Looking for ways to stay healthy and safeguard your family and friends amidst the global outbreak of the COVID-19 virus? The best way to keep your immune system running at top notch capacity is with a well-rounded and healthy diet to ensure that you're getting all right minerals, vitamins, supplements and nutrients your body needs. So what does our body need? And are there certain types of foods that are more efficient at delivering them? And what supplements, if any, should we be taking to help bolster our immune system?
What Our Immune System Needs
In general, the nutrients that relate directly to our immune system are vitamins A, C, D, and E, and the minerals zinc, selenium, and magnesium, with studies showing that deficiencies in these nutrients inhibit immune function. Antioxidants are also important as they work with our white blood cells to keep our other cells healthy and in balance.
What About Supplements?
At this time, there isn't enough science around dietary vitamins and supplements to support their immediate intake in assisting your immune system, unless you're deficient that is, so the absolute best way to keep your body healthy is by getting these nutrients directly from food. However, a common deficiency in today's modern world, is in vitamin D. Vitamin D is best sourced from the sun and with many us spending more and more time indoors there is a higher chance of being deficient. It would be worth looking into a vitamin D supplement if you spend the majority of your time indoors or live in a more northern climate in which you don't get as much sun year-round.
What Foods to Eat for a Healthy Immune System
So what are the best foods to eat for our immune system? Each of the foods in this list contains nutrients that we need to keep our body functioning at its best. So the next time you're at the supermarket look to add these types of foods to your meals in order to help safeguard your health, keep your immune system strong, and strengthen your ability to fight off viruses and illnesses.
Red Bell Peppers
Vitamin C supports a variety of body and immune functions and has been found to help lower the risk of respiratory infection as well support the growth and repair of many tissues in your body.
When it comes to vitamin C, you're probably thinking that you get the most from citrus fruits, right? While citrus fruits are high in vitamin C and are very healthy for you, red bell peppers actually have more of this essential vitamin. One cup of red bell peppers contain about 211% of your daily value of vitamin C. That's about twice as much as an orange (106%)!
Chickpeas, along with being a good source of fiber are also high in protein (an essential amino acid that our bodies need to grow and repair tissues) as well as zinc which is essential for regulating our immune responses. Not only that, they're extremely versatile and very tasty!
Garlic has long been know for its immunity supporting properties and it helps that it tastes delicious too. Garlic has been reported to lower blood pressure and slow down the hardening of the arteries. Garlic is also heavy in sulfur compounds which have been known to help fight infections. In fact, one study was performed using a garlic supplement and found it to be effective in warding off colds and viruses.
Ginger is another popular remedy for warding off illnesses, especially in Chinese culture. Ginger has anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea properties, making it an easy go-to for fighting off a sore throat or flu. Further, studies have found that fresh ginger helps reduce cholesterol levels and reduces blood sugar levels associated with diabetes.
Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is actually best sourced from the sun but it can also be obtained in foods like mushrooms. Mushrooms are an excellent source of vitamin D which helps with the absorption of calcium which then fortifies our bones and may help fight of respiratory diseases as it plays an active role in our immune response. In fact, some studies have shown that low vitamin D levels are associated with a higher risks of respiratory infections and have also been implicated in the development of some autoimmune diseases.
Spinach is a fantastic vegetable. It's choc-full of vitamin C and beta-carotene which is the main dietary source of vitamin A. It also has plenty of antioxidants which help to protect your immune cells from environmental damage.
Green tea has long been consumed for health due to its antioxidant properties. Green tea is full of flavonoids and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which are potent antioxidants that are lost in the fermentation process with most black teas. Green tea also has the amino acid , L-theanine, which may aid in helping produce cells that fight off germs.
Broccoli is an underestimated vegetable as it's one the most nutrient packed vegetables out there. Broccoli contains vitamins A, C, and E, as well as many other antioxidants and plenty of fiber. Like spinach, broccoli is at its most nutritious when its raw or barely cooked.
Packed with fiber and other nutrients such as phosphorous, magnesium, and vitamin B, sunflower seeds also contain a high amount of vitamin E, which is essential for maintaining our immune systems. 28g of sunflowers seeds is enough to give you 49% of your daily intake of vitamin E.
Yogurt is an excellent source of vitamin D as well as containing live bacterial cultures called probiotics. Probiotics help promote a healthy gut which is strongly linked to a healthy immune system as a large portion of your immune system is actually in your GI tract. Plain yogurt is the best choice as it is won't have any added sweeteners or sugars.