The food we consume is one of the most powerful tools we have in terms of helping our immune system functions. Your immune system protects your body by defending against viruses and bacteria that can cause inflammation in the body. This can lead to illnesses and diseases, which is why looking after your immune system is so important.
How is Immune Support and COVID-19 Connected?
When your body is infected with a virus, your immune system detects and attacks it. There is currently no evidence or EU approved health claims that claim any supplement can ‘boost’ our immune system and prevent or treat viral infections, like COVID-19.
Naturally, this pandemic got many of us wondering how we can better look after our immune system.There are several nutrients such as copper, folate, iron, selenium, zinc and vitamins A, B6, B12, C and D that play an important role in supporting our immune system. You should eat a healthy balanced diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, as well as being physically active, reducing exposure stress and getting enough sleep.
Fruits & Vegtables that are Good for Immune Support
What’s the first vitamin you think of when you get ill? Is it vitamin C? Vitamin C helps build your immune system and increase the production of white blood cells which are a key part in fighting infections. The most popular fruit to gain vitamin C is often oranges, but there are many other fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin C too. Red peppers actually have more vitamin C than oranges, you can read more about red peppers in the next section.
Fruits for Vitamin C
Your body does not produce or store Vitamin C so this something you need to eat daily. Women need around 75 g of Vitamin C a day and men need around 90 g.
There is a lot of scientific evidence that Vitamin C supports immune functions, so it is perfect for recovering from colds.
Coronavirus & Vitamin C
The pandemic caused many shelves to become empty during the COVID-19 pandemic. Vitamin C supplements became hard to get hold of, but as of yet, there is no evidence to suggest that Vitamin C helps fight COVID-19. So where did these rumours come from?
High dose IV vitamin C has been utilised in China to help improve lung function in people with COVID-19. These high doses of Vitamin C were given via Intravenous Vitamin Drips, which enables the dose to enter into the bloodstream, avoiding the digestive system for maximum absolution. However, there is no evidence yet to scientifically support claims that high doses of vitamin C will help aid recovery of those suffering with COVID-19. However, let's not forget that vitamin C is crucial for immunity support.
A cup of chopped red bell pepper contains nearly 3X more vitamin C than an orange—190 mg. Red peppers are also a great source of vitamin A, which promotes eye health.
Besides boosting your immune system, vitamin C helps maintain healthy skin. Red peppers also contain beta carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A. It is a fat-soluble vitamin that is important for normal vision, the immune system, and reproduction. Vitamin A also helps the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs to work properly.
Watermelon is really great immune-boosting fruit. One 2-cup serving has around 270 mg of potassium, 30% of the daily value of vitamin A, and 25% of the value of vitamin C. It’s also very easy on the calories front with only 80 calories per serving. Watermelon will also provide your body with vitamin B6 and glutathione. Your body needs these vitamins, nutrients, and compounds like glutathione for regular immune functions.
Broccoli is a world of great vitamins and minerals to give. They are packed with vitamins A, C, and E, as well as fiber and antioxidants. Broccoli is one of the healthiest and often cheapest vegetables you can choose to eat. Make sure you don’t cook it for too long as over cooking can cause it to loose nutrients. The key to keeping its power intact is to cook it as little as possible — or better yet, not at all. Research has shown that steaming is the best way to keep more nutrients in the food.
Other than making many foods taste great, garlic has some amazing properties. It’s widely recognised for its value in fighting infections. In some studies Garlic had proven to slow down hardening of the arteries, as well as lowering blood pressure. Garlic’s immune-boosting properties through its heavy concentration of sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin.
Mushrooms are high in selenium and B vitamins like riboflavin and niacin. These minerals and vitamins are necessary for the immune system to work well. Mushrooms are also high in polysaccharides, which are sugar-like molecules that boost the immune function.
Ginger is another fantastic ingredient that many turn to when they are getting sick. Ginger can help decrease inflammation, which is why ginger is often recommended to those who have a sore throat and inflammatory illnesses. It is antibacterial but it also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which are the main contributions to boosting immune health.
Ginger has been said to help with nausea as well as decrease chronic pain in some cases. Ginger has anticancer potential and is well documented, its functional ingredients like gingerols, shogaol, and paradols are the valuable ingredients which can prevent various cancers.
Spinach is packed full of vitamin C as well as numerous antioxidants and beta carotene. These increase the infection-fighting ability that our immune systems are capable of.
Like broccoli, you have to ensure you do not overcook spinach so that it can retain its nutrients. Lightly cooking spinach makes it easier to absorb the vitamin A and also allows other nutrients to be released from oxalic acid, an antinutrient.
A medium sweet potato can provide you with 120% of the daily value of vitamin A and 30% of the daily value of vitamin C. That will only cost you 100 calories in total. These vitamins are crucial for immune function and they are a cholesterol-free and fat-free food.
Papaya is also loaded with vitamin C, and you’ll hit your daily vitamin C dosage with just one medium papaya. Papayas also have a digestive enzyme called papain, which holds anti-inflammatory properties. Papayas also provides you with potassium, magnesium, and folate.
Kiwis are full of essential nutrients such as folate, potassium,vitamin K, and vitamin C. By now, you probably know how great Vitamin C is for boosting white blood cells to fight infection.