It might be safe to say that we’re all aware of the role our diet can play in our health, well-being, and even our mood; but do we all know how important getting the right amount of nutrients is to keep our immune system healthy? That’s right, a diet full of the correct nutrients can help towards fighting certain viruses, not just efficiently, but sometimes even faster.
Maintaining our immune system involves eating a healthy and balanced diet - which of course includes both macronutrients and micronutrients. And although, as the name suggests, we only need a small number of micronutrients, they still each play a crucial role in keeping our immune system functioning. Some of these important micronutrients include:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin E
What are the roles of micronutrients in the immune system?
While macronutrients such as proteins, fats, and carbohydrates are pretty much household names, some micronutrients aren’t as well known - but this doesn’t mean they’re any less important. In fact, according to Harvard Health Publishing, failing to get even the recommended small quantities of micronutrients can “virtually guarantee disease.” 
Some key micronutrients play crucial roles in our immune system, which of course is worth knowing more about!
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in keeping bones, teeth, muscles, and the immune system healthy. Studies have also shown that this micronutrient can help in controlling infections and in reducing inflammation.
According to the NHS, during the brighter, and sunnier months (namely the end of March through to September), it’s possible to get the correct amount of vitamin D through sunlight alone . That being said, many people don’t get the required amount - with it estimated that around 1 billion people worldwide actually have inadequate levels of vitamin D.
One of the best ways to know more about your vitamin D levels is through a test.
Vitamin B12 is more often than not found in animal products. This water-soluble vitamin plays a number of important roles in the body, including keeping the nervous system healthy and determining energy levels.
Health Harvard notes that vitamin B12 deficiencies can be quite slow to develop, and are often seen in those following a vegetarian diet or who may have undergone weight loss surgery . With this in mind, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your vitamin B12 levels in order to avoid potential complications in the future - this can be done with a simple test.
See also: Top Essential Vitamins and Minerals for Vegans
Vitamin E is another micronutrient that helps to maintain and strengthen the body’s immune system. This can be found in a number of different foods, including plant oils, nuts, seeds, and cereal products.
While vitamin E deficiency is quite rare, it can occur. The National Institutes for Health states that this deficiency can occur in those with diseases that inhibit their body’s ability to absorb fat such as Crohn’s disease or cystic fibrosis .
Copper is an essential mineral that your body needs in small amounts to help keep the body healthy - this includes adequate growth, the proper functioning of the immune system, and maintaining healthy bones.
Similar to vitamin E deficiency, copper deficiency is rare. When it does occur, the symptoms are in fact quite similar to vitamin B12 deficiency and they typically affect the person’s immune system and energy levels which explains the symptoms of fatigue and becoming sick often.
Selenium is what’s known as a trace mineral - these are minerals you only need a small amount of. This micronutrient helps in preventing cell damage as well as supporting the functioning of the immune, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems.
Most American adults obtain adequate amounts of selenium, but low levels are usually associated with muscle weakness, fatigue, and a weakened immune system. The most reliable way to know more about your selenium levels is through a test.
Zinc is an essential nutrient that affects multiple aspects of the immune system. It plays a vital role in the normal development and functioning of our cells and according to the National Institutes of Health, our immune systems essentially need zinc to do their job .
If you’re not getting enough zinc, you may experience symptoms such as impaired immune function, delayed healing of wounds, and possible eye and skin lesions.
See also: How Does Zinc Help the Body? Benefits, Sources and Intake
Helping the food we eat turn into energy, keeping the immune system strong, and regulating blood pressure is just a small portion of the important tasks that magnesium is involved in. To put the use of the word ‘small’ into perspective, it’s estimated that magnesium is involved in more than 300 chemical reactions in the body! 
It’s possible for people to experience magnesium deficiency due to certain health conditions or through a long-term low intake of this micronutrient. Some early signs can include fatigue, weakness, and nausea.
See also: What are the Benefits of Magnesium?
Can your diet support your immune function?
So, are there really certain foods that can support immune function? The truth is, to keep your immune function in tip-top shape; a balanced diet including a range of nutrients, regularly keeping your body moving, and keeping stress to a minimum is the most effective approach to support your immune system. In saying that, there are a number of nutrients that are believed to be critical for the growth and function of immune cells (many of which we mentioned above!), these include vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, selenium, iron, and protein.
It's important to remember that there are so many other factors that can negatively affect our immune system other than our diet, including:
- Older age
- Excess weight
- Chronic diseases
- Chronic stress
- Lack of good quality sleep
If you’re curious about your micronutrient levels and want to ensure your immune system is functioning the way it should, there’s no time like the present to find out more. The most reliable way to do this is through a test; this can be done with your doctor or from the comfort of your own home with an at-home lab test.
LetsGetChecked’s Micronutrient Test allows you to measure key nutrient levels and identify potential imbalances in each of the micronutrients we dealt with in this article! Online results will be available within 2-5 days and our dedicated medical team will be available to answer any questions you may have throughout the process.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Micronutrients have a major impact on health. Online: Health.harvard.edu
- NHS. Vitamin D. Online: NHS.uk
- Health Harvard Publishing. Vitamin B12 deficiency can be sneaky, harmful. Online: Health.harvard.edu
- National Institutes of Health. Vitamin E. Online: Ods.od.nih.gov
- National Institutes of Health. Zinc. Online: Ods.od.nih.gov
- National Institutes of Health. Magnesium. Online: Ods.od.nih.gov