Supporting the Immune System
Keeping the immune system strong is fundamental when fighting any infection. With the scare of the latest coronavirus outbreak, here are a few helpful guidelines:
Eat nutrient dense whole foods – what does this mean? Foods that do not come out from a packet and that have nutrient value. Not processed food. For example, a chicken breast with sweet potato, broccoli, chestnut mushrooms and green beans.
Simply put, this example would provide you with protein, magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, fibre, vitamin A, vitamin B-6, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin K. Quite amazing how many nutrients a simple meal can contain!
Cut out the sugar and refined starches – Why? Sugar and refined foods can supress the immune system many hours after eating. The body can become acidic and more receptive to the COVID-19 virus. Removing these foods will help your immune system to function effectively and improve your health generally. Eating plenty of vegetables or homemade broths aid the body to neutralise any acidity.
Ensure adequate protein intake – how much? Approximately a 2-4 ounce serving of clean animal protein like turkey, beef, eggs, chicken. If you are a vegetarian, then plant based proteins should be plentiful, legumes, nuts and seeds. Tofu and tempeh are also high protein alternative sources. Protein is critical for the immune system to function effectively.
Antioxidants – Keeps the gut healthy! Garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric, rosemary, oregano. Grow your own herbs and add to all meals, soups, dips and sauces – add to gravy for example. These antioxidants will give your body a wide spectrum of antimicrobial properties.
Fruit & Vegetables – how much? Half your dinner plate should be of fresh vegetables which will provide you with an abundance of vitamins and phytonutrients that will support the immune system. Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, peppers, squashes, sweet potato, broccoli and brussel sprouts are all high in nutrients. Aim for 2 cups of fruit, oranges and strawberries are high in vitamin C.
Fermented Foods – what are these? Eating unsweetened yogurt, miso, tempeh, kefir and sauerkraut are foods that will support your microbiome and immunity.
Fluids – what is best? Filtered water to sip throughout the day will keep you hydrated. Herbal teas and even homemade vegetable soups are all fluids that will support your body’s functions as well as the immune system.
Thinking of Supplementing?
If you are following a nutrient dense diet then supplementing shouldn’t be necessary. I would advise that you check with your health provider before taking any supplements to avoid any adverse reactions to medications, for example.
A multivitamin will help to support all your body’s day to day function. Look for a high quality, broad-spectrum multivitamin
Vitamin D – during the winter months in England, it is important that your levels of this vitamin are consumed. Vitamin D is converted in the body from the sun, 10 minutes every day without sunscreen.
Buffered Vitamin C – supports the immune system effectively.
Zinc Citrate – powerful immune supporting nutrient. Food with this nutrient is found in seafood such as oysters, pumpkin seeds and red meat.
Probiotics – for a health gut flora to protect from pathogens. Lactobacillus is one example of a probiotic.
Fish Oil – Remember the good old cod liver oil? Improves the immune system and for generally good health. High in vitamin A and D for immune protection.
I have been asked ‘what do I do if I cannot get any fresh fruit, vegetables or meat’. My advice is to purchase frozen and canned foods. Vegetables, fruits and meats are frozen when they are fresh so utilise these to make delicious recipes. Soups, stir fries and broths can all be made from frozen ingredients and add some fresh herbs to increase the nutritional value. Canned foods such as pilchards, sardines, mackerel, salmon and tuna have a good source of vitamin D. Canned beans and pulses can be added to casseroles and soups and there are many vegetarian recipes online that will include these. Dried pasta contains iron and magnesium and can be very fulfilling – add some defrosted seafood mix for a very satisfying meal!
This article is not providing medical advice but as a general guide. Please consult your health provider for further advice.