytes and keep your mucus membranes healthy, men should consume 900 micrograms per day and women should consume 700 micrograms per day. The best sources of vitamin A include milk, cheese, spinach, carrots, eggs and sweet potatoes. Fortified cereals are often enriched with synthetic forms of vitamin A.
Your body constantly breaks down white blood cells and creates new ones. Vitamin D decreases the rate at which white blood cells are destroyed and removed from your body. This decreased rate of destruction does not affect the rate at which white blood cells at which white blood cells are created, however. Instead, it allows your body to increase its white blood cell count, increasing your immune system’s ability to fight off infections. Adults require 5 to 15 micrograms of dietary vitamin D every day, depending on their age and sunlight exposure. Dietary sources of vitamin D include fortified milk, yogurt and fortified cereals.
- Kids Health: Immune System
- "Nutrition and You"; Joan Salge Blake; 2008
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Higher Serum Vitamin D Concentrations are Associated with Longer Leukocyte Telomere Length in Women
- sick woman image by forca from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.