The big topic that is on everyone's mind is the coronavirus. It presents many uncertainties, and none of us can completely eliminate our risk of getting COVID-19. But we reduce the impact that the virus can have on our body and one thing to do is eat as healthily as possible. Health looks different person to person, so be sure to listen to your body and give it what it needs.
If we do catch COVID-19, just like any other virus, our immune system is responsible for fighting it. Research shows improving nutrition helps support an optimal immune system.
Micronutrients essential to fight infection include vitamins A, B, C, D, and E, and the minerals iron, selenium, and zinc. This is a fact.
Take a look below how each can benefit you:
Vitamin A maintains the structure of the cells in the skin, respiratory tract and gut. This forms a barrier and is your body’s first line of defence.
We also need vitamin A to help make antibodies which neutralise the pathogens that cause infection.
Vitamin A is found in oily fish, egg yolks, broccoli, mango, dried apricots, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes and black-eyed peas (let's get it started in here... sorry couldn't help myself)
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, sweet potatoes and carrots.
Women who are pregnant should avoid taking Vitamin A supplements or contact their lead maternity carer (LMC) before doing so.
B vitamins, particularly B6, B9 and B12, contribute to your body’s first response once it has recognised a pathogen.
The human body is unable to make vitamin B and obtain it mostly from its diet. B vitamins play an important role when it comes to our health and the functionality of our immune system's response. Because bacteria can synthesise vitamin B, our immune system uses this as a point of difference to recognise an infection.
Once a pathogen is recognised the production and activity of “natural killer” cells are influenced to get to play. Natural killer cells work by causing infected cells to “implode”, a process called apoptosis.
B6 is found in cereals, legumes, green leafy vegetables, fruit, nuts, fish, chicken and meat.
B9 (folate) is abundant in green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds and is added to commercial bread-making flour.
B12 (cyanocobalamin) is found in animal products, including eggs, meat and dairy, and also in fortified soy milk (check the nutrition information panel). For those that are plant-based, look for foods that are fortified with vitamin b-12 such as milk products, yeast spreads, nutritional yeast flakes and breakfast cereals
Vitamins C and E
When your body is fighting an infection, it experiences what’s called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress leads to the production of free radicals which can pierce cell walls, causing the contents to leak into tissues and exacerbating inflammation.
Vitamin C and Vitamin E help protect cells from oxidative stress.
Vitamin C also helps clean up this cellular mess by producing specialised cells to mount an immune response, including neutrophils, lymphocytes and phagocytes.
Good sources of vitamin C include oranges, lemons, limes, berries, kiwifruit, broccoli, tomatoes and capsicum.
Vitamin E is found in nuts, green leafy vegetables and vegetable oils.
Some immune cells need vitamin D to help destroy pathogens that cause infection.
Although sun exposure allows the body to produce vitamin D, food sources including eggs, fish and some kinds of milk and margarine brands may be fortified with Vitamin D (meaning extra has been added).
Most people need just a few minutes outdoors most days. Take a few moments each day to take you shoes off find some earth and ground and sun gaze to get your daily dose of Vit D, you will feel better for it.
People with vitamin D deficiency may need supplements. A review of 25 studies found vitamin D supplements can help protect against acute respiratory infections, particularly among people who are deficient.
Iron, zinc, selenium
We need iron, zinc and selenium for immune cell growth, among other functions.
Iron helps kill pathogens by increasing the number of free radicals that can destroy them. It also regulates enzyme reactions essential for immune cells to recognise and target pathogens.
Drinking plenty of water. Water intake can have many positive benefits for your immune system, including but not limited to aiding in digestion and preventing possible pathogens like a virus or bacteria from getting into the eyes, nose and mouth. Staying hydrated helps all the body’s defences function properly.
Prioritizing exercise. Moderate-intensity exercise can help maintain a healthy immune system. But, an exercise that’s too intense, especially if you’re already feeling under the weather, can have the opposite effect and lower immunity.
Getting enough sleep. If you get enough sleep, it will help your body fight off sickness and help succeed at the tips mentioned above. Adults should get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If you're feeling under the weather, put your sheets in the wash, get your favourite Pyjamas on and have a marathon of your favourite box set or Netflix series.
Check out my Immune-Boosting Creamy Tomato and Hummous Recipe on my website and stay safe everybody!
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