While sales of vitamins and supplements have soared over Covid-19, you can help to keep your body in tip-top condition with a shopping basket packed with fresh produce and healthy food.
A strong immune system is key to prevent disease and infection and, if you eat well, you are giving your body a head start towards that goal.
Here’s a snapshot of what foods to look for to get in your daily shot of vitamins and minerals. Many are nutreceuticals – that is, foods with medical or health benefits which help to prevent or treat disease.
Chicken soup is good for more than the soul: one chicken breast will give you nearly one third of the daily recommended amount (RDA) for Vitamin B6. And, if you boil your chicken bones up to make stock for your soup you also will get the benefit of adding s gelatin, chondroitin and other nutrients for gut health and immunity. Vitamin B6 is vital to make new blood cells.
You don’t need us to tell you that this zingy vitamin – also known as ascorbic acid – is the top performer to ward off colds and flu and boost your immune system, as it helps to increase production of white blood cells.
Bell peppers and citrus fruit lead the pack of fresh produce which is rich in Vitamin C. Two oranges, or one large red pepper, will give you enough Vitamin C for the day – aim for 75mg if you are a woman, and 90mg for men.
Bell peppers are also a source of beta carotene, converted by the body into Vitamin A which helps keep your eyes and skin healthy. Spinach is surprisingly rich in vitamin C and is also full of antioxidants and beta carotene, which may both increase the infection-fighting ability of our immune systems.
Your immune system also needs Vitamin D, a fat-soluble nutrient known a the sunshine vitamin. That’s why at the peak of the pandemic doctors were recommending patients sat outside for a little while each day, because as little as 10-15 minutes of sunlight on your skin each day can give you your RDA. Otherwise, yoghurt and dairy products can also be a great source of Vitamin D which helps regulate the immune system and is thought to increase our natural defences against diseases.
Vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant key to a healthy immune system. A half-cup of almonds, or around 45 nuts, will top up your RDA, and you can also try avocado and dark leafy greens. Broccoli is also crammed with Vitamin E, as are unflower eeds.
Zinc: Oysters are not only the food of love, they also contain zinc, as do crayfish, crab and mussels – and two oysters will give you your RDA of zinc, helping to protect against respiratory tract infections and shorten how long they last.
Iron: A lack of iron can lead to anaemia and a weakened immune system and red meat is the easiest edible source. Vegetarians will need to eat a selection of – and plenty of! – dark leafy green vegetables, beans, seeds, mushrooms and dried apricots to get their RDA of 18mg (remember that Vitamin C will help to increase the absorption of iron from plant foods).
Folic acid: This helps your body make new cells and it also helps with iron-deficiency anaemia. Avocado is great source, along with leafy greens, asparagus, kiwi fruit and pawpaw.
Magnesium and potassium: Magnesium helps in moving calcium and potassium across cells, and low levels can contribute to a calcium deficiency. Pawpaw’s contain magnesium and potassium, as do kiwi fruit (they also contain Vitamin K, C and folate).
Selenium: Just one Brazil nut will give you your RDA of selenium, which works on the immune system to help prevent infections. Otherwise, you’ll find selenium in seafood, meat like liver and poultry.
There are other secret weapons in the veggie rack and spice drawer:
· Turmeric: contains curcumin which is a promising antiviral.
· Ginger: helps with sore throats and nausea.
· Garlic: has strong anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties, and stimulates protective white blood cells.
· Tea: green, black and rooibos tea all contain anti-inflammatory polyphenols.
Armed with nutrition information, your pantry becomes a “farmacy” to help you to you’ll ready to eat well to be well.
Date Published: 15 April 2021