There’s a lot of uncertainty around these days when it comes to Covid-19. Whether you tested positive and rode out the storm, suspect you may have passed through it earlier in the year and passed it off as a rather strange flu bug, or have detected some mild symptoms and decided to self-isolate or go for testing, there is one thing you can be sure of. Your best defense is to make sure you stay as healthy as possible. Leading nutritionist Noura Hassaballa shares what you should know about the vital role each vitamin and mineral has to play in boosting our immunity levels and what foods provide them.
Vitamin A helps in the production of white blood cells in the bone marrow. It plays an important role in boosting immunity and fighting infection from viruses and bacteria.
Foods: Green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, red peppers, mango, apricots, papaya, cheese, eggs, liver, milk, yoghurt and oily fish like sardines, mackerel and salmon.
Vitamin C is important for growth and repair of tissues. Though it may not keep you from catching a cold, there is some evidence that high doses of vitamin C may decrease the length of cold symptoms by as much as one to one-and-a-half days for some people. However, other studies did not result in the same findings, and the risk of side effects is greater with high doses of vitamin C supplements. As an antioxidant it fights free radicals.
Foods: Strawberries, broccoli, guava, oranges, potatoes, tomatoes, kiwi, spinach and bell peppers.
Iron is crucial for the normal development of the immune system and necessary for immune cells proliferation and maturation, particularly lymphocytes which are associated with the generation of a specific response to infection.
Foods: Liver, red meat, beans, nuts, dried apricots, brown rice, dark green leafy vegetables (such as spring greens, kale and spinach).
Zinc keeps the immune system strong, helps heal wounds, and supports normal growth.
Foods: Whole grains, milk products, red meat, oysters, baked beans, nuts, poultry and chickpeas.
Selenium lowers oxidative stress, which reduces inflammation and enhances the immune response.
Foods: Brazil nuts, fish, meat and eggs.
Vitamin D helps the immune system stay balanced. Our body produces most of the vitamin D we need when exposed to the sun. Although it’s found in very small amounts in foods such as oily fish, liver, egg yolks, red meat, fortified food, mushrooms and red meat, it’s better to take a vitamin D supplement. We should get at least 600 IU of vitamin D daily.
You should take supplements if you’re deficient in any of these, otherwise you should be able to get all of the necessary nutrients from a balanced diet.
To avoid contagion, it’s all about how strong your immune system is. If you have been practicing a healthy lifestyle for a while you should be fine. But that doesn’t mean going wild on supplements to avoid contagion. Overdoing supplements can be toxic and cause hypervitaminosis.
You may ask how long an immunity boosting diet or regimen should be continued for. The simple answer is that it should be an ongoing thing because it’s basically a lifestyle, not a one off.
Take into consideration some important lifestyle modifications:
- Quit smoking.
- Stop eating processed sugars and junk food or processed food.
- Use monounsaturated fatty ac ids (MUFA) in your diet, as found in avocado, nuts and olive oil.
- Sleep well.
- Reduce stress.
- Lose a few kilos and maintain a healthy weight if you’re over weight.
Bio: Noura Hassaballa, BSc, CHP, CHC, is a certified health coach and nutritionist, TV personality and founder of Diet Rite Nutrition Center.
Tel: 0100 503 0021