Boosting your Immune system during COVID- 19
No one food can decrease our risk of developing COVID-19 however maintain our health and well-being through making sensible food choices can help to strengthen our immune system which is our defence system enabling us to fight infection and illness. Micro-nutrients are essential in order to support us to fight infection, the key players are Vitamins A, B, C, D and E and the minerals Iron, Selenium and Zinc. Let’s look at each in turn!
Vitamin A maintains the structure of our cells and acts like a defence barrier against infection, it also helps us to produce antibodies that fight infection. Vitamin A is found in oily fish, egg yolks, cheese, tofu, nuts and wholegrains.
TOP TIP – Try to have 2 portions of fish per week one of which is oily e.g salmon, mackerel.
B vitamins help our bodies initiate a first response against infection. We get B vitamins from cereals, green leafy vegetables, fruit, nuts, fish, chicken and meat, eggs, nuts and seeds.
Vitamins C and E
When your body is fighting infection it results in something called oxidative stress which can damage our cells. Vitamins C and E help to protect against cell damage. Good source sources of vitamin C include oranges, lemons, limes, berries, kiwi fruit, broccoli, tomatoes. Good sources of Vitamin E include nuts, green leafy vegetables.
Top Tip – have a small glass of orange juice (120mls) with your breakfast, this counts as one of your 5 recommended portions of fruit and vegetables per day and helps you to absorb the iron from your food.
Some immune cells need vitamin D to help destroy pathogens that cause infection. Most of our Vitamin D is obtained from sunlight although our food can also provide us with some vitamin D including eggs, fish and some milks, food products (fortified with vitamin D). During the spring /summer we are more likely to get enough Vitamin D through getting outdoors however for those that have limited exposure a Vitamin D supplement is recommended – 10 micrograms of Vitamin D3 per day (available from pharmacies /supermarkets)
Iron, Zinc and Selenium
Iron, Zinc and Selenium are important minerals for immune health. Zinc supports our skin integrity and zinc and Selenium are also important Antioxidants – An Antioxidant is a substance that helps to defend your cells from damage. Selenium and Zinc are found in meat, oysters and seafood, chicken and nuts (especially brazil nuts) cereals and meat. Iron is found in meat, chicken, fish, lentils and pules and fortified breakfast cereals.
How can the gut microbiome help my immune system?
Having plenty of good gut bacteria helps to create a healthy gut microbiome, these good gut bacteria help to protect the lining of our gut against potential invaders and they also help us to digest and absorb our food effectively. We can boost our gut microbiome by consuming wholegrains and plenty of fruit and vegetables. Some tips include choosing wholegrain bread and cereal, adding pulses to meals e.g chick peas to curry, baked beans on toast, adding kidney beans to mince. Although evidence is as yet not conclusive consuming fermented foods has also been found to help support our gut health.
Putting it all together !
Aim for all your meals to feed and nourish your body. Include a source of carbohydrate (brown rice, pasta, wholegrain bread, sweet potato, and quinoa) at each meal along with lean protein e.g. meat, fish, pulses and lentils, eggs or tofu and plenty of fruit and vegetables. Fruit and vegetables are important to maintain our immunity and mental health and well-being. Set yourself a goal to make sure that at least half your plate at each meal is filled with vegetables or include some tinned fruit in natural juice with yoghurt after your meals, add fresh fruit to cereal or porridge etc. Make this a time where you focus on improving your nutritional health – one small change can make a huge difference!
Stay Resilient, keep smiling, we are all here to support one another