Support your immune system to fight off coronavirus

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.

Our immune system is responsible for fighting disease. Research shows improving nutrition helps support optimal immune function.

The main micro nutrients essential to fight infection include vitamins A, B, C, D, and E, and the minerals iron, selenium, and zinc.

Here’s how these nutrients can help to support our immune system and the foods you can eat to boost the absorption from a food as medicine approach.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A maintains the structure of the cells in the skin, respiratory tract and our gut. We also need vitamin A to help make antibodies which neutralise the pathogens that cause infection.

Vitamin A is found in oily fish such as salmon, egg yolks, tofu, nuts and seeds, leafy greens, orange, red and yellow food sources such as carrots and tomatoes.

B vitamins

B vitamins particularly B6, B9 and B12 contribute to protecting your body from DNA damage, thereby being able to detect unknown pathogens.

B6 is found in sunflower seeds, poultry, eggs, avocados and broccoli.

B9 (Folate) is found in leafy greens, lentils, mango, asparagus, broccoli and soy beans.

B12 is found in red meat, almonds, eggs and cheese as well as fortified grains.

Vitamin C and E

These important vitamins help to fight free radicals created by oxidative stress. When your body fights an infection it experiences what is called oxidative stress.

Vitamin C and E help to protect the cells from oxidative stress.

Vitamin C is found naturally in strawberries, tomatoes, citrus fruits and bell peppers.

Vitamin E is found in nuts and seeds, fatty fish such as salmon, avocado and olive oil.

Vitamin D

Also known as the sunshine vitamin as its produced in your skin as a response to sunlight. Perhaps the most vital are regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus and facilitating normal immune system function.

Vitamin D is found naturally in eggs and cheese, mushrooms, canned tuna and soy milk.

Iron, Zinc and Selenium

One of the most important functions of iron is in heme synthesis, which forms haemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells. Haemoglobin’s primary role is to transport oxygen from the lungs to body tissues to maintain basic life functions.

Iron plays a vital role in the process by which cells generate energy.  Lower iron levels may contribute to an increased risk of our immune systems being compromised and our bodies falling sick. 

Zinc is an essential mineral that your body cannot produce on its own. It plays a key role in growth, DNA synthesis, immune function and more. Zinc supplements stimulate particular immune cells and reduce oxidative stress although you can easily get enough zinc from a balanced, wholesome diet.

Selenium acts as a very powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants are very important in helping to protect the body from free radicals, improving your immunity and supporting cardiovascular health.

Iron is found naturally in chia seeds, red meat, dried apricots, cacao and leafy greens.

Zinc is found naturally in nuts and seeds, spinach, red meat, garlic, lentils and oysters.

Selenium is found naturally in Brazil nuts, red meat, eggs and oats.

Don’t run to the chemist and buy all these vitamins and minerals!

Some supermarkets and chemist are out of certain products at the moment due to bulk and panic buying. I encourage you to as much as possible focus on eating a variety of foods within these food groups to support your intake of vitamins and minerals that support a healthy immune system.

Other measures you can take to support a healthy immune system

Beyond diet and supplements there are other measures you can take to stay as healthy as possible in the face of coronavirus.

Ditch the sugar, chose wholesome foods instead. They weaken important immune boosting messengers from our gut.

Stop smoking to improve your lung’s ability to fight infection, perform moderate intensity exercise, like walking, or trying a home workout DVD during lock down, get enough sleep, practise social distancing, wash your hands regularly and don’t touch your face.

Let me know what you have been doing to support your immune system during this unsure time.

I would love to help, all appointments will go on as per usual during the lockdown period, however the platform will be online. I look forward to helping you achieve optimal health!

Dot you later! X

About the author

Qualified chef, Health Coach and Nutritionist based in Johannesburg & Cape Town, South Africa

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