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What Vitamins Help Boost Your Immune System?

| By Jerry Shaw
What Vitamins Help Boost Your Immune System?
Vitamins in food or supplements protect the immune system. Photo Credit vitamins image by Andrey Kiselev from Fotolia.com

Overview

Vitamins have properties to help fight off a variety of illnesses and protect the body from damage to cells. Many foods contain vitamins that protect the immune system. Although many dietitians recommend getting vitamins from the diet, taking vitamin supplements can be a helpful and easy way to absorb the vitamin into the body if particular foods are not available. Some vitamins have more immune protection power than others.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A, found in beta-carotene, has antioxidant properties that protect cells from damage caused by oxidation. This protection helps prevent degenerative diseases that occur during the aging process. Vitamin A also protects vision and helps maintain skin, soft tissue and mucous membranes. Cod and halibut fish oils, meat, kidney, liver, eggs, milk and cheese contain vitamin A. Eat these foods in moderation because some also contain saturated fat and cholesterol, MedlinePlus notes.

Vitamin B Complex

B complex vitamins, also called the B vitamins, help with growth and development by turning food into energy to fuel bodily functions. B vitamins protect people from many health problems, according to the American Cancer Society. Vitamin B9, also known as folic acid, may reduce the risk of some cancers. People with low levels of folic acid have an increased risk of certain cancers. Other B vitamins may also offer protection against cancer, but more research is necessary. Sources of vitamin B complex include vegetables, liver, eggs, seeds and yeast.

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Vitamin C

People need continuous supplies of vitamin C, a water-soluble vitamin necessary for growth and development, according to MedlinePlus. Excess amounts of vitamin C leave the body through urine. Getting continuous amounts of vitamin C helps with wound healing. Vitamin C has antioxidant properties to block damage from oxidation that can lead to inflammatory conditions, heart disease and cancer. Vitamin C also protects against toxic chemicals and air irritants. Some people believe high doses of vitamin C can protect the body from colds and flu, but research continues on this. High sources of vitamin C include strawberries, citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, cantaloupe, green peppers, red peppers, broccoli, leafy green vegetables, sweet potatoes and white potatoes. Other fruits that contain substantial vitamin C include raspberries, cranberries, blueberries, pineapples, mango and watermelon. Vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbages and winter squash, also contain vitamin C.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium and plays a major role in prevention of bone degeneration diseases, such as osteoporosis. Vitamin D plays vital roles in strengthening immune function and reducing inflammation. The vitamin generally absorbs into the body from sunlight. Many people get enough sun exposure for adequate doses of vitamin D. The best food sources include salmon, tuna, mackerel and fish liver oils. Beef liver, cheese and egg yolks contain small amounts. Manufacturers produce some foods fortified with added vitamin D. They include milk, breakfast cereals, orange juice, yogurt and margarine.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E ties up free radicals, which result from oxidation and cause genetic damage and cell death. The vitamin may help provide protection against heart disease and cancer. Some research has shown that people with higher levels of vitamin E have a lower risk of heart disease, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The vitamin may also help prevent some cancers, but studies continue. Adequate amounts of vitamin E prevent liver and kidney problems. Diabetics may benefit from vitamin E because many people with diabetes have low levels of antioxidants. The vitamin may help control blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels. Vitamin E is plentiful in wheat germ. Other sources include liver, eggs, nuts, sunflower seeds, dark green leafy vegetables, greens, avocados, asparagus, yams and vegetable oils like olive, corn, safflower, soybean, cottonseed or canola oil.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K may protect people from liver and prostate cancer and calcification of the arteries. The vitamin is essential in the blood clotting process to keep blood flow functioning normally following injury. By helping to prevent calcification in the arteries, vitamin K protects against heart disease. The buildup of calcium and other substances in the arteries can lead to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, which causes heart disease. Studies reveal vitamin K may prevent calcium buildup, according to the George Matelijan Foundation.

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author image Jerry Shaw
Jerry Shaw writes for Spice Marketing and LinkBlaze Marketing. His articles have appeared in Gannett and American Media Inc. publications. He is the author of "The Complete Guide to Trust and Estate Management" from Atlantic Publishing.
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