As COVID-19 runs rampant through our country and around the world, there has never been a more crucial time to evaluate your diet. There is substantial evidence that nutrition and other lifestyle factors play a role in immunity and the susceptibility to infections.
Both a low fat diet and plant based diet may be important for a strong, healthy immune system. Our bodies rely on white blood cells to provide antibodies known to fight against viruses and bacteria. Plant based diets or vegetarian diets typically have higher intakes of vitamins/minerals, and lower intake of fat. This combination is associated with more effective white blood cells.
Plant based diets are also shown to reduce inflammatory biomarkers, an important factor for immune function.
A low fat diet is shown to be protective. While a high fat diet or a Western diet may impair the function of white blood cells and may reduce immunity by altering the gut microbiota.
Although foods cannot prevent or cure viruses, a healthy diet can help provide strength to the immune system.
Immune Boosting Micronutrients and Antioxidants:
Diets high in fruits and vegetables supply the body with a plethora of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Nutrients such as Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, beta carotene and zinc play a role in boosting the immune system.
Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of antioxidants and reduce oxidative stress in the body.
Vitamin C: An antioxidant, is thought to support the body’s natural immune response by increasing the production of white blood cells and help destroy free radicals.
Vitamin D: Reduces the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, helps regulate the immune system and boost the body’s ability to fight diseases. It may reduce the risk of contracting viral infections including respiratory infections
Vitamin E: Like Vitamin C, an antioxidant thought to support the body’s natural immune response and help destroy free radicals.
Beta-carotene: A powerful antioxidant, reduces inflammation and boosts the immune response by increasing white blood cell production.
Zinc: A mineral thought to boost white blood cells.
Foods with high amounts of immune boosting components:
|Citrus: Oranges, grapefruit, clementines, and lemons. High in Vitamin C.|
|Red bell peppers: High in Vitamin C and Beta-carotene.|
|Strawberries, Kiwi, Mango and Papaya: High in Vitamin C. Papaya also contains a digestive enzyme, Papain with known anti-inflammatory effects.
|Broccoli: Packed with vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C, E and antioxidants.|
|Spinach: Rich in vitamin C, beta carotene and other antioxidants.|
|Nuts, such as almonds and sunflower seeds: Packed with Vitamin E.
|Turmeric: Thought to have anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties.|
|Garlic: Rich in Zinc and immune boosting properties such as allicin.
|Ginger: Anti-inflammatory compounds shown to reduce inflammatory illnesses.
|Shellfish such as lobster, crab, oysters and mussels: Packed with Zinc.