The coronavirus presents many uncertainties, and none of us can completely eliminate our risk of getting COVID-19. But one thing we can do is eat as healthily as possible. If we do catch COVID-19, our immune system is responsible for fighting it. Research shows improving nutrition helps support optimal immune function. Micronutrients essential to fight infection include vitamins A, B, C, D, and E, and the minerals iron, selenium, and zinc. Here’s what we know about how these nutrients support our immune system and the foods we can eat to get them.
1. Vitamin C
Good ol’ vitamin C is known as ascorbic acid, and is popular for a reason: it’s great for us. ‘Vitamin C is essential to boost the immune system, Yalda T Alaoui, founder of Eat Burn Sleep tells us. ‘Focus on whole foods as juicing makes for a huge nutrient loss. Raw apples, carrots, crudités are packed with vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants. ‘In a supplement form, liposomal vitamin C is more effective as it is slow delivery.’ Other foods rich in vitamin C include lemons, oranges, broccoli, bell peppers, kiwi and papaya, and more.
2. B vitamins
B vitamins, particularly B6, B9, and B12, contribute to your body’s first response once it has recognized a pathogen. They do this by influencing the production and activity of “natural killer” cells. Natural killer cells work by causing infected cells to “implode”, a process called apoptosis. At a football match, this role would be like security guards intercepting wayward spectators trying to run onto the field and disrupt play.
3. Vitamin A
Vitamin A maintains the structure of the cells within the skin, tract, and gut. This forms a barrier and is your body’s first line of defense. If fighting infection was sort of a football, vitamin A would be your forward line.
We also need vitamin A to assist make antibodies that neutralize the pathogens that cause infection. this is often like assigning more of your team to focus on an opposition player who has the ball, to stop them scoring.
Vitamin A is found in oily fish, egg yolks, cheese, tofu, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes.
Further, vegetables contain beta-carotene, which your body can convert into vitamin A. Beta-carotene is found in leafy green vegetables and yellow and orange vegetables like pumpkin and carrots.
‘This is important for a healthy system,’ says Melissa Snover, founder, and CEO of Nourished. ‘A lack of zinc can make an individual more vulnerable to disease and illness. This essential nutrient helps maintain the body’s ability to form new cells and enzymes, process carbohydrate, fat, and protein in food and also increases the speed of healing muscles and wounds. ‘Some evidence also suggests that zinc is useful within the prevention of colds and viruses and minimizes symptoms for allergy and pollinosis sufferers.’ Sounds pretty great to us, but which foods contain copious amounts of zinc? If you’re a meat-eater, good news: red meats are particularly high in zinc, as are shellfish and eggs. Vegans, choose nuts, whole grains, and legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans).
5. Vitamins E
When your body is fighting an infection, it experiences what’s called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress results in the assembly of free radicals which may pierce cell walls, causing the contents to leak into tissues and exacerbating inflammation.
Vitamin E help protect cells from oxidative stress.
Ginger may be a popular natural remedy for stomach aches, nausea, and diarrhea. it’s widely considered a superfood thanks to the varied minerals and vitamins it contains, like potassium, copper, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, niacin and vitamin C. It also contains bioactive components that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects against joint pain caused by osteoarthritis, atrophic arthritis, and gout.
Before it became a staple in cooking, garlic was actually used for medicinal purposes. From manganese to vitamin B6 and C, also as selenium and fiber, it’s high in immune-boosting compounds. ‘Garlic may be a potent anti-viral, anti-fungal agent, and eating it raw, or as an uncooked puree alongside your normal food (add it to salad dressings) will wipe-out most miscreants,’ says Sara. One study, that saw participants eat garlic or a placebo, saw 63% of these who ate garlic recover faster and fewer likely to urge a recurrent cold.
These popular nuts are high in vitamin E, which fortifies the system . Almonds also contain zinc, a mineral that studies have linked to fewer colds and quicker recoveries. Keep a bag of almonds within the pantry and grab a couple to eat as a snack. They’re full of protein, fiber and healthy fats to stay you feeling full until your next meal. you’ll also toss them into salads, homemade granola or trail mix.
Broccoli is a nutrient-dense cruciferous veggie rich in vitamins A, C and E. Consuming raw broccoli yields a higher vitamin C content, though cooking it slightly releases more vitamin A.
Mushrooms are loaded with selenium, a mineral that protects the body from infection, as well as zinc and vitamins B and D. (The body makes vitamin D when the skin is exposed to the sun, but most people need to get some of this nutrient through diet as well.) Grilling portobello mushroom caps like steaks is a favorite recipe for vegetarians and for meatless Mondays. You can also include mushrooms in casseroles or roast them on their own as a simple side dish.
Raw honey, which undergoes less processing than traditional honey, contains more antioxidants and antibacterial compounds. These compounds help stimulate immune cells and fight allergies.
Starting your day with a bowl of oatmeal topped with seeds and berries are often a robust immunity booster. One cup of oatmeal offers myriad antioxidants and polyphenols and 2–3mg of zinc, almost 25% of your daily needs. Zinc helps support the system by limiting inflammation which will be damaging and helps to fight infections by aiding the event of white blood cells. Oats also offer beta-glucan (a sort of dietary fiber), which may help lower cholesterol and strengthen the system.