Food and Coronavirus (COVID-19): Natural Ways to Strengthen Immune System
Despite claims we have seen with online and offline Articles, WhatsApp and other Social Media, there is no magic food that is assured to shield us against Coronavirus (COVID-19). At the moment, there is no credible evidence that no specific food can prevent or treat COVID-19. Our immune system naturally defends against disease causing microorganisms. It may fail sometimes to protect. But strengthening immune system enhances the ability to fight off infectious diseases.
Good nutrition is necessary for health, especially when immune system needs to fight back. People who eat a well-balanced diet are healthier with stronger immune systems and lower risk of chronic illnesses and contagious diseases. So we should eat a variety of fresh and unprocessed foods to get the Vitamins, Minerals, Dietary Fiber, Protein and Antioxidants. Besides healthy eating, being physically active, reducing stress and having enough restful sleep will supplement to enhance immune functioning.
General Food and Nutrition Tips:
- Have Fresh and Unprocessed Foods
- Consume enough Fiber food like Vegetables, Fruits, Pulses and wholegrain foods, etc.
- Drink Sufficient Water
- Eat Less Salt and Sugar
- Limit Fat and Oil intake
- Avoid Alcohol and Smoking
- Practice Meditation and Yoga
- Have Restful and Adequate Sleep
- Follow Safe Food Handling practices
Here are some key Nutrients that play crucial role in immunity boosting, and food sources of them are as follows:
It maintains structure of cells in the skin, respiratory tract and gut. We also need vitamin A to help make antibodies, which neutralize the pathogens that cause infection.
Vitamin A is found in Fish, Egg, Cheese, Tofu, Nuts, Seeds, Whole Grains and Legumes. Further, Vegetables contain beta-carotene, which our body can convert into Vitamin A. Good sources of beta-carotene are Leafy Green Vegetables, Yellow and Orange Vegetables like Pumpkin, Carrot, Sweet Potato, Mango, Apricot, Spinach, Kale, Broccoli, Squash and Cantaloupe, etc.
Herbs and Spices boast a comprehensive range of health-boosting benefits such as antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antimicrobial and anti-diabetic, to name a few. In short, it boosts our body’s immune system.
Some examples for the herbs and spices are Turmeric, Garlic, Clove, Cinnamon (Dalchini), Star Anise (Chakra Phool), Black Pepper, Cardamom, Coriander (Dhaniya), and Cumin (Jeera), etc.
B Vitamins, particularly B6, B9 and B12, contribute to our body’s first response once it has recognized a pathogen. They do this by influencing the production and activity of natural killer cells.
B6 is found in Cereals, Legumes, Green Leafy Vegetables, Fruits, Nuts, Fish, Chicken and Meat.
B9 is abundant in Green Leafy Vegetables, Legumes, Nuts and Seeds.
Good sources of B12 are animal products, including Egg, Meat, Dairy Products, and also in Fortified Soy Milk.
Protein is a key building block for immune cells and antibodies and plays a significant role in helping our immune system do its job.
Protein comes from both animal and plant-based sources and includes Fish, Poultry, Milk, Yogurt, Egg, Cottage Cheese, Nuts, Berries, Beans and Lentils.
Vitamin C and E:
When our body is fighting an infection, it encounters what we call oxidative stress. Vitamin C and Vitamin E protect cells from oxidative stress. Several Studies indicate that it improves function of certain white blood cells that combat disease.
Good sources of Vitamin C include Orange, Grapes, Lemon, Lime, Berries, Kiwifruit, Broccoli, Red and Green Pepper, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Tomato and Capsicum.
We find Vitamin E in Nuts, Green Leafy Vegetables and Vegetable Oils.
Prebiotics and Probiotics:
Prebiotics and Probiotics both reinforce the body in building and administering a healthy colony of microbes, which supports the gut and improves digestion. In turn reinforces our immune system.
Sources of Prebiotics include Whole Grains, Oats, Banana, Berries, Onion, Garlic, Leeks, Asparagus, Artichokes and Legumes, Beans and Peas.
Sources of Probiotics include Fermented Dairy Foods Such as Yogurt and Kefir, Aged Cheese, and fermented foods such as Sauerkraut, Miso, Kombucha Tea and Tempeh.
Some immune cells need Vitamin D to destroy microorganisms that contribute to infection. Vitamin D balances the production of a protein that kills infectious agents, including bacteria and viruses. Vitamin D also promotes the activity and amount of white blood cells, known as T 2 killer lymphocytes, which can decrease the transmission of microbes.
Excellent food sources of dietary pattern Vitamin D include Fish, Egg, Milk and Milk Products, Cheese, Fortified Juice, Tofu and Mushroom.
Our body makes Vitamin D on its own when our skin is exposed to Sunlight, so try to get some Sunlight whenever possible. Just remember to avoid sunburns, as excess sun exposure carries its own risks.
Iron, Zinc and Selenium:
We need Iron, Zinc and Selenium for immune cell growth, among other functions. Zinc is a mineral involved in the white blood cell response to infection. Because of this, individuals low in Zinc is more affected to cold, flu, and other viral diseases. Iron helps to kill microbes by raising the number of free radicals that can destroy them. Zinc helps sustain the integrity of the skin and mucous membranes. Zinc and Selenium also act as an antioxidant, helps to mop up some harm created by oxidative stress.
We find Iron in Meat, Chicken and Fish. Vegetarian sources include Legumes, Whole Grains and Iron-Fortified Breakfast Cereals. Zinc is found in Oysters and other Seafood, Meat, Chicken, Dried Beans, Nuts, Seeds, Wheat Germ and Yogurt. Nuts, Meat, Cereals and Mushroom are great food sources of Selenium.
Have you ever wondered how some people get sick often and some are more susceptible to catching cold or viral infection? It is all about the body’s immune system. Immune system is the first line of defense of our body against a microorganism entering the body.
Stronger our immune system, lesser would be the chance of falling ill. With the above mentioned natural ways to boost the immune system, we can achieve a healthy and strong immune system.
Lastly, because of COVID - 19 all are placed under lockdown, for some it becomes difficult to remain healthy. It is all because of stress, food cravings, Unhealthy food and no exercise. Some try lockdown recipes like fried foods, instant foods, and cakes, etc., which leads to weight gain & other health issues. So, Stay home, Eat healthy, exercise at home and Stay healthy.