Right now, we are all making precautions to minimise our likelihood to contract corona virus: we stay home, wash our hands and keep distance to others. However, there's another factor to take into consideration when staying safe. Diet plays an important role in our overall wellbeing and our immune system’s ability to fight off pathogens entering our body, for example viruses.
Here are some of our favourite foods that help you to boost your health and immune system not only during the COVID-19 pandemic but also after it.
Oranges, limes, sweet clementines – most likely something you have heard of, but not for nothing. Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C which is an antioxidant. Oxidative reactions create free radicals that may damage our cells and cause for example cancer. Antioxidants can prevent oxidative reactions from taking place and reduce the number of free radicals. Vitamin C contributes to the function of the immune system in many ways, one of them being the potential to enhance the function of white blood cells. Deficiency in vitamin C leads to impaired immune function and greater susceptibility to diseases.
Spinach is high in minerals, such as sodium, iron and calcium. Iron is needed for the function of haemoglobin which is necessary for carrying oxygen in red blood cells, while an adequate calcium intake is important for bone health, necessary for heart and muscle contractions and helping the body to absorb vitamin C. Iron deficiency is common and weakens your immune system function.
Broccoli contains many micronutrients important for overall health. It contains potent antioxidants, potassium, calcium and iron, vitamin A and especially vitamin C: less than 70 grams of broccoli can give you your daily dose of vitamin C! Potassium and sodium, found in spinach, are needed for electrical conduction in nerve cells. Broccoli can be prepared in many ways – raw, stir-fried, steamed and boiled – which makes it a diverse side for your dinner.
As they are high in unsaturated fats, fibre and protein, almonds are a great nutrient-dense snack. Almonds contain vitamin E, another antioxidant. Research suggests that almond skins stimulate increased while cell production. White blood cells are the immune system’s main defence mechanism against viral infections, one of them being COVID-19.
You may have seen posts or recipes about overnight chia seed puddings: these are an easy breakfast to make. Chia seeds are gluten-free, low in sugar but high in unsaturated fats, omega-3, fibre and protein. Omega-3 fatty acids impact immune system function in many ways, one of them being increasing the capacity of macrophages, a type of white blood cells, to engulf and eliminate viruses and bacteria entering the body.
Even though some foods have more beneficial effects on our immune system than others, it is important to enjoy a varied and mixed diet and limit the amount of processed foods eaten. Furthermore, sleep, exercising and minimising stress also contribute to overall health, which immune system function is only one aspect of.