As a Registered Dietitian in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic, one of the most common questions I’ve been asked is how we can eat to strengthen our immune systems. Unfortunately, there is no single food, vitamin, or supplement we can take to prevent the infection onset or reduce the risk of spread. Maintaining proper hand hygiene, social distancing, and wearing masks in public places are still going to be our best methods for reducing transmission. However there are certain diet and lifestyle modifications we can make to support our immune systems and thus promote good health in general.
Let’s begin with diet. There are loads of vitamins and nutrients that play key roles in our immune function. Some noteworthy vitamins include Vitamin A, D, C and folate, and minerals include zinc, iron, and selenium. However those are just some of the important nutrients, so it is important we consume a diverse and balanced diet to ensure we are getting adequate amounts of all nutrients. Many of the best food sources of a variety of vitamins and minerals are plant foods – think fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, beans and legumes, and whole grains. Plants with deep, dark colored skins are more likely to contain high levels of antioxidants, which help to combat damage from highly reactive free-radicals. Think deep blues (bluerries), dark greens (spinach, kale), bright reds (bell peppers, raspberries), etc.
As important as it is to make sure we are eating the right foods that deliver proper nutrition to all of our cells, it is just as important to make sure we are staying away from the processed foods loaded with inflammatory fats, refined carbohydrates, and added sugar. These are often found in canned foods, frozen meals, fried foods, baked goods (donuts, pastries), juices, and sodas. These foods have properties that will contribute to free-radical damage and wreak havoc on our cells.
Experts have published more favorable outcomes for people who fall sick to COVID-19 and who are not overweight or obese. If you are overweight or obese, there is no better time to focus on weight management! (should we add a wellhaus plug with a link to book appointment?)
As far as lifestyle factors are concerned, there are things you can do every single day to promote health and immune function. First and foremost, sleep is vital! Sleep allows our bodies to recharge and recover from the previous day, and thus allows our immune systems to work more efficiently. It is important that you wake up feeling well-rested, and not groggy or sleep-deprived. Secondly, move your body – and consistently too! No, you don’t have to sign up for an HITT class to get your steps in. Go for a brisk, 30 minute walk (or more!) most days.
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By Leah Silberman