You Are What You Eat: Select Immunity-Boosting and Infection-Fighting Foods
With the COVID-19 epidemic, we need to strengthen our immune systems as much as possible now more than ever.
One way you can positively engage in improving your health and fitness is to consume a diet rich in immune-boosting nutrients.
When nutrients come from natural foods like fruits and vegetables rather than refined foods or supplements, the body incorporates and consumes them more effectively. It's more important to have a range of these foods and nutrients in your diet than to rely on only one or two in massive amounts. The more fun your plate is, the better, with a range of options from the list below.
1. Vitamin C – Citrus Fruits & GreensVitamin C-rich foods including grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, sweet red pepper, broccoli, strawberries, kale, and kiwifruit are thought to boost white blood cell development, which is essential for combating infection.
2. Beta-Carotene – Root Vegetables & Greens
Vitamin A, which is converted from beta-carotene, is an anti-inflammatory vitamin that will help the antibodies react to toxins like viruses. Beta-carotene is abundant in carrots, lettuce, cabbage, apricots, sweet potato, squash, and cantaloupe. Since vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, eating foods high in healthy fats can help you absorb it. Carrots with conventional hummus or a spinach salad with avocado or olive oil in the dressing are also excellent immune-boosting combinations.
3. Vitamin E – Nuts, Seeds & Greens
4. Antioxidants – Green Tea
Green tea is high in antioxidants, which have been shown to help the immune system. It also produces amino acids that can help the T-cells produce germ-fighting compounds, which decreases inflammation and helps you combat infection. Green tea is sold in a number of ways, including hot, cold, and matcha powder.
5. Vitamin D – Sunshine, Fish & Eggs
Vitamin D is essential for immune function and aids in the regulation of the immune response in the body. Salmon, dried fish, egg yolks, and mushrooms are all rich in vitamin D. With only 13-15 minutes of sunlight three days a week, the body will synthesise vitamin D.
6. Probiotics, Gut Health & ImmunityLive cultures, also known as probiotics, are used in yoghurt, Kombucha, Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Pickles, Tempeh (Fermented Soybeans), and some varieties of cheese. They are believed to help activate the immune system to combat disease. The microbiota, or "healthy bacteria," in your digestive system regulates how other foods and bad bacteria are absorbed in your body, rendering probiotics one of the most significant immune functions. The microbiome assists in the absorption of the nutrients mentioned in the rest of this paper, as well as serving as a second line of protection against dangerous bacteria and fungi.
7. Garlic – T-Cell BoosterGarlic produces compounds that aid the immune system in battling germs in a number of ways, including activating disease-fighting cells and regulating the immune system. It will help the immune system function at its best by increasing the output of virus-fighting T-cells and decreasing the amount of stress hormones the body produces.
8. Vitamin B-6 – Lymphatic System Boost & Red Blood CellsVitamin B-6 is essential for the development of new, healthy red blood cells as well as the proper functioning of the lymphatic system. Vitamin B-6 can be found in chicken, turkey, cold-water fish (salmon and tuna), chickpeas (traditional hummus), bananas, enriched breakfast cereal, and nutritional yeast.
9. Water – Hydration & ImmunityWater aids in the production of lymph, which is responsible for transporting white blood cells and other immune system cells in the body. Cucumbers, watermelon, and celery are only a few examples of foods that are rich in water. If plain water isn't your thing, consider a cup of green tea with ginger, watermelon, cucumber, or mint-infused water for an immune-boosting cocktail. Consider proper hydration as a way to help immune-boosting nutrients get to where they need to go in the body (cells).
10. Zinc – Shellfish, Poultry, and Beans
Zinc is needed for immune system cells to work properly. Zinc is a mineral that neither retains nor develops in our bodies. Though oysters have the highest zinc content of any food, shellfish (crab, clams, lobster, and mussels), poultry (chicken or turkey), red meat, and beans are all good sources. Zinc is also present in fortified cereals and certain breads, but animal-based diets have the highest absorption.
Tammy Ward, RD, a specialist in oncology nutrition at the University of Cincinnati Cancer Center, shares,
“Having the tools you need, such as the information provided here, gives you the framework to plan the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of eating to support a healthy immune system. As you take stock of this information, consider layering the practice of mindful eating to your plan. Mindful eating is a way to be present, focused and tuned in to the pleasure of eating. This practice can also help decrease stress which can adversely affect your immune system. As you sit down to enjoy your meals, possibly with friends or family members, take time to consider where your food came from, the journey the food took to get to your plate, its taste, texture, and aroma. The practice of mindful eating helps us slow down, stay in the moment and reconnect to the food that fuels our bodies. Bon appetit!”