Fruits and Vegetables Every Day!

Nutrition plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy immune system. Listed below are some nutrition principles and suggestions for dietary supplements to improve health and strengthen the immune system.

The vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals in vegetables and fruits form the foundation for protection against disease. Cooking and processing destroys many nutrients, so fresh, raw vegetables are preferable to cooked, frozen, or canned foods.

Unfortunately, modern farming methods and chemical fertilizers have eradicated most of the nutrients in the soil. Vegetables grown today are lacking adequate levels of many nutrients, and food processing and storage destroy even more. While we need to eat fruits and vegetables for the protective chemicals and fiber they contain, often it is impossible to get adequate nutrient intake from them alone due to their deteriorated nutritional state. A high quality multi-vitamin/mineral supplement ensures that you are getting sufficient levels of important vitamins and minerals that are vital to health and the functioning of the immune system. All supplements are not created equal, however. Most of the one-a-day type vitamins available at drug stores are made of cheap ingredients that your body can’t absorb. The higher quality forms of minerals take up more physical space in a pill, so a better quality product will require that you take a few tablets two or three times a day.

Contrary to popular belief, all fats are not bad for you. There are two kinds of fatty acids (linoleic acid, an omega-6, and alpha-linolenic acid, and omega-3) that your body can’t make and are absolutely essential to a host of functions in your body. Cold water fish like salmon, trout, and tuna are good sources of omega-3 fats, as is organic flaxseed oil. I recommend a teaspoon two or three times a day. Easy sources of omega-6 fats are safflower and sunflower oil, evening primrose oil, and corn or walnut oil. Most oils are available in liquid or gelcap form. IMPORTANT: All oils must be in certified organic, unprocessed form. Oils that have been heat treated lose their healthy properties and are actually very bad for you. Some fats to stay away from: Saturated fats (such as those found in fatty meats and whole dairy products), and Trans-fatty acids, which are damaging fats produced by heating or hydrogenating fats. These killers are found in margarine, fried food, and many commercial baked goods.

Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals, and other substances that protect you against molecules called free radicals that attack healthy cells. In todays world, we are exposed to unprecedented levels of dangerous carcinogens like pollution, pesticides, ozone depletion, and food additives that take their toll on our bodies. Antioxidants are your keys to defending yourself. Below is an outline for a basic antioxidant supplementation program.

Vitamin C: 2000-6000mg in divided doses throughout the day – big doses can upset your stomach if you’re not used to them. I suggest the mixed ascorbate form. Most vitamin C supplements are just ascorbic acid, which is perfectly bioavailable, but large doses can elevate blood acid levels over time. Mineral ascorbate form is pH neutral, and you get extra minerals to boot.

Vitamin E: 200-800 IU per day. Look for d-alpha tocopherol. Since vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin, you’ll get better absorption if you take it with some fat.

Zinc: 30 extra mg per day. Zinc oxide and zinc sulfate are cheap forms – look for zinc picolinate, zinc aspartate, or zinc ascorbate.

Selenium: 200-400 mcg daily. Use the L-selenomethionine form. Doses higher than 800 mcg can be toxic, so be sure to include the amounts in your multi-vitamins when determining your daily dose.

Coenzyme Q10: 30-60 mg per day. Older patients may want to take more, as the body’s ability to make CoQ10 declines with age.

Glutamine: L-glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in muscle tissue, and your immune system uses gobs of it when your body is under stress. Supplement with one or two grams of ornithine alpha-ketoglutarate (OKG) two or three times a day.

N-acetyl cysteine and L-methionine: These are two amino acids that help to protect the organs and detoxify harmful substances. They protect the body’s stores of glutathione, which is one of your body’s major endogenous antioxidants. These two amino acids are often packaged together, so use n-acetyl cysteine as your dosage guide: 50 to 350 mg daily.

Citrus bioflavonoids can block mutagenic changes that cause certain cancers. Look for a mixed bioflavonoid extract of 200-300 mg.

Dan DeFigio is certified as a personal trainer, nutrition couselor, post-rehab conditioning specialist, and continuing education provider. For information about continuing education workshops for NFPT CEUs, telephone (615) 383-9526 or visit


These resources are for the purpose of personal trainer growth and development through Continuing Education which advances the knowledge of fitness professionals. This article is written for NFPT Certified Personal Trainers to receive Continuing Education Credit (CEC). Please contact NFPT at 800.729.6378 or [email protected] with questions or for more information.